In 2003, 14-year-old Charlene Downes disappeared after a shopping trip in town with her sister. Now, 13 years later, her mother says investigators mishandled evidence and procedures at every step of the way that ultimately led to not being able to put a killer behind bars. Her mother is threatening to sue the department after video evidence recently surfaced that had been "lost" in police custody for over a decade indicating her daughter was murdered.
Charlene Downes. Charlene Downes was shopping with her sister in Blackpool city center on November 1, 2003. It was the last time she was seen alive by anyone.
Lost Evidence. The family of the deceased is threatening to file suit against the investigators for misplacing the surveillance video evidence for 13 years. Her mother, Karen Downes has stated the video shows the last few moments before her daughter went missing and should have been entered into evidence during previous court hearings.
Irresponsible Handling. In addition to court evidence, had the video surfaced earlier, it could possibly have been used to find the girl before she was murdered. "Why are they showing that footage all these years later when they could have used it to bring forward witnesses at the time?" Karen asked.
The Grieving Mother. Charlene's mother was disgusted at the sight of the "newly recovered" surveillance videos that surfaced on television recently. "Where has it been kept and what exactly have the police been doing all these years since the trial?" Karen continued.
A Series Of Mishandlings. Karen states the recovered video is just the latest in a long string of mishandlings that were made by the investigators throughout the case. The initial trial proceedings against two kebob shop workers nearby, were dismissed due to a technicality and flawed evidence.
The Initial Court Hearing. During the initial trial, two men inclusing Ilyad Albattikhi who owned the kebob shop were on trial for allegedly murdering the girl and then chopping her body into pieces and served as kebobs.
Case Dismissed. The jury in the case was unable to come to a verdict after hearing both sides. They stated their reasoning was a series of flawed recorded conversations between the accused. The recordings were flawed due to improper handling by the officer at the time of booking.
Botched Case. That mishandling ultimately led to the acquittal of both men. The case was never brought back to trial because there was no new evidence to point in their direction.
Plea for Witnesses. Regardless to the constant pleas for possible witnesses to come forward - including hefty reward money - no one ever came forward. The family posted details of her clothing, description, and demeanor in a desperate attempt to find witnesses.
Independent Police Complaints Commission. According to the IPCC, they received several complaints regarding the case and the officers involved. In a follow-up report from 2009, they noted several instances in which the department failed to "keep proper records and used untrained officers."
In The Dark. Despite her attempts to get answers Karen says she still feels as though the police are not keeping her informed of what is going on. "I am absolutely disgusted. Every day is still a living hell. 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 stated.
Filing A Claim. Karen and her husband have begun the process of filing a claim against the police department for their negligence and mishandling of information. "It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to the memory of my dead daughter," she said.
Disgraceful. Karen has stated she hope to find justice for her daughter and to help improve policies and procedures so future parents don't have to go through as much of the added suffering she did. "This is not about money, it is about the principle. It is unbelievable that they have had that footage all those years and never used it," she said.
Holding Them Accountable. The original officer on the case who mishandled the recorded conversations was reprimanded for his negligence. The family attorney states that isn't enough. "Police and authorities need to be held accountable for their actions. This case has had a devastating affect on the family of Charlene who was groomed before she went missing. They are quite rightly angry and feel the werer let down by the authorities," Attorney Peter Garsden stated.
Protect The Children. Garsden continued by saying, "It is staggering that this CCTV has only recently come to light. People in positions of power need to do more to protect vulnerable children and properly investigate their claim."