Child killer Howard haunted by girl’s face

Arlene Arkinson has never been found after she disappeared in 1994.
Arlene Arkinson has never been found after she disappeared in 1994.

Child killer Robert Howard told a police officer he was haunted by the face of a girl and described his time in Castlederg as very dark, Belfast Coroner’s Court was told.

Howard, the prime suspect in the Arlene Arkinson murder, was also alleged to have asked whether fish would have eaten a body dumped in water.

Detective Sergeant Trevor Stevenson, who was stationed in Castlederg between 1990 and 1994, said he had no doubt Howard was referring to Arlene: “I believe he was talking about Arlene Arkinson because to be haunted meant they had to be dead. To my knowledge she was the only girl he had killed while he was in Castlederg.”

DS Stevenson had questioned Howard at Deptford, London, about another alleged rape in 1999 and it was read to the court. In it the officer said Howard described living in Castlederg as a “very dark time”.

He said Howard said not a day went past that he didn’t think about the terrible things which had happened in Castlederg and that he was haunted by it.

He described Howard as intense and one of the most evil men he have ever met.

“He said he believed he needed help but was too scared to take the next step,” DS Stevenson said.

Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, vanished after a night out at a disco across the Irish border in Co Donegal on August 13 1994. Her body has never been found.

Howard was acquitted of her murder in 2005. The jury was not told of his conviction for killing a south London teenager years earlier.

But the 71-year-old remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case until his death in prison last year.

Earlier, the court heard from Stephen Walsh, a former partner of Arlene’s sister Kathleen, who was arrested in 1996 by officers investigating Arlene’s disappearance.

He told the Belfast court he was the victim of a vicious rumour campaign and believed he should be able to know the identity of the person who tried to ruin his life.

He said: “All these allegations were made about me and Kathleen. You know the person that made these allegations.

“It is in those files that nobody can see. Me and Kathleen are entitled to find out who tried to destroy us.”

Coroner Brian Sherrard said he would take the comments on board.

The hearing continues.