Disappearance of Charlene Downes

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Charlene Downes
Born (1989-03-25)March 25, 1989
Disappeared November 1, 2003 (aged 14)
Blackpool, Lancashire
Status Presumed dead
Died c. November 1, 2003(2003-11-01) (aged 14)
Residence Blackpool
Nationality British
Ethnicity White European
Height 155 cm (5 ft 1 in)

Charlene Downes (born 25 March 1989 - disappeared 1 November 2003) was a girl who lived in Blackpool, United Kingdom, her family having moved there when she was 10 years old. She disappeared aged 14 years old.[1] Police initially treated the case as one of a missing person although their enquiries revealed she had probably been a victim of sexual abuse near the location where she was last seen. She is now believed to have been murdered.[2] Downes was last sighted in an area later reportedly identified as at the centre of child grooming and sexual abuse of 60 underaged girls by Asian men. In August 2007, 16-year-old Paige Chivers went missing in Blackpool allegedly in similar circumstances, she is also believed to have been murdered.

A jury failed to reach a verdict in the trials of two men, one accused of murdering Downes and the other of disposing of her body. A re-trial ended with not guilty verdicts when the prosecution withdrew the charges. There have been no convictions in relation to the disappearance of Downes, or the disappearance of Chivers [3]

Background to disappearance[edit]

Downes was born on 25 March 1989,[4] to Robert, a former soldier, and Karen. She had two sisters and a brother and they lived in Buchanan Street, Blackpool.[5][6][7] The family had moved to Blackpool from the West Midlands in 1999.[8] Downes was educated at St. George's School, Blackpool. She was described in court as "well and happy" but had adopted a "chaotic" lifestyle after being expelled from school, frequenting the area around Blackpool's Central Promenade.[9][10] According to an internal police report that somehow became public, Downes was one of 60 local underaged girls, some as young as 11, who had been groomed to carry out sex acts.[10][11][12]

Last sightings[edit]

In the early evening of Saturday, 1 November 2003, 5 feet 1 inch (155 cm) tall Downes, who was aged 14 at the time, kissed her mother goodbye. Downes said she was going to meet friends on Blackpool Central Promenade where the town's amusement arcades are located.[13] She was spotted last in Abingdon Street and the back of Clifton Street. She is now believed to have died within hours of these sightings.[10][14][15][16]

Police response[edit]

After the disappearance of Downes, a police report identified her as one victim of a widespread pattern of sexual abuse. Although the sexual abuse she was believed to have been subjected to had centred on certain fast food shops in the promenade area, which is where she was heading when last seen, police continued to consider her as a missing person rather that a murder victim for more than a year.[2] The search for Downes as a 'missing person' came to involve a large police team. The case became one of Lancashire longest lasting investigations involving a child gone missing from home, before police started to treat it as a murder, reportedly after information about the circumstances of her disappearance "leaked out" to the public.[17][18]

Disappearance of Paige Chivers[edit]

On 23 August 2007, 16-year-old Paige Chivers vanished after allegedly taking a bus into Blackpool town centre. Chivers was allegedly linked to the same business premises, alleged to have been the scene of grooming and sexual abuse, which were the focus of the enquiries into Downes's disappearance. Police also investigated the case of Chivers as a missing persons one for at least a year. In December 2009 a man was arrested on suspicion of murdering Chivers, and later released without any charges being brought. In 2012 police publicly announced the Chivers case was being treated as a murder inquiry, and that all leads in the case are exhausted.[18][19] In September 2014, two local white Blackpool men were arrested and charged with the murder of Paige Chivers. They are due to stand trial in April 2015. [20]

Murder trial[edit]

Following the decision to start treating Downes disappearance as a murder, there were a number of arrests in the case. In 2007 two men were put on trial. The prosecution alleged at Preston Crown Court that Charlene Downes, 14, was killed by Iyad Albattikhi, a 29-year-old man from Jordan, the owner of "Funny Boyz" fast-food outlet in Blackpool.[21] Mohammed Reveshi, the first's business partner, was accused of disposing of her body. According to the prosecution, the defendants had sex with Downes.[22] The prosecution alleged the men spoke of disposing of her body by putting it in kebabs sold from a fast food outlet.[2][23] The jury failed to reach a verdict, and at a re-trial the prosecution withdrew the charges.[24] Both defendants were freed and given compensation for false arrest of around £250,000.[1][2][25] There has not been another prosecution.[1]

After a critical report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, one of the detectives involved, Det Sgt Jan Beasant, was found guilty of misconduct by Lancashire Police and told to resign, but the Police Arbitration Tribunal overturned the decision.[26] In 2014 it was announced that Beasant was suing police for up to £500,000.[27]

