Paedophile Robert Howard admitted in prison that he killed schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson, a coroner’s court has been told.
The sex predator was overhead boasting about getting away with murder while he was being held at a jail in England, it was revealed.
Howard said in 2009: “On my first, I know I got away with it.” A year later, he was overheard saying: “I thought I got away with it ... I did.”
The revelations emerged as a top detective who led the Arkinson inquiry for nine years gave evidence to Belfast Coroner’s Court.
Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said the conversational snippets had formed a vital part of his investigation.
Mr Murray said: “This was an implicit admission at the very least, if not an explicit one, that he had got away with murder.
“The only murder that he had ever been acquitted of in a court of law, that we know of, was Arlene Arkinson.”
Fifteen-year-old Arlene, from Castlederg, 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 the convicted child killer. Her body has never been found.
Chilling conversational extracts in which Howard appeared to recount murder, clean-up and disposal of a body were also read to the inquest.
They included talk of drugging, choking and a blood-soaked body. He also mentioned “burning her”.
Howard was quoted as saying: “See, I couldn’t hold her ... I got her over to the sink that’s just inside.
He added: “She’s strong” and “I bound her”.
The conversations were reported to police over a three-year period between 2009 and 2012, although the source of the information was not disclosed to the court.
Although police believed the prison conversations were hugely significant, prosecutors did not believe they met the high evidential threshold to overturn the acquittal and commence a re-trial.
They did, however, reinvigorate the investigation and prompted a three-week forensic examination of Howard’s former flat.
The scope of the long-running inquest is to examine whether Arlene Arkinson is dead, how, when and where she died.
Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said the evidence suggested she had been murdered by Howard.
“It is my firm belief that Arlene Arkinson is dead,” he told the court.
“I believe she was murdered during the early hours of August 14, 1994...and the person that murdered her was Robert Howard and he murdered her in a sexually motivated attack.”
The case has been adjourned.