Mum of Charlene Downes to mark 20th anniversary of her disappearance
Mother of schoolgirl Charlene Downes who was ‘murdered and minced into kebabs’ by Blackpool grooming gang reveals she’s still ‘stuck in that day’ 20 years on from her disappearance
- Karen Downes, 58, will free 20 white doves in honour of her missing daughter
- READ MORE: Parents of Charlene Downes fear she was ‘made into kebab meat’
The case of missing schoolgirl Charlene Downes continues to be a mystery since the moment she vanished from near her home almost 20 years to the day.
Her mother Karen Downes will now commemorate the day by releasing 20 white doves in honour of her darling girl, who was only 14 when she went missing near the seaside town in Blackpool.
November 1 will mark 20 years since Charlene disappeared, but despite two trials and a lengthy investigation, including controversial claims that Charlene’s remains were chopped into kebab meat, her final whereabouts remain a puzzle.
Karen, 58, says she has accepted her daughter is dead but hopes a new investigation might bring the answers she needs.
For the mother-of-four, the memory of her dearest Charlene is as haunting as it is present: ‘Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my Charlene’ said Karen. ‘I never sleep. I can’t carry on with life. I am still stuck in that day.
Charlene Downes (pictured) vanished just hours after leaving her home in Blackpool, almost 20 years to the day on November 1 2003
Her mother Karen Downes (pictured) will now commemorate the day by releasing 20 white doves in honour of her darling girl, who was only 14 when she went missing
Karen, 58, says she has accepted her daughter is dead but hopes a new investigation might bring the answers she needs (Pictured: Karen makes a candlelight vigil for her missing daughter)
‘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 candlelit 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’.
Private investigator Jen Jarvie, part of a crack team specialising in cold cases, recently announced a review into the disappearance of the teenager, who would be 34 today.
Karen and her husband Bob, 61, are now pinning all their hopes on the new investigation.
The brave mum said she felt ‘positive’ about one day learning the truth behind her daughter’s disappearance.
‘I’ve met with the team and I know they’re working hard’ she added.
November 1 will mark 20 years since Charlene disappeared, but despite two trials and a lengthy investigation, including controversial claims that Charlene’s remains were chopped into kebab meat, her final whereabouts remain a puzzle (Pictured: Charlene aged 14 shortly before she vanished)
Karen and her husband Bob (pictured), 61, are now pinning all their hopes on the new investigation
Karen has suffered more loss in recent years, having lost lost members of her family to the cruel hands of death.
She said: ‘I lost my son Robert, in December 2021. He was only 30 and never got over the loss of his sister.
‘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.
‘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’.
Karen has made a spirited plea to anyone who has information about Charlene’s whereabouts, and has urged them to come forward.
‘On the 20th anniversary, I would appeal as always for someone to come forward. Someone knows the truth.
Karen has made a spirited plea to anyone who has information about Charlene’s whereabouts, and has urged them to come forward (Pictured: Karen with family and friends at a past vigil for Charlene)
The brave mum said she has eight grandchildren but wonders ‘if Charlene had her own children and what she would be like’. (Pictured: Baby Charlene with her grandmother who has since passed away)
The family remain steadfast and hope that justice will be served no matter how long it takes. Pictured here is a special cake in honour of Charlene’s 30th birthday four years ago
‘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 consisting of Asian men.
The prosecution at a 2007 trial claimed Charlene’s body had been cut up and minced into kebabs in a Blackpool takeaway.
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.
But Karen insists she’ll wait a lifetime’ for justice to prevail: ‘I can’t believe 20 years have passed and I am still no nearer to the truth’ she said.
‘In many ways, her disappearance feels like yesterday. The pain never goes away. In other ways, I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for justice’.
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