Three theories of what happened to Charlene Downes as cops launch fresh appeal into mystery 20 years after disappearance | The Sun
COPS have launched a fresh appeal into the disappearance of tragic teen Charlene Downes 20 years after she vanished.
Charlene was just 14 when she disappeared from her home in Blackpool on November 1, 2003.
In 2006, Lancashire Police officers said they believed she had been murdered, but are still no closer to finding her body.
The investigation has been dogged by problems – and a 2007 murder trial collapsed because of police errors.
The IPCC watchdog ruled the force's blunders mean the killer may never be found.
She was last seen by her mum Karen on November 1, 2003, at 7.15pm where she kissed her goodbye at a bus stop on Church Street on her way to meet friends in the town centre.
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Charlene told her she was going to the arcade and wouldn't be home late.
She met up with her friend and they then walked towards the Promenade, heading for the Carousel bar on North Pier.
At just after 9pm Charlene is supposedly spotted on CCTV outside a Blackpool bar on Talbot Road with a woman wearing a ¾ length black coat.
The next day when she failed to return home, Charlene’s family reported her as missing.
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To this day the case remains unsolved – despite a £100,000 reward offer – but there have been many theories about what happened to the teen.
Here we take a look at the three main theories of what happened to the tragic teen.
'CHOPPED INTO KEBABS'
In 2007, a takeaway owner Iyad Albattikhi was accused of murdering her while co-owner Mohammed Reveshi was alleged to have helped to dispose of her body.
The trial heard that her body was "chopped up and put in kebabs" at Funny Boyz fast food shop in Blackpool.
But charges against both of them were withdrawn after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
Two men were also arrested and questioned by police for historic sex offences in 2017, but police confirmed there was no suggested direct link to Charlene.
Cops believe Charlene was the victim of sexual exploitation, swapping sex for bags of chips after being groomed by a gang of mainly Asian men.
She made 13 visits to a sexual health clinic in the two years before she vanished.
Her murder uncovered a dark side of the faded seaside town after a police report revealed Charlene was one of 60 girls – some as young as eleven – who had been groomed by takeaway workers.
Not everyone is convinced of the kebab story – with many believing she was murdered by someone else.
Ronay Crompton, from the Justice for Charlene Downes campaign, has recently joined up with Dr Kirsty Bennett, a lecturer at Leeds Trinity University specialising in cold cases.
Together they hope to discover what really happened to Charlene.
Speaking in a new documentary for Shots TV Ronay said: “There’s a number of reasons why I don’t believe that Charlene has gone in a kebab or has been ground up.
“One of the main reasons is the absolute lack of any forensic evidence to suggest that.
“From what I have heard from experts, to grind a body through a mincer and not leave any DNA anywhere is near on impossible.”
And in a previous doc on Channel 5, it was revealed that a convicted sex offender, Ray Munro, had been staying at the family’s home at the time of her disappearance.
Munro, a friend of Charlene’s dad, had pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse of ten-year-old children.
Social service reports there was an incident between Charlene and Munro on the day she disappeared.
Munro has never been arrested by police over the incident.
Karen and Bob Downes have been dealing with the loss of their beloved Charlene for the last 20 years.
The family were quizzed extensively by police before eventually being cleared.
However, Karen 58, says they get accused of taking their daughter's life and "targeted" by people online and in person.
The distraught mum even said husband Bob, 61, has been punched and hit by a car on purpose.
Karen told the MailOnline: "It is disgusting what people say and do.
"All they point the finger at us. I get abuse online, but Bob has it much worse. He will go into a pub and will be targeted.
"He has been called a murderer, a paedophile and accused of pimping out his daughters.
"He has never done that and there is no evidence that he has ever done that.
"One time he was threatened and was told that if he came in the pub again, he would end up dead like Charlene.
"He is always approached by people and has been punched several times.
"He has even been hit by a car while walking home from the pub. Once he was struck in the leg and the other time in the side.
"It is a disgrace. We have done nothing wrong."
The investigation is one of the largest and longest running in the history of Lancashire Police.
A £100,000 reward remains on offer for anyone with information that leads to the prosecution of her killer(s) or assists in the recovery of Charlene’s body.
Today police launched a fresh appeal into the historic case.
Det Chief Supt Pauline Stables said: “Today marks 20 years since Charlene Downes disappeared on the 1st of November 2003 in Blackpool.
“She was a 14-year-old vulnerable teenager and today I would like to appeal to those people who know what happened to Charlene or know who is responsible for her disappearance.
“It might be that you’re one of those people who knows what happened to Charlene but for whatever reason over the last 20 years have not come forward and have not provided that information.
“I want to tell you today, it is not too late. It is not too late to tell us what you know and what happened to Charlene.
“It may be at the time you didn't feel in a position to talk. Your circumstances may have changed. Your allegiances may have changed.
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“I’m telling you that it is not too late today to come forward and tell us so that we can get justice for Charlene’s family and get them the closure that they so richly deserve.”
Anyone with information on Charlene’s disappearance is asked to upload it here.
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