Mother of schoolgirl, 14, believed to have been ‘cut up and served as kebab meat’ admits she no longer loves her husband – but the tortuous bond of not knowing her fate prevents them from splitting
- Charlene Downes, 14, went missing in 2003 but her body was never found
- Her parents said on Jeremy Kyle how her disappearance has destroyed them
- Karen and Bob Downes still live in the same house but said they are not together
- Family say they can’t move on because they haven’t had closure or a funeral
The parents of missing 14-year-old Lancashire schoolgirl Charlene Downes say her disappearance 15 years ago has torn their family apart.
Karen and Bob Downes appeared on ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show, where they spoke of their anguish at not knowing what happened to their daughter who is now presumed dead.
Police believe that Charlene, from Blackpool, who disappeared in 2003, was murdered and cut up before being served as kebab meat after being lured into a gang and groomed for sex.
They’ve never found her body and the tragedy is something that Karen, 53, says has bonded her to Charlene’s father for life, despite her heartbreaking admission that she no longer loves her husband.
‘It ripped me apart, part of me died with her, I will never be the same again,’ Karen said on the show.
Karen and Bob Downes appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show to speak about how the disappearance of their daughter 15 years ago still haunts them and has torn their family apart
Charlene Downes was 14 when she went missing in her home town of Blackpool, with police believing that she had been murdered and cut up before being served as kebab meat after being lured into a gang and groomed for sex
Speaking on the daytime show, Karen said that the ordeal had torn them all apart.
Even more so when officers searching the family home for clues inadvertently exposed Charlene’s father as a cross-dresser after finding ladies’ clothing and counselling material.
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‘We’re not the same anymore. I chose to stand by him,’ she told Kyle, ‘I didn’t know what to believe I’ve never heard anything like that. I couldn’t leave him.’
Asked by the host if she still loved her husband Karen said: ‘Not any more no. But we live together.’
Bob said ‘of course’ he still loved his wife, adding that it hurt to hear she didn’t love him. But he added: ‘What else can I expect? We’re together, Charlene has made us stronger.
‘But the love I have still got for my wife, I am devastated that she doesn’t have the love for me.’
Karen broke down in tears as she spoke about the effect it had had on her and that she hadn’t been able to move forward because she had no closure on what happened to her daughter
Karen and Bob were joined by the eldest daughter Becky, now 31, who spoke of her own struggle with the grief of losing her sister as she was the last person to see her
The presenter asked their eldest daughter Becky, now 31, who is still struggling to live with the grief of losing her sister, if she felt her parents were ‘prolonging their misery by staying together’.
‘They’re my mum and dad, they’re my family,’ she said, as Karen nodded in agreement that they felt they had to remain together.
She admitted she was staying out of duty: ‘Yes out of love for Charlene and to stick by him.’
She added that she couldn’t feel like she could break free or move forwards because of her missing daughter.
Karen, who is also mother to another daughter Emma and younger son Robert Junior, said: ‘I don’t feel like I can do that, I feel like Charlene bonds us together.
‘I’ve got no closure, no justice, no funeral.’
CCTV footage was released of the last time Charlene was seen on the streets of Blackpool during an investigation into her disappearance, and the case still remains open
Charlene’s parents still live together but Karen admits she feels bonded to Bob through their shared tragedy but no longer loves him
The police investigation into Charlene Downes’ murder
Charlene Downes, 14, had been a victim of child sex gangs in Blackpool, many of them centred on takeaway restaurants.
Police believe she was sexually abused by as many as 100 men in the run-up to her death.
In 2007 two business partners were tried for murdering Charlene and disposing of her body using a mincing machine, before putting it into kebabs.
However, a jury failed to reach a verdict and the case collapsed. Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Reveshi later received six-figure compensation sums for false imprisonment.
In 2013, to mark the tenth anniversary of Charlene’s disappearance, police announced they had appointed a dedicated full-time senior investigating officer to the case.
In 2016 a cold case team revisited the investigation and discovered CCTV footage of Charlene walking with her sister Rebecca on the day she vanished.
It was finally released on the 13th anniversary of her disappearance in November 2016 and again for a fresh appeal on the BBC’s Crimewatch Live Roadshow.
Last year, a 51-year-old man was arrested after being first quizzed by police in the year she went missing. Over the years, police have made five arrests on suspicion of Charlene’s murder but all have been freed without charge.
The investigation into Charlene’s disappearance became the largest in Lancashire Police’s history and was incredibly controversial.
Officers believed Charlene was lured into a gang and groomed for sex before being murdered, but two local takeaway workers who stood trial in 2007 were not convicted.
The police were heavily criticised and officers were disciplined. The defendants from the original trial received staggering sums in damages.
Looking back at her daughter’s behaviour in the months leading up to her disappearance, Karen believes she missed vital clues that Charlene was being groomed.
Karen last saw her daughter on the last night of the 2003 Blackpool Illuminations, when she spotted her handing out leaflets for a local restaurant.
She spoke to her daughter and a school friend for a while, describing her as ‘full of beans’, before heading off to work.
In 2014, Police offered a £100,000 reward and new CCTV footage emerged, which shows Charlene shortly before she disappeared. But the investigation is still no further forward.
The Jeremy Kyle Show airs on ITV weekdays at 9.25am
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