Remembering Charlene Downes 20 years on
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 commemorate the day by releasing 20 white doves in honour of her daughter, who was only 14 when she went missing near the seaside town in Blackpool.
November 1 marks 20 years since Charlene disappeared, but despite two trials and a lengthy investigation, including 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 Charlene is as haunting as it is present. 'Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my Charlene,' she said. 'I never sleep. I can’t carry on with life. I am still stuck in that day.
'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.'
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.'
It is believed the teenager was the victim of child sexual exploitation, after being groomed by a gang of Muslim 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.