Case of Charlene Downes, feared killed and ground into kebab meat at 14, reopened as investigators probe fresh clues

7 July 2023, 06:06 | Updated: 7 July 2023, 10:59

Charlene Downes vanished in 2003
Charlene Downes vanished in 2003. Picture: Lancashire Constabulary

By Kit Heren

The cold case of Charlene Downes, a teenage girl who disappeared 20 years ago, has been reopened in the latest bid to find her killers.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Charlene vanished aged 14 in Blackpool in 2003. Her body has never been found and no one has been held accountable for her disappearance.

Two men were charged and put on trial in 2007 for her murder, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. During the trial, the court heard the police's suspicion that Charlene's body had been ground into kebabs and her bones crushed into tile grouting.

Officers suspected that Charlene was one of dozens of girls in Blackpool who had been groomed into performing sex acts by older men.

Charlene's mother Karen said the evidence was "horrific to listen to", adding that "as a mother, it almost broke me".

Charlene Downes
Charlene Downes. Picture: Lancashire Police

Now Kirsty Bennett, an academic at Leeds Trinity University who specialises in cold cases, and Ronay Crompton, from the Justice for Charlene campaign, are leading a fresh probe in the hope of bringing new evidence to light.

Mr Crompton said about the collaboration: "Our main aim is to review Charlene's case and see where the failings are and go out to get new evidence.

"Blackburn Uni also approached us to undertake large child sexual exploitation (CSE) project for whole of Lancashire to find out the scale of the problem, and where children are being failed."

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: "The case remains open and we would appeal for anyone with information to contact us."

Read more: 'Afghan immigrant' launches unprovoked attack on lone woman in London street and tries to kicked door down in frenzy

Read more: Elle Edwards' final moments: Beautician seen smiling and hugging friends before Christmas Eve shooting

Charlene Downes
Charlene Downes. Picture: Lancashire Police

A Blackpool Council spokesperson added: "Tackling any type of exploitation of our young people is a high priority for the council.

"The Awaken project, which was set up in the wake of Charlene's disappearance, was one of the first teams in the country to combine the resources of the police, social services and health to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation.

"Since it was established in 2003 hundreds of vulnerable young people have been identified and protected from harm and offenders brought to justice."

Lancashire Constabulary are still offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Charlene Downes’ killer or the recovery of her body.

Anyone with information should contact the incident room on 01253 607370 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or email,

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Corey Comperatore was killed during the Trump rally attack.

Chilling final tweets from man killed in Trump shooting at Pennsylvania rally

Donal Trump made his first appearance since the shooting

Donald Trump greeted by cheering fans as he returns to political stage with huge bandage after assassination attempt

JD Vance joked UK could become 'Islamist' under Labour

Trump's vice-president pick JD Vance joked UK could be 'first Islamist country to have nuclear weapons' under Labour

Britain's Prime Minister Keir Starmer hosts the first roundtable with regional UK mayors, along with Angela Rayner

Ministers pledge to give more powers to local areas, in 'devolution revolution'

Starmer has launched a defence review

Keir Starmer launches review of armed forces as he warns of 'dangerous and volatile world'

Annabel Croft and Graziano di Prima   at Strictly Come Dancing - The Live Tour. Utilita Arena. 18th January 2024.  Ref:LMK11-180124-001 Steve Bealing/Landmark Media

Strictly Come Dancing pro Graziano Di Prima 'flees the country' after being fired following claims of misconduct

Joe Biden has admitted that calling for Democrats to put Trump in a 'bullseye' was a mistake

Joe Biden admits it was a 'mistake' to urge Democrats to 'put Donald Trump in a bullseye' after assassination attempt

Jay Slater's mother Debbie Duncan is said to be 'demanding answers'

Jay Slater's mother 'demands answers' after human remains found just yards from teen's last known location

Trump has selected Vance as his running mate

Who is JD Vance, Donald Trump's pick for vice-president?

Donald Trump has selected JD Vance (right) as his running mate and would-be vice president

Donald Trump chooses senator JD Vance as running mate, as he is officially nominated as Republican candidate

Ralf Schumacher and David Schumacher at Hockenheimring on April 05, 2022

'I'm 100% behind you': Ralf Schumacher's son congratulates his father after he comes out as gay

David Lammy has called for a ceasefire on a trip to Israel

Foreign Secretary David Lammy reiterates call for Israel-Hamas ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza

Hamza Alam

East Londoner who 'disguised himself as a librarian' while urging TikTok followers to kill Jewish people jailed for 4 years

The England fan is confident England can bring football home in the next four years.

England fan has ‘no regrets’ over doomed Euro ‘winners’ tattoo

Queen Camilla left in histerics as Jersey cows get frisky during royal visit while bemused King watches on

Queen Camilla left in hysterics as Jersey cows get frisky during royal visit while bemused King watches on

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper during a visit to Lewisham Police Station in south London.

Home Secretary to probe 'disgraceful' election intimidation, as Jo Cox's sister says UK politics 'not in a good place'