Mum of girl, 14, feared to have been minced & served in kebabs says disappearance also 'killed her brother and grandma' | The Sun

THE mum of a girl feared to have been minced and served in kebabs says her disappearance killed her brother and grandma.

Charlene Downes was just 14 when she disappeared from her home in Blackpool on November 1, 2003.

Her mum Karen, 58, says she has accepted her daughter is dead as she plans to mark the 20th anniversary of her disappearance this week.

But she hopes plans for a new investigation into Charlene's missing persons case may bring the answers she needs.

Karen believes the stress of her daughter's disappearance also led to the deaths of her son Robert and her own mum.

The mum-of-four said: "I lost my son, Robert, in December 2021. He was only 30 and never got over the loss of his sister.

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"He used to climb out of his bedroom to look for her in the early days. Her disappearance cost his life.

"It also killed my mum. She couldn’t cope with it. I hope they’re all together in heaven. It’s my only comfort."

Charlotte had moved to Blackpool with her mum, dad and sister Rebecca four years prior to going missing.

Police initially treated her as a runaway teen, but it was later revealed she was suspected to have been a victim of sexual abuse near the location where she was last seen

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Despite two trials and a lengthy investigation, including claims Charlene’s remains were chopped into kebab meat, her final whereabouts remain a mystery.

In 2006, Lancashire Police officers said they believed she had been murdered, but are still no closer to finding her body.

But private investigator Jen Jarvie, part of a crack team specialising in cold cases, recently announced a review into the disappearance of Charlene, who would be 34 now.

Karen and husband Bob are now pinning their hopes on the new probe and say they've completely lost faith in the police.

She added: "Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my Charlene. I never sleep. I can’t carry on with life. I am still stuck in that day.

"Since she disappeared, I have had a candle burning in my window – and it still burns today. I hope and pray for justice.

"The memorial service will be 20 years, and we will hold a candle lit vigil outside the church she attended for Sunday school. I’m going to release white doves too, one for every year.

"I never for a moment believed she was dismembered and hidden into kebab meat but it’s a claim which has followed us around.

"There have been so many awful rumours about what happened to her and as her mum it is hard to take. I just want closure, for her and for the rest of the family."

Karen plans to mark the 20th anniversary with the release of 20 white doves.

She says: "I have eight grandchildren now who bring me so much joy and yet I can’t help thinking how happy I would be if Charlene had her own children and what she would be like. Life is always ‘what if?‘

"I have a six-year-old granddaughter who really reminds me of Charlene and it is bittersweet. She lives on through her yet it’s a reminder of what we have lost.

"On the 20th anniversary, I would appeal as always for someone to come forward. Someone knows the truth.

"My candle will burn at my window until justice is done. I hope Jen can be the one to lay her spirit to rest."

It is believed the teenager was the victim of child sexual exploitation after being groomed by a gang of mainly Asian men.

The prosecution at a 2007 trial claimed Charlene’s body had been cut up and minced into kebabs in a Blackpool takeaway.

It also heard her bones had been crused into tile grouting by two men.

After a planned retrial was abandoned in 2008, Karen began to give up hope of ever finding the truth and came close to suffering a nervous breakdown.

She adds: "I can’t believe 20 years have passed and I am still no nearer to the truth. In many ways, her disappearance feels like yesterday.

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"The pain never goes away. In other ways, I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for justice."

Today, there remains a £100,000 reward on offer from the police for information leading to the conviction of Charlene's killer.

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