Northern Ireland

Coroner considers PSNI bid to withhold Arkinson details

Arlene Arkinson
Image caption Arlene Arkinson was 15 went she went missing in 1994

The coroner is holding a closed session with the PSNI legal team to consider their application to withhold information in the Arlene Arkinson inquiry.

Brian Sherrard said there was a "very significant risk to the administration of justice if anyone else observes this process".

The 15-year-old disappeared in 1994 after a school disco in County Donegal.

She was last seen in a car driven by convicted killer Robert Howard.

On Tuesday, Mr Sherrard said any redactions made by the PSNI legal team are likely to be modest.

The coroner will make a general statement to the inquest on Wednesday about the nature of the material that has been held back.

Image caption The teenager was last seen in a car driven by convicted killer Robert Howard

He said the risk of disclosure is an exceptionally serious one and relates to the right to the life and the right to privacy of the individuals involved.

Lawyers for the Arkinson family raised a number of concerns with the coroner, before being asked to leave the court, along with members of the press and members of the public.

Henry Toner QC said the documents he had seen, which were heavily redacted, seemed to imply that at one stage the police believed there was a link between the murderer of Sylvia Fleming in Omagh in 1998, and the Arkinson inquiry.

Image caption The application by the Northern Ireland Office to have certain information at the hearing redacted

He said this was the first time the Arkinson family had heard of any such connection, and that evidence as to why that line of enquiry was then considered not credible should be made public.

Abducted

Mr Toner added that the documents also say somebody was abducted by the INLA and interviewed at length as a suspect in the Arlene Arkinson disappearance.

The name of that individual has been redacted at the request of the PSNI, along with the name of an individual who made an allegation to the police that Arlene was buried in her sister Kathleen's garden.

Mr Toner expressed his frustration that the redactions had come so soon before the start of the inquest and requested that any further public interest immunity applications be made as quickly as possible.

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