The mother of a 14-year-old schoolgirl who police believe was murdered and cut up before being served as kebab meat has claimed the investigation was sidelined because she is working class.
Charlene Downes, from Blackpool, disappeared 15 years ago but her family are no closer to finding out the truth about what happened to her.
Her mother, Karen Downes, has been highly critical of the police who initially dismissed her daughter as a runaway, and said at points she felt as if she was the only one looking for her.
Now Karen is speaking out about her ordeal for the first time in a new book so that her beloved daughter is never forgotten.
She said: ‘The police came but they just dismissed Charlene as a runaway. They wouldn’t put her picture in the paper or on TV.
‘In the end, I was so despairing of the lack of interest in Charlene that I had my own leaflets printed and I handed them out myself, on the streets of Blackpool, night after night. Sometimes it felt as though I was the only one looking for her.’
The investigation into Charlene’s disappearance became the largest in Lancashire Police’s history and was incredibly controversial.
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.
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.