31/08/2011

Search For Arlene Resumes In Tyrone

Detectives investigating the murder of teenager Arlene Arkinson - who disappeared over 17 years ago - began a new series of searches today with the twin objectives of recovering the schoolgirl's remains and progressing the investigation.

The PSNI has pledged to do all they can to recover the body of Arlene Arkinson, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, who was 15 when she disappeared after a night out in Bundoran, Co Donegal. The PSNI believe her to have been abducted and murdered.

During the probe, a convicted child-killer and rapist, Robert Howard, now 77, was charged with her murder - but was acquitted.

Now, a team of officers using specialist PSNI search dogs have begun the first phase of this latest operation on land at Scraghy Road between Castlederg and Ederney where Arlene was last seen in the early hours of 14 August 1994.

A PSNI statement today said: "This is the first phase of a co-ordinated search strategy which will be progressed at a number of locations in the Castlederg area and beyond over the coming months.

"Plans have been drawn up to cover a large number of sites which have links to the overall investigation into Arlene's disappearance and murder.

"Searches will be conducted on a planned roll-out, depending on weather conditions, availability of resources and operational commitments."

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, said today: "On a personal level, Arlene's family has been in torment for 17 years.

"We want to do everything we possibly can to reunite Arlene with her family.

"Arlene's sisters and brothers have suffered for too long. Despite the considerable time gap and the challenges involved in locating remains, we will do everything we possibly can to achieve this.
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"On a policing level, the recovery of remains may represent a significant opportunity to progress the investigation, as knowledge of any remains or the location of a body deposition site may provide evidence to further our enquiries," he said, adding that the police want to thank landowners, in the public and private sectors, for their co-operation with the search operations which will be conducted in the coming weeks and months.

Superintendent Murray continued: "Arlene disappeared near her home in Castlederg after attending a disco in Bundoran.

"The police investigation has been extensive and there has been a court case but I would not rule out the possibility that there is information in the local community which still has not been provided to detectives.

"This may be for a variety of reasons: people may not have had confidence in police all those years ago or they may have been frightened for other reasons.

"I want to assure anyone with information that they can talk to detectives who will engage with them sensitively and professionally," he added, "Even after all these years I would make three specific appeals to the public.

"Did anyone see a blue Metro car in the area of Scraghy Road in the early hours of 14 August 1994?

"Did anyone see any suspicious activity during the early hours of 14 August in the wider Scraghy/Castlederg area?

"Did anyone see Arlene in Castlederg in the early hours of the 14 August?"

The senior detective said "we owe it to Arlene and to her family to do our utmost to bring her home and to bring her killer to justice".

Police have opened a special telephone line for members of the community who want to provide information as the search resumes for Arlene Arkinson's remains. The incident room number is 02871 379793.

(BMcC/GK)

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