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.

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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."

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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 charlenedownesinvestigation@lancashire.police.uk,

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