Inquest of murdered teen Arlene Arkinson faces further delay

Friday 07 February 2014 16.10
Arlene Arkinson went missing in August 1994
Arlene Arkinson went missing in August 1994

A long-delayed inquest into the murder of a disappeared Tyrone schoolgirl could be hit with yet another hold-up due to a wrangle about legal funding for a convicted child killer who is due to give evidence.

A lawyer for sex attacker Robert Howard, 69, today urged Northern Ireland's chief coroner to consider rescheduling the probe into the death of 15-year-old Arlene Arkinson, citing ongoing difficulties in securing state approval for necessary funding legal support.

Senior coroner John Leckey acknowledged there was a problem but said he would wait one more week before making a final decision on whether to scrap the April start date.

Arlene, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, went missing in August 1994 after a night out at a disco across the border in Co Donegal. Her body has never been found.

In 2005, Howard, who was the last person seen with her, was found not guilty of murder but the jury was unaware he had a history of sex attacks and that two years earlier he was convicted of murdering 14-year-old London schoolgirl Hannah Williams.

The inquest is currently scheduled to take place at Omagh courthouse and is expected to last for just over two months.

Howard, who is serving a life sentence at Frankland Prison in England, has been named as a crucial witness.

With Mr Leckey's diary full for much of the remainder of the year, any postponement would likely be a lengthy one.