Charlene Downes murder

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Charlene Downes was a girl from Blackpool, England who disappeared in 2003, aged 14. She is presumed murdered.[1]

During police investigations, covert tape recordings were made in which local kebab shop owner Iyad Albattikhi allegedly admits to having sex with Downes, killing her, feeding her body into a meat grinder, and apparently using her as kebab meat. Albattikhi and his business partner Mohammed Reveshi were put on trial in 2007.[2][1]

The jury failed to reach a verdict and a retrial was set for April 2008. However, senior police officers raised objections to the evidence and the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Crown Prosecution Service were notified. The CPS offered no evidence against Albattikhi and Reveshi, the trial was called off, and the two men — who claim never to have met Downes — were released.[1]

On 15 October 2009, after an eighteen-month investigation, the IPCC declared that the conversations had not been properly transcribed, that the officers on the case were "inexperienced and untrained", and that the informant had not been properly briefed.[1][3] In 2011, the detective who transcribed the conversations, Sergeant Jan Beasant, was forced to resign following a review of the investigation.[4]

In May 2012, Charlene's mother, Karen Downes, was given a harassment warning notice by police after handing out leaflets implicating Albattikhi and Reveshi in the disappearance of her daughter.[5]

Wider issues[edit]

A police report put together following investigations into Downes' disappearance stated that "[y]oung people were being groomed and sexually assaulted both inside and outside of premises by a number of takeaway owners and workers". According to a Daily Telegraph article, the report "identified 11 takeaway shops in the town centre which were being used as 'honeypots' where the non-white men preyed on young white victims, who were given food, alcohol and cigarettes in return for sex." The Telegraph report claims that Mick Gradwell, a former detective superintendent with Lancashire Police, has stated that the police were aware of this for some time, but that "investigations were being hampered by political correctness."[6]

Far-right response[edit]

The case became a cause célèbre amongst far-right groups such as the BNP and EDL who appear to be more concerned with the alleged perpetrator's religion and ethnicity than his crimes. One of the people who leapt upon the murder was the blogger Paul Morris, alias Green Arrow, who was at the time an avid