October 2015

Convicted child killer and rapist Robert Howard dies in custody

robert

Convicted child killer and rapist Robert Howard has died in prison custody at a hospital in England.

The 71-year-old Irish native was serving a life sentence for raping and killing 14-year-old Hanna Williams from London, whose body was found in 2002.

He was also a suspect in the murder of the County Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson who went missing after going to a disco in County Donegal in 1994.

He was charged with murdering the 15-year-old but was acquitted in 2005.

The jury was not told that Howard had a history of sexual violence and by then he was already serving a life term for killing and raping Hanna Williams.

Arlene, a schoolgirl from Castlederg, was last seen alive in a car driven by Howard.

She has been missing, presumed dead, for 21 years. A number of searches have been carried out at various locations, but her body has never been found.

Howard was an inmate at HMP Frankland in County Durham but died in hospital two days ago.

It is believed he died from natural causes.

A spokesman for the UK Prison Service said: “HMP Frankland prisoner Robert Howard (dob 20/4/1944) was pronounced dead in hospital at 1.55pm on Friday.

“As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

14 year old Hannah, who lived with her mother, disappeared from her home in April, 2001.

There was no trace of her for 10 months, until her badly decomposed body was discovered by a workman at the disused Blue Circle cement works in Northfleet, who spotted a foot sticking out of a roll of blue tarpaulin.

She had been strangled with a 12-metre rope, probably soon after she disappeared.

An investigation by Kent Police led to Howard, from Mottingham, south London, who had known Hannah since 1999 through her friendship with his girlfriend, who lived in Northfleet.

He was arrested on 23 March 2002, eight days after Hannah’s body was found.

He plotted ways of being alone with them and was prepared to use extreme force to get what he wanted.

Police checks quickly revealed Howard, who came originally from the Irish Republic, had a history of offences against schoolgirls stretching back to 1964.

He was not on the sex offenders register, which was set up in 1997, because his convictions in the UK dated from before then.

December 2011

Robert Howard loses challenge to Arlene Arkinson inquest

A convicted child killer and rapist has lost his legal challenge to the holding of an inquest into the death of a schoolgirl he was cleared of murdering.

In September, Robert Howard was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the coroner’s decision to examine the 1994 disappearance of Arlene Arkinson.

His legal team claimed the move was an attempt to undermine the not guilty verdict returned against him in 2005.

The body of Arlene, (pic below) who was 15, has never been found.

Howard’s lawyers argued that the inquest is being used as a way of reopening issues surrounding the case because the Arkinson family were unhappy with the outcome of the criminal trial.

On Monday, a High Court judge confirmed he had dismissed Howard’s application for a judicial review.

Arlene, from Castlederg, County Tyrone, vanished after attending a disco in Bundoran, County Donegal.

September 2005

Girl’s killer serves life in jail

A serial sex offender is serving life for murdering a 14-year-old south London schoolgirl, it can be reported two years after his conviction.

Robert Howard, 61, was found guilty in October 2003 of murdering Hannah Williams, from Deptford, whose body was found in a cement works in Kent.

The conviction could not be reported because he faced separate sex charges in Northern Ireland, now dropped.

Howard, 61, had a string of previous sex convictions dating back 40 years.

Hannah, (pic below) who lived with her mother, disappeared from her home in April, 2001.

There was no trace of her for 10 months, until her badly decomposed body was discovered by a workman at the disused Blue Circle cement works in Northfleet, who spotted a foot sticking out of a roll of blue tarpaulin.

She had been strangled with a 12-metre rope, probably soon after she disappeared.

An investigation by Kent Police led to Howard, from Mottingham, south London, who had known Hannah since 1999 through her friendship with his girlfriend, who lived in Northfleet.

He was arrested on 23 March 2002, eight days after Hannah’s body was found.

“Howard had a predatory interest in young teenage girls,” saidDet Insp Martyn Cochrane, who helped bring him to justice at Maidstone Crown Court.

He plotted ways of being alone with them and was prepared to use extreme force to get what he wanted.”

Police checks quickly revealed Howard, who came originally from the Irish Republic, had a history of offences against teenage girls stretching back to 1964.

He was not on the sex offenders register, which was set up in 1997, because his convictions in the UK dated from before then.

Earlier this year, a jury at Belfast Crown Court cleared him of murdering Co Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson.

The 15-year-old went missing in August 1994 but her body has never been found.

Howard faced further charges of serious sex offences in Belfast but on Tuesday, reporting restrictions were lifted after these charges were dropped.

“We are satisfied that we presented a compelling case which resulted in a unanimous guilty verdict for this evil man,” said Det Insp Cochrane.