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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Girl's killer serves life in jail
Hannah Williams (from Kent Police)
Hannah's decomposed body was found at a disused cement works
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, who lived with her mother, disappeared from her home in April, 2001.

Howard had a predatory interest in young teenage girls
Det Insp Martyn Cochrane

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," said Det Insp Martyn Cochrane, who helped bring him to justice at Maidstone Crown Court.

Robert Howard (from Kent Police)
Kent Police said sex predator Robert Howard was "evil"

"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.

Arlene accused had killed before
20 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland
Man is cleared of Arkinson murder
27 Jun 05 |  Northern Ireland


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