Charlene Downes: Missing, presumed murdered (2003)


On the 1st of November, 2003, Charlene Downes (14) was last seen at 11pm near Talbot Road in Blackpool. She was reported missing the next day. Charlene lived with her parents and her siblings in Blackpool, after moving from the West Midlands. Charlene lived a 'chaotic' lifestyle after being expelled from school. It was later revealed that Charlene had been targeted by men to carry out sex acts (grooming).


The Timeline


18:45 - Charlene's mother sees her with her Rebecca and the three of them talk briefly. Charlene said she was going to meet other friends and she called them from a phone box. She waited with her mother until they arrived, then Karen saw the girls walk towards Winter Gardens.


21:00 - There is CCTV footage of a girl on the junction of Dickson Road and Talbot Road, that is believed to be Charlene; she is with an unidentified woman in her 30s with dyed-blonde hair wearing a three-quarter-length coat.


21:30 - Charlene meets another friend and the two vist the Carousel Bar on the Nother Pier/ According to Charlene's friend, they both left the Carousel Bar and returned to the town centre at around 10pm.


23:00 - Charlene is last seen by her friend near Talbot Road/Abingdon Street.


There have neen no confirmed sightings of Charlene since.


Charlene was wearing black jeans with a gold-eagle design on the front, a black jumper with a white-diamond pattern, and black boots. Police say she may also have been wearing a white cardigan or top with a hood

 

The Investigation


According to an internal police report, Downes was one of 60 girls in Blackpool, some as young as 11, who had been groomed by men to carry out sex acts. The girls would be given food and cigarettes by the male employees of fast-food outlets in exchange for sex.


Following a police decision to treat Charlene's disappearance as murder, there were several arrests in the case, and two men stood trial in May 2007. The prosecution alleged at Preston Crown Court that Charlene had been murdered by Iyad Albattikhi, (29) a man from Jordan and the owner of "Funny Boyz" fast-food outlet in Blackpool. Mohammed Reveshi, Albattikhi's business partner, was accused of disposing of her body. According to the prosecution, Albattikhi had sex with Charlene. The prosecution alleged that the men had discussed disposing of her body by putting it in kebabs sold from the fast food outlet.


The jury failed to reach a verdict. A re-trial was ordered and scheduled for April 2008, but such serious errors in the Lancashire Constabulary's covert-surveillance evidence were identified that the Crown Prosecution Service could offer no case, and the men were released. In 2011, Albattikhi was convicted of assault after headbutting an 18-year-old woman.


On 1 August 2017, police arrested a 51-year-old man from Preston, who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene's disappearance, on suspicion of murdering her. He was released two days later.