I still can’t believe this has never been solved or anyone jailed….
The case of Charlene Downes….
On the 1st November 2003 Charlene Downes disappeared never to be seen again.
17 years on and the unsolved murder has barely registered with the mainstream public. .
In 2007 a criminal trial of took place at it was alleged that Charlene Downes was killed by a Jordanian kebab-shop owner who later disposed of her body with the help of his Iranian business partner. No remains were discovered.
Lacking concrete proof of murder, the prosecution was built on hearsay evidence from an unreliable witness and on a police officer’s transcription of low-quality recordings from bugs placed in the flat and car of one of the suspects. Its accuracy was repeatedly challenged by the defence.
On the eve of a scheduled 2008 retrial, after the first hearing led to a hung jury, the case collapsed. Both defendants were acquitted.
It came to light during the trial that upto 60 young girls including Charlene had been victims of grooming by workers in local takeaways.
The truth, is that so many men of all creeds and colours were suspected of sexual offences against Charlene that when she first went missing the police did not know which way to turn.
One of the trails led directly inside the Downes family home. Confidential witness statements, social services records and internal police reports reveal that the child protection authorities first became concerned about Charlene’s home environment in 1989, the year she was born.
When, the family were living in the West Midlands. Police and social services launched a joint investigation because a convicted rapist, jailed three times for buggery and indecent assaults on two young girls, was a regular visitor to the house and was allowed unsupervised access to a child.
Mr Downes, was “strongly advised” by social services not to allow the man inside his home but the visits were suspected to have continued. A witness told the authorities she saw the rapist “fondling [a child] in the house and that the parents were present”.
In 1998, when Charlene was 9, she and another girl alleged that they were being sexually abused by a man “trusted by the parents to take them to school”. He was charged with rape but the case collapsed when the other girl failed to give evidence.
The family moved to Blackpool in 1999 after Walsall social services threatened to prosecute the parents for wilful neglect and to have the children taken into care.
Whilst living in Blackpool , a succession of men were introduced to the family after meeting Mr Downes in local pubs. Some stayed overnight or even longer.
They included a man in his 50s who described Charlene, then 13, as his girlfriend, and a 40-year-old who later admitted to police that he paid her to carry out a sex act. Three days after Charlene vanished, a 34-year-old man, staying with the Downes family while on bail, was jailed for crimes that included indecent assaults on three young girls. He admitted indecently touching Charlene.
An glimpse of life inside the Downes home came from an environmental health officer, visiting one morning on council business, who walked into a downstairs room to find Charlene, then 12, lying on a bed in a “skimpy” nightgown. Lying alongside her was a man in his 60s. The girl jumped up and “started to scoop a number of pound coins off the bed”. The man, “shaken and trembling”, began “pulling his trouser zip up and fastening his belt”.
In a witness statement, the council employee described his shock at “the situation I had stumbled into”. He said Charlene was quick to tell him that “it’s OK — he’s my uncle”. Mr Downes then entered the room, apparently unconcerned, and explained that the man was “a family friend”. The incident was reported to social services but “it was decided not to pursue the matter further due to lack of evidence, lack of co-operation from the family and no complaint from Charlene”.
A doctor’s report from June 2000, when Charlene was 11, warned of suspected sexual abuse, nor on the 13 visits she made to an NHS walk-in centre over a 12-month period in 2002-03, when she regularly sought help for sexual health problems.
Charlene who apparently made regular visits, aged 11, to a Salvation Army soup kitchen and was seen dancing for men outside a pub, aged 12.
Three months before she vanished, she was one of two girls driven by men from Blackpool to a lay-by in Blackburn. There, at midnight, she walked down an alley with one of the men, returning an hour later. Back in Blackpool, she was handed an envelope. Her friend asked what was inside and was told it was “what I got for what I did in Blackburn”.
Another man is known to have taken her to Manchester in an old BMW less than a week before she disappeared.
A week before she went missing, a man with the “motive and opportunity to murder Charlene” gave her £40. He met her again on her final night. A police report described him as a “compulsive, perverted paedophile” living in “a squalid flat knee-deep in pornographic material of all types including those featuring young children”. This man was a friend of Charlene’s father.
Not one person has ever been prosecuted for sexually abusing Charlene. The care providers that failed to protect her should be held accountable for their failings.
Evidence shows that Charlene Downes was failed throughout her life. Until now, she has also been failed in death. She was let down by her parents, by care Professionals.
We are fighting for Justice for a girl that was failed miserably by all those who were meant to protect her.