Arkinsons furious at inquest delay

The family of Arlene Arkinson are furious that the inquest into her death will not take place for another two years.

The family of Arlene Arkinson are furious that the inquest into her death will not take place for another two years.

The 15-year-old from Castlederg went missing after attending at disco in Bundoran in 1994. Her body has never been found.

The teenager was last seen in a car driven by Robert Howard, who was acquitted of her death in a trial in 2005.

He is now serving a life sentence in a Durham prison for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old whose body was found in Kent in 2002.

The inquest into Arlene’s death was due to take place in September. Yesterday, however, a Fiona Doherty, solicitor for Coroner John Leckey, told a Belfast court that the inquest would have to be put back so that all the police files on the case could be examined. The police files on the murder run to 3,016 documents and 793 witness statements.

Ms Doherty told the preliminary hearing: “It seems that all parties have accepted that perhaps a September date for this inquest is simply not viable. It’s important that matters are dealt with expeditiously, but it’s more important that they are dealt with properly.”

Indications are that the review of the documentation could take at least two years.

Kathleen Arkinson, Arlene’s older sister, expressed her family’s anger and sense of betrayal to the media yesterday.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: ““I am absolutely livid, we all are.

“My gut instinct told me not to go to Belfast for this hearing and I am glad I didn’t. I think it would have been more than I could have stood if we had been in the court and heard this ridiculous statement.

“These statements and documents have been available since the trial and all this should have been done already.

“There is nothing new in these statements, they have been available from the police since 2005 and seven years is more than enough time to check them, to read them, to do whatever they had to do with them.

“But to wait until this hearing to say they need to go through them again is disgusting and cruel beyond belief.

“There seems to be no end to the amount of suffering and pain they are inflicting on our family.”

“This is so cruel, our hopes were raised when we heard the coroner was going to force Howard to come to the inquest, we thought at long last something was going in our favour. Right now, every tiny wee bit of faith I had in the system has gone out the window.

“We were told on Monday that the searches for Arlene will begin on March 26, but I am not convinced they are even interested in finding her body.

“I know the only thing we can depend on now is ourselves and when the searches do begin, I will be on my hands and knees myself going over every inch of ground they are searching, I just do not trust them anymore.”