Grave could be dug up as part of Arlene Arkinson murder probe


A grave may be dug up during an investigation into the murder of a schoolgirl from Northern Ireland, a lawyer told an inquest.

Arlene Arkinson, 15, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, went missing in 1994 following a night out across the Irish border in nearby Co Donegal.

She has never been found and an inquest in Belfast into her death began in February 2016.

Legal proceedings have been stalled for months awaiting information from the Irish authorities, and a barrister also told a preliminary hearing a Danish woman may have further information to give to investigators.

Ronan Daly said: "There is an application currently for exhumation of a grave in relation to inquiries."

Police and forensics officers at farmland in Killen, around a mile from Castlederg (Brian Lawless/PA)
Police and forensics officers at farmland in Killen, around a mile from Castlederg (Brian Lawless/PA)

The coroner, judge Brian Sherrard, said: "This is a matter that is of some considerable sensitivity and nothing of any great detail can be discussed in the environment with regard to it."

Police have launched numerous searches for the victim's body.

In September 2016 they sent specialist teams to examine a new site in a field near Killen, outside Castlederg.

Arlene was last seen with child killer Robert Howard, who died in prison in 2015.

He was acquitted of the teenager's murder by a jury that was unaware of his previous conviction for murdering 14-year-old Hannah Williams, whose body was found in an industrial area close to the Thames Estuary.

Howard always remained the Police Service of Northern Ireland's prime suspect in the Arkinson case.

Possible new information has been received from a Danish national, Mr Daly told Tuesday's hearing in Belfast.

Arlene Arkinson murder
Arlene was last seen with child killer Robert Howard (Kent Police/PA)

It arrived at the Garda's Missing Persons Bureau from the Irish Embassy in Copenhagen, which had been contacted with alleged information about Arlene.

The Bureau spoke to the Danish woman by telephone.

Mr Daly added: "That person essentially indicated that she had some information in relation to the death and she was asked to email the details to the Missing Persons Bureau but preferred to hand-deliver to the Irish Embassy at Copenhagen."

He said that never happened.

The PSNI tried to ring a phone number she gave and it did not exist, PSNI lawyer Mark Robinson said.

Ivor McAteer, barrister for the Arkinson family, said the information was "tenuous".

He added: "The families have received information which may or may not be relevant but certainly serves to pick the scab of this particular sore and therefore we would underline that call for expedition.

"It is important in circumstances this far removed that we have some clarity, if we can ask the Guards (Garda) to expedite matters."

Mr Daly also said 63 new documents about the disappearance had become available for disclosure but may have some read across to previously disclosed items.

Henry Toner QC, Arkinson family barrister, said events could go on and on but at some point there needed to be a conclusion.

The case was adjourned to April 12.