Subsequent publicity[edit]

The trial brought to public attention what The Guardian described as "endemic child sexual abuse".[2][11][28] The Daily Telegraph reported that Mick Gradwell, a former detective superintendent with Lancashire Police, had told another newspaper that the investigation into sexual abuse in Blackpool was being "hampered by political correctness".[29] In a July 2013 blog post for the website of The Telegraph, journalist Sean Thomas noted that the original Charlene Downes article on Wikipedia had been deleted. He claimed this had happened in a way which might indicate editorial bias as to "racialised" murders of white victims, which, supposedly, receive less media coverage in comparison to similar murders of black and ethnic minority victims.[30]

In May 2014, with the cooperation of Karen Downes an independent documentary,"10 Years Lost", was published about the disappearance of Charlene and the effects on her family.

The case was the subject of BBC One's Panorama "The Girl Who Vanished" programme on 10 November 2014.[31] In December 2014, as part of the BBC Crimewatch programme, a £100,000 reward was offered in the investigation.[32]

Charlenes Brother in court [33] The 21-year-old, of Buchanan Street, Blackpool had admitted harassing a man – who had faced a charge of helping to dispose of Charlene’s body.

Charlenes Sister, Emma Downes, 24, of Buchanan Street, central Blackpool, is charged with the racially aggravated assault of the brother of a man cleared of murdering Charlene. [34]

The mother of a missing schoolgirl was attacked by another one of her daughters, a court was told.[35]

Charlene mother attacked by web stalker [36]


  1. ^ a b c "Man cleared over Charlene murder". BBC. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Beyond the pleasure beach". The Guardian. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Paige Chivers murder accused faces trial". 
  4. ^ "Charlene Downes". National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Nightmare for Charlene's family". Blackpool Citizen. 17 August 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Heartbroken dad's ride for daughter's memorial". Blackpool Gazette. 28 August 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Mother of murdered girl 'put into kebabs' runs from court after gruesome testimony". Daily Mail (London). 21 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "In a car in the dark alley, a man's arm reached out to caress a child". The Times. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Memorial service to mark birthday". Blackpool Gazette. 24 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c "Schoolgirl 'murdered by shop owner'". Blackpool Citizen. 24 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Sex grooming scandal inside a seaside town". The Times. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Hughes, Mark (16 October 2009). "Police errors mean girl's killer may never be found". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Mother of murdered girl tells of grief". Lancashire Telegraph. 25 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Police chief's worst fears over Charlene". Blackpool Gazette. 25 March 2003. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Fears for teenager missing a year". BBC. 29 October 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  16. ^ "Charlene received chilling letter". Blackpool Gazette. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Mother of murdered girl ‘put into kebabs’ runs from court after gruesome testimony". Mail Online. 
  18. ^ a b Daily Mail, 7 April 2011. Police 'hid' abuse of 60 girls by Asian takeaway workers linked to murder of 14-year-old
  19. ^ Blackpool Gazette, 18 feb, 2012 Hunt for Paige now a murder inquiry
  20. ^ "Paige Chivers murder accused faces trial". 
  21. ^ Bradshaw, Charlotte (24 May 2007). "Schoolgirl 'murdered by shop owner'". Blackpool Citizen. 
  22. ^ "'Killer joked that he put schoolgirl lover in his kebabs'". Daily Mail (London). 24 May 2007. 
  23. ^ "Missing girl's body 'put into kebab'". The Telegraph (London). 24 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  24. ^ "Charlene Downes murder detective forced to resign". BBC. 24 December 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  25. ^ "Police 'hid' abuse of 60 girls by Asian takeaway workers linked to murder of 14-year-old". Daily Mail (London). 
  26. ^ "Charlene Downes murder detective 'should be reinstated'". BBC. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "‘Scapegoat’ murder detective to sue police". 
  28. ^ Battersby, Matilda (27 December 2011). "Independent Appeal: The project that could prevent another Charlene Downes from disappearing". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  29. ^ Collins, Nick (7 April 2011). "60 girls groomed for sex at takeaway shops in Blackpool". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  30. ^ "The Murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Strange Case of the Missing Wikipedia Entries". The Daily Telegraph (London). 31 July 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  31. ^ "BBC One - Panorama, The Girl Who Vanished". BBC. 
  32. ^ "BBC News - Charlene Downes murder: Police offer 拢100k reward". BBC News. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  33. ^ "Charlene brother back in court". blackpoolgazette.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  34. ^ "Charlene Downes". blackpoolgazette.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "Charlene’s mum attacked by daughter". blackpoolgazette.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  36. ^ "Charlene mother attacked by web stalker". blackpoolgazette.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2015.