Mystery of schoolgirl with dark secret murdered and turned into kebab meat

It is the murder mystery which shocked a nation with the disappearance of a schoolgirl feared murdered and turned into kebab meat.

Charlene Downes went missing from her hometown of Blackpool in Lancashire on November 1, 2003. She was just 14.

Nearly 20 years later and police are still no closer to solving her murder.

Police initially treated Charlene's disappearance as a runaway teenager but is soon became clear something more sinister had happened to the tragic teen.

It was later revealed that she had been a victim of sexual abuse near the location where she was last seen in November 2003.

Police investigations revealed that at least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex by takeaway workers.

They who would ply their young victims with food, alcohol and cigarettes in return for sexual favours.

In 2006, Lancashire Police said Charlene had been murdered, but the force is still no closer to finding her body nearly two decades after she went missing.

Charlene's mum Karen last saw her on November 1, 2003, at 7.15pm.

Karen kissed her daughter goodbye at a bus stop on Church Street where Charlene was on her way to meet friends in the town centre.

Charlene told her she was going to the arcade and wouldn't be home late.

She met up with her friend and they then walked towards the Promenade, heading for the Carousel bar on North Pier.

Charlene is then spotted on CCTV just after 9pm outside a Blackpool bar on Talbot road with a woman wearing a three-quarter length black coat.

The next day when she failed to return home Charlene's family reported her as missing.

Officers from Lancashire Police took more than 4,800 witness statements and there have been 10,500 lines of inquiry generated during the length of the inquiry.

Two decades on the case remains unsolved despite a £100,000 reward.

In 2007, a takeaway owner Iyad Albattikhi was accused of murdering her while co-worker Mohammed Reveshi was alleged to have helped to have dispose of her body.

At their trial the jury heard how Charlene's body had been was chopped up and turned into kebabs at Funny Boyz fast food shop in Blackpool.

It was believed that Charlene could have been targeted because of the dark secret she was believed to be hiding.

But the charges against the two men were withdrawn after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Lancashire Police renewed their appeal for information about Charlene's whereabouts on the 13th anniversary of her disappearance.

Detective Superintendent Andy Webster said in 2016: "It has been thirteen years since Charlene disappeared but we are as determined as ever to find her killer or killers."

Two men were also arrested and questioned by police for historic sex offences in 2017 but police confirmed there was no suggested direct link to Charlene.

In the same year detectives finally released the only CCTV footage of her on the day she vanished – after it lay unnoticed on police shelves.

The family of Charlene have since criticised police for a bungled investigation as a probe was launched into "breach of duty."

Karen launched a lawsuit against the force in July 2017 seeking a public apology.

Police watchdog IPCC referred the case to the Lancashire Police Commissioner and the force's Professional Standards Department in November 2017.

In 2019 the heartbreaking case was featured on Channel 5 documentary, Vanished: The Murder of Charlene Downes where it re-examined the case in the hope new leads could be found.

There was more heartbreak for Charlene's family back in 2021 as her younger brother was found dead.

Robert Downes, 30, was found “in a pool of blood” at his Blackpool home on December 4, just a few hours after complaining of feeling unwell..

Robert, a father-of-four, had gone to a football match with his dad at Blackpool FC's Bloomfield Road stadium where he worked as a steward.

Shortly after arriving there, however, Robert complained of feeling ill and left.

He returned home at 6:30pm and fell asleep a short time later in an upstairs bedroom, which was the last time he was seen alive.

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His father later discovered him unresponsive on his bedroom floor at home surrounded by blood.

Paramedics were called to the house and Robert was pronounced dead at the scene, while his death was not believed to be suspicious.

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