The investigation into Charlene Downes’ disappearance and death is one of Lancashire Constabulary’s longest running investigations.
Charlene was 14 years old when she was reported missing from her home in Blackpool on 3 November 2003.
She was last seen on 1 November 2003, on that day Charlene had spent some time with her sister. They had been to the Promenade and played on the fruit machines at Coral Island amusement arcade before heading to McDonald’s.
Around 6.45pm, they walked up to Church Street where their mother was handing out leaflets and they went to say hello to her. The three chatted before Charlene’s sister decided to go home.
Charlene called some friends in the phone box on Leopold Road and met up with them before saying goodbye to her mother. The girls went off together. Charlene stayed with them for a short while before leaving in the direction of Caunce Street.
It is not known what Charlene did for the next hour or so, but she did meet up with another friend.
New CCTV footage that has been released thriteen years on from her disappearance show Charlene with her sister Rebecca on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool town centre at 3.25pm on the afternoon of Saturday, November 1st 2003. The pair are walking towards the Coral Island amusement arcade.
Shortly after these images were captured Charlene returned home but then went back out into Blackpool town centre later that evening and from there she disappeared. The clothes she is wearing in this footage are the same as when she vanished.
Further CCTV shows a possible sighting of Charlene with a taller woman in a three-quarter coat on the junction of Talbot Road and Dickson Road.
Around 9.30pm Charlene and her friend went to the Carousel bar on the North pier. They didn’t stay long and headed back into the town centre before parting company near Talbot Road/Abingdon Street around 11pm.
A “Proof of Death” report has been compiled and is thought to be the most comprehensive and detailed Proof of Death report ever produced. Despite an enormous and exhaustive investigation and all the media appeals there has been no trace of Charlene since her disappearance in November 2003.
Two men faced trial in May 2007, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial was ordered, but prior to the start of this trial in April 2008, the prosecution identified a number of issues with the evidence. As a result the Crown Prosecution Service formally offered no evidence.
There is evidence that Charlene was a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation prior to her death. If you are a young person, you can find out more about Child Sexual Exploitation on our dedicated young persons' website here www.trusted2know.co.uk/abuse/cse/
There is a £100,000 reward on offer for information leading to the conviction of Charlene Downes’ killer(s) or the recovery of her body. The money has been personally sanctioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw. It will be made available from the Proceeds of Crime Fund, which is made up of money and assets seized from criminal activity.
The man leading the investigation into Charlene Downes’ death is Detective Superintendent Andy Webster. His message is clear in the hunt for Charlene’s killer(s).
“We are determined to establish exactly what happened to Charlene, to identify who is responsible for her murder and/or who may have assisted in disposing of her body and we would appeal to anybody with any relevant information to come forward.
“Whilst I appeal to the general public, I specifically want to direct this to two groups.
“Firstly, friends and associates of Charlene in 2003 – now, a decade on, they will be in their mid-twenties and may now be more comfortable in talking about the events of 2003. They may have been previously spoken to by the police, but back then they may not have had the confidence and freedom to share with us what they know. In addition, the Constabulary has continued to learn about the threat of Child Sexual Exploitation and has specially-trained staff who are equipped to deal sensitively with these issues. Information from these friends and associates will be crucial to help us build up a clearer picture of Charlene’s lifestyle and to help to bring Charlene’s killer, or killers, to justice.
“We know that people are more confident nowadays in coming forward to report on historic crimes and this may be the case here. Charlene’s friends, obviously just teenagers at the time that she went missing, will now be grown up and may have their own children. As parents themselves, I would hope they come forward and tell us what they know.
“Secondly, I appeal directly to those who know or may have heard what happened to Charlene in 2003. Their information, no matter how small, may be vital. I firmly believe that there are people who know what happened to Charlene but have not come forward to speak to the police. They may have been present when she was murdered or may simply have intimate details as to how she was killed and what then happened to her body. For whatever reasons, they may have chosen not to speak out previously, but as we seek to lift the lid on what happened their information is vital to take the case forward.
“If their reluctance is due to fear of reprisals or that they were involved in Charlene’s life in some way, I would still urge them to contact us. There are lawful provisions that enable the police to protect witnesses but the first step requires them to come forward and speak to us.”
Anyone with information should contact the incident room on 01253 607370 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org