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Groomed by Muslim gangs, minced into pieces, fed as kebabs: Read about Charlene Downes who disappeared from Lancashire, UK, 20 years ago

The police confirmed that Charlene may have been linked to grooming gangs in Blackpool and said that they discovered at least 60 minor girls had been sexually groomed at different eateries in the city. Muslim grooming gangs in England kept operating for decades because the authorities were scared they would be accused of racism if they act.

On March 25, 2023, Charlene Downes would have turned 34. She was 14 when she suddenly went missing from her hometown of Blackpool in Lancashire on November 1st, 2003. Downes was feared to be groomed by Muslim gangs and murdered. Her body was allegedly minced into pieces and served as kebabs to customers at a takeaway restaurant in the area.

It is noteworthy that the Lancashire police, probing the case, initially treated Charlene’s disappearance as a runaway teenager but it soon became clear something more sinister had happened to the girl. The police confirmed that Charlene may have been linked to grooming gangs in Blackpool and said that they discovered at least 60 minor girls had been sexually groomed at takeaways in the city.

They arrested two accused Ilyad Albattikh and Mohammed Reveshi, who were later acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence. Lancashire police were chastised for their inept handling of the case.

This heinous case which remains unsolved to this day, served as a wake-up call to how Muslim grooming gangs continue to operate with impunity in the North of England, with the rapists remaining at large, essentially because police are too afraid of backlash for mentioning the ethnic origins of the Muslim male perpetrators.

Charlene Downes (source: dailymail.co.uk)

The timeline of the case

As per media reports, on November 1, 2003, at around 3.35 pm, Charlene was seen on CCTV crossing the road in the town centre.

At 7.15 p.m., her mother kissed Charlene after running into her, and her daughter stated she was heading to the arcade but would not be late. She met her friend and they went to the Carousel bar on North Pier.

At 9.03 pm Charlene was allegedly spotted on CCTV outside a Blackpool bar with a woman wearing a black coat.

Police released CCTV footage of Charlene (circled) walking in the seaside town (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

Charlene’s family reported her missing on November 2 after she failed to return home.

But, it wasn’t until 2006 that police informed Charlene’s family that she had been murdered and that the case was no longer a missing person investigation.

Days later, the Police announced a major breakthrough in the case. They said that they arrested a 51-year-old man who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene’s disappearance. A Lancashire Police spokesman said, that “the man, aged 51, who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene’s disappearance, is currently in custody.”

Subsequently, in May 2007, two men namely Ilyad Albattikh and Mohammed Reveshi were tried in court. Albattikh for Downes’ murder, the Mohammed Reveshi for helping to dispose of her body, but the court failed to reach a verdict.

However, the 2007 murder trial was called off due to police mistakes, and the IPCC watchdog decided that the killer may never be located.

A retrial was scheduled in April 2008. At the time of the trial, the court was told the fast food shop owner had “joked” that Charlene Downes had been chopped up and put into kebabs that were sold to the public. However, due to reservations about the evidence produced by Lancashire Constabulary, the accused were acquitted and also paid almost £250,000 each in compensation.

After receiving strong criticism for failing to thoroughly investigate the case, Lancashire police revived the inquiry in 2016 and discovered new CCTV footage showing Charlene walking with her sister Rebecca on the day she vanished. On the 13th anniversary of her disappearance in November, the CCTV footage was finally made public.

Parents of Charlene Downes accuse Lancashire police of mishandling the case

In 2017, her parents, Karen and Robert, vowed to sue Lancashire Police after learning crucial CCTV footage of her last movements was sat in archives for 12 years. The CCTV footage showed Charlene walking with her sister Rebecca on the day she vanished.

Charlene’s mother Karen Downes (source: dailymail.co.uk)

The parents lamented that if the footage had been available sooner than the 2007 murder trial, which resulted in the acquittal of Funny Boys kebab worker Ilyad Albattikh for murder and Mohammed Reveshi for disposal of Charlene’s body owing to police error, things could have turned out differently.

“It is unbelievable that they have had that footage all those years and never used it. It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to the memory of my dead daughter. Maybe If the CCTV was shown at the time I could have got justice years ago and put Charlene to rest but now my pain continues,” the aggrieved mother fumed.

“And instead of helping me, the police add to it as they never tell me anything and seem determined to keep me in the dark,” she added.

Karen had asserted that she is taking civil action against Lancashire Police and is seeking damages and a public apology over their handling of the investigation.

The horrifying case garnered a lot of media attention. Despite a lengthy and complex investigation, numerous media appeals and a £100,000 reward offered, the Lancashire police until now, found no trace of Charlene. It also said that there is no suggestion that the arrests of the two Blackpool men are directly connected to Charlene’s murder.

The Lancashire police had said that investigation into the case revealed that she was amongst the many children who were groomed by Muslim gangs operating near the location where she was last seen in November 2003.

In 2011, officers investigating Charlene’s case discovered that at least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex by employees of takeaway eateries in Blackpool.

The police thought the case to be like the Rochdale child abuse incident, where they were groomed in exchange for food, drink, and cigarettes. They suspected Charlene was one of the victims too.

A Crimewatch appeal was issued in 2014, and the police announced a £100,000 prize for information.

Lancashire Police detained two men on suspicion of previous sex offences – but not specifically against Charlene – on June 27 2016, as part of their investigation into Charlene’s murder.

Lancashire Police officers have taken over 4,800 witness accounts and explored 10,500 lines of enquiry, yet the case remains unresolved.

The investigation into her case is one of Lancashire Police’s largest and longest-running investigations. Nearly 20 years on, though the UK’s Lancashire police are still no closer to solving her murder, the case has definitely drawn the attention of authorities towards the wider issue of child sexual exploitation by Muslim grooming gangs operating in the region and various others in the United Kingdom.

Inquiry finds over 1,000 children were groomed by Muslim gangs and authorities looked away due to ‘racial unease’

Notably, in July 2022, an independent inquiry into Telford sexual exploitation case revealed how authorities looked away in the matter where over 1,000 children were groomed by Muslim gangs just because of racial unease. The report found that the key agencies investigating the matter dismissed child exploitation as “child prostitution.” They blamed the children for the situation and not the perpetrators.

The independent chair that investigated the case submitted the report on July 12, in which they concluded that the investigating agencies were nervous about the race of the accused and did not investigate the case properly. They added that the youth workers and teachers were discouraged from reporting the offences and exploitation of children. The steps were taken by the authorities to ignore the matter resulted in the exploitation of the children for years.

As per reports, there had been a widespread grooming nexus in the town since 1989. The independent chair found that the men would approach girls while being disguised as taxi drivers or food delivery drivers. Then they would pursue them to be their ‘girlfriend.’ These men would give the girls lifts. They would buy alcohol and cigarettes for them and later pursue them to indulge in sexual activities. The children were made to believe that everything that happened was normal.

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