NewsCrime Desk

Child killer Robert Howard didn’t think he had a mental or sexual disorder

Robert Howard
Robert Howard

Child killer Robert Howard did not think he had any mental or sexual disorders, Belfast Coroner's Court has heard.

The paedophile, whose lengthy criminal record included violent and depraved sex offences, also denied having sadistic tendencies and rejected allegations he got a kick out of abusing vulnerable young girls.

Although he consistently protested innocence over the killing of Arlene Arkinson in August 1994, police found books on getting away with murder at his flat, it has emerged.

Frank O'Donoghue QC, counsel for the coroner, said: "He was asked if he had a psychological or sexual problem.

"He acknowledged his previous offences but did not know if he had any problems of that nature, saying 'he didn't think so'."

Fifteen-year-old Arlene from Castlederg in Co Tyrone vanished after a night out across the border in Co Donegal.

She was last seen being driven off during the early hours of August 14 1994 down a country road with Howard.

Weeks later, Howard was arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder and questioned some 13 times over the course of two days.

He made no admissions and was not charged until more than a decade later.

Summaries of the transcripts from the 25 police interviews were read out during the 36th day of evidence at an inquest in Belfast's Laganside court complex.

Mr O'Donoghue said Howard repeatedly denied involvement in the schoolgirl's disappearance.

He added: "Howard said he hoped that she was alive but if she was not, he had nothing to do with it."

He asked about the selection process and grooming of vulnerable teenage girls but refused to answer questions about his sexual preferences, the court heard.

"Police put it to him that it was peculiar that a man of 50 was always in the presence of young girls," said the barrister.

"Howard refuted this was the case and further denied that because he knew young girls he had a weakness for them."

Although personal adverts requesting sexual encounters with women or couples were found at his flat, Howard denied knowing anything about them, according to the papers.

He also gave no reaction to police suggestions that if he confessed, he could access specialist help.

Meanwhile, the court was also told that real crime books which may have helped Howard evade the law were found at his flat on Main Street in Castlederg.

They included investigations into the killing of JFK as well the 'Yorkshire Ripper', Peter Sutcliffe and another entitled: "The Ultimate Crime: The College Girl Killings' about a man who roamed the USA in search of victims.

A book on Dennis Nilsen, known as the Muswell Hill murderer who preyed on young men, was also recovered.

"It was put to Howard that if he had read the books it would have assisted him in avoiding detections," said Mr O'Donoghue.

"However, Howard said he did not know if he had read them and refused to answer questions that the books could help him escape the law."

Issues were raised about the large number of discrepancies between Howard's account of events and testimony given by others including Patricia Quinn and her daughter Donna Quinn, it was claimed.

However, Howard attributed any differences to confusion on the part of his former girlfriend Pat Quinn, whom he said he had been seeing since Christmas 1993 along with her daughter.

He could not account for traces of blood found in his flat but said someone may have cut themselves when they broke into and ransacked the property.

Howard had earlier claimed carpets were pulled back and floorboards removed during a burglary.

In May 2002 Howard was re-arrested and 12 more interviews were carried out, the court heard.

Detectives frequently referred to a psychiatric report which looked at his sexual preferences.

When asked if he deliberately preyed on young and vulnerable teenage girls to fulfil his own desires, the inquest was told Howard replied: "I did not harm Arlene Arkinson.

"I did not murder Arlene Arkinson and I don't know where Arlene Arkinson is now."

At the time Arlene went missing, the inquest has heard Howard was on bail accused of another brutal sex attack on a teenage girl whom he allegedly drugged and repeatedly raped over three days.

She had been locked in a wardrobe but managed to escape after jumping out of an upstairs window.

Howard was questioned about sadistic tendencies and if he liked inflicting pain on people.

He responded by saying "he did not" and further denied having a temper, the court was told.

Mr O'Donoghue said: "He was questioned on his preference for using rope around his victims' necks. He responded to say this was not true and that the complaints were wrong.

"He confirmed that he never used drugs and stated he was not interested in girls of 15 or 16. He denied fantasising about Arlene Arkinson.

"He said, "I never had, or got sex, (or) sexual gratification from Arlene Arkinson and I never hurt her.

"I never kissed Arlene Arkinson or ever tried to."

It was put to Howard that Arlene's murder had taken a long time to plan and that he had "got a kick out of it'.

The lawyer added: "Robert Howard reiterated that he had nothing to do with Arlene's disappearance and that he knew nothing about her whereabouts.

"He confirmed he didn't get a kick out of abusing young girls."

Just before he was charged during the early hours of May 24 2002, Howard was given an opportunity to confess to ease his conscience, the inquest heard.

"It was put to him that he had pre-planned and executed Arlene's murder in 1994," said Mr O'Donoghue.

"He made no comment other than to deny murdering Arlene Arkinson or that he groomed other girls.

"He confirmed that he had no worries in his mind relating to the death of Arlene Arkinson because he had nothing to do with it."

Throughout the course of the interviews Howard insisted he had answered all questions honestly and truthfully, it was claimed.

He was acquitted of Arlene's murder in 2005 by a jury which, for legal reasons, was not told about his previous convictions which included the murder of another teenage girl in South London several years earlier.

However, Howard, 71, always remained the prime suspect in the Arkinson case until his death in prison last year.

The inquest has been adjourned until May 27.