The parents of a 14-year-old girl who has been missing for 20 years have made an emotional plea for information to end their nightmare.
Charlene Downes was last seen at her home in Blackpool, Lancashire, on November 1, 2003, when she was just 14 years old. It’s thought she may have been horrifically murdered and ‘chopped up into kebab meat’.
Two local takeaway workers stood trial for her murder in May 2007. And prosecutors claimed during the case that her body was cut up and minced into kebabs. and her bones crushed into tile grouting.
But charges were dropped when a jury was unable to reach a verdict and retrial was called off after the police probe was judged to have been ‘handled unprofessionally’.
Despite decades worth of investigations, where police took 6,800 statements and recorded 7,400 pieces of evidence, no trace of Charlene has ever been found. Further arrests were made, trials carried out and a £100,000 reward offered but no one has ever been convicted of Charlene’s murder.
As Lancashire Police launch a new appeal for information Charlene’s mother Karen, 58, told the BBC: “Somebody knows something somewhere and we ask them to come forward and please, end our nightmare.
“Hope is all we can do and we just hope that one day something will happen and we can get some justice or some closure for Charlene.”
Her father Bob, 61, added that the family “just want the nightmare over”, saying: “We just want someone to come forward. Be brave and don’t be scared.”
Tragically Charlene’s brother Robert, who was 12 when she went missing, died of an accidental drug overdose in 2021.
Lancashire Police said a £100,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the prosecutions of Charlene’s potential killers or the possible recovery of her body.
Det Chief Supt Pauline Stables from the force said: “Today, I would like to appeal to those people who know what happened to Charlene, 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 that at the time, or over the last 20 years, you’ve not felt in a position to talk. Your circumstances may have changed. Your allegiances may have changed.
“I’m telling you it is not too late in the day to come forward and tell us so that we can get justice for Charlene, get justice for her family and give them the closure they so richly deserve.”