The mother of a missing girl who was allegedly killed and chopped up for kebab meat is suing police for mishandling the investigation.
Charlene Downes was 14 when she went missing on Nov. 1, 2003. Her body has never been recovered.
Now Karen, the mother of Charlene Downes, has taken legal action after detectives released the previously unseen footage of her daughter 13 years after her disappearance after the footage was discovered ‘hidden’ in their own archives and released in 2016.
The two takeaway workers who worked at Funny Boyz fast food shop – were acquitted after a jury were unable to reach a verdict, with the prosecution subsequently withdrawing the charges at a re-trial.
It emerged late last year that Lancashire Police only discovered CCTV of the teenager’s final movements after a new team of detectives were brought into carry out a case review.
“They had [the CCTV] for 13 years,” said Mrs Downes. “It shows Charlene in the town that afternoon in the same clothes she disappeared in.
“If they’d have shown it before… who knows?
“We have suffered all these years not knowing where she is.”
She said police “need teaching a lesson”.
“It is not about the money. I want to force the police to do their job,” she said.
“If I got money I would get something for Charlene like a memorial.”
The CCTV shows Charlene with her sister Rebecca on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool town centre at 3.25pm on the same Saturday afternoon.
The pair are seen walking towards the Coral Island amusement arcade. Charlene returned home shortly after the images were captured but then went back out into Blackpool town centre later that evening. She was never seen again.
The clothes she is wearing in the new footage are the same ones she had on when she vanished.
Despite a long investigation, numerous media appeals and a £100,000 reward, nobody has ever been brought to justice.
Mrs Downes told the Mirror: ‘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.
“It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to the memory of my dead daughter.’
Mrs Downes said she was furious the CCTV has only just emerged and questioned what police ‘had been doing’ in the past 10 years, adding this fresh appeal was ‘too little, too late’.
She added: ‘I am absolutely disgusted. Everyday 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 added: “I have heard nothing. I only found out about it when a friend who lives miles away rang me. The police couldn’t even be bothered to pick up a phone and let me know. I have lost all faith in them. I never stop missing Charlene that is why I am taking the action.”
In her Letter of Claim to the Lancashire Police force she states that she is taking action under section 7(1) of the Human Rights Act for “violation of investigative duty.”
It details: “Due to the fact that this footage was not found during the initial investigation and was not released to the public. This footage is likely to have had an impact on the investigation back in 2003.”
It added: “If a Potential witness, who might have seen Charlene had an opportunity to see this CCTV footage back in 2003, (s)he might have come forward with some useful information.”
Karen Downes is seeking damages and a public apology from the force over its handling of the case, with the CCTV footage only discovered late last year when new detectives were brought onto the investigation.
Peter Garsden -President of the Association of Child Abuse lawyers- said victims of abuse need to be taken more seriously.
He said: “Police and Authorities need to be held account 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 they were let down by the authorities. I
“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.”
Lancashire Police declined to comment on Karen’s legal action, according to the BBC.