Northern Ireland

Arlene Arkinson search site 'looked like grave'

Scene of the search
Image caption Specialist forensics arrived at a field near to where Arlene was last seen - 22 years ago

The farmer who found an area of disturbed earth that led police to begin a new search for missing teenager Arlene Arkinson said it had the appearance of a grave.

The 15-year-old from Castlederg, County Tyrone, disappeared after a school disco in 1994.

Police have cordoned off an area near Killen, outside Castlederg, close to where she was last seen alive.

Farmer Noel Doherty said clay had been dug up and refilled with stones.

The field is on the same road where Arlene Arkinson was seen in a car with the convicted child killer and rapist Robert Howard, the main suspect in her disappearance.

Robert Howard, who died in prison in England last year, was found not guilty in 2005 of murdering Arlene Arkinson.

Image caption Mr Doherty said he discovered what appeared to be a grave in the overgrown garden of an old building

'Refilled with stones'

The farmer, who rents the land where the search is ongoing, said he discovered what appeared to be a grave in the overgrown garden of an old building on the land earlier this week.

"Somebody had dug out the clay and then refilled it with stones and that's what got my attention to it," he said.

Image caption Arlene Arkinson was 15 when she went missing after a night out in Donegal in 1994

"It's about six feet long and about three-to-four feet wide with stones."

Mr Doherty, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said that when he first came across the disturbed earth, he "didn't think a great deal about it" but went home and told his wife.

Image caption The specialist team has been brought from England to examine the site

"I went back down the next day and viewed it again and we decided then to contact the landowner," he said.

"I asked him if anything was ever buried in that garden and he checked it out with his sisters who were the last to live there and they said definitely not."

The landowner then phoned the police.

Image caption The forensic team are examining an area close to the village of Killen, County Tyrone

A specialist forensic team arrived on the site on Friday morning, and police say it may take some time to complete their examination.

Mr Doherty said he was keeping an open mind until police completed their examinations but said he would like the Arkinson family to "get back their daughter".

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Media captionArlene's sister, Kathleen, said news of the search 'just came out of the blue'

He said: "Everybody has it in the back of their minds, is this the Arkinson girl?"

Arlene's sister Kathleen said news of the search "just came out of the blue", telling the BBC that while the family could never get justice for Arlene, they could at least get closure.

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