Published: 16:00, 07 October 2015
A killer jailed for life for murdering a teenager whose body was found dumped at cement works in Northfleet has died.
Robert Howard, 71, died while in police custody in hospital.
Once described by police as having a “predatory interest in young teenage girls”, he was serving life for the murder of schoolgirl Hannah Williams after her body was found buried at the Blue Circle site in March 2002.
The convicted sex offender was a frequent visitor to the area at the time as his then-girlfriend lived in High Street, Northfleet.
Hannah had disappeared from her south London home in April 2001 and was murdered a month before her 15th birthday.
Howard’s girlfriend was an ex-partner of Hannah’s father.
Jurors at his trial at Maidstone Crown Court in 2003 were told a blue rope had been wound tightly around the teen’s neck.
They also heard evidence from another teenage girl who had been sexually abused by Howard in the early 1990s.
She detailed how he would tighten a noose around her neck if she did not do as he wanted.
Howard was found unanimously guilty after just three hours of deliberation but a court order banned reporting of his trial until September 2005 when unrelated charges of rape and a serious sex offence were dropped at Belfast Crown Court.
That same year Howard was also acquitted of the murder of County Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson who has been missing, presumed dead, since 1994.
Howard was serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland in County Durham and is believed to have died of natural causes last week.
As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
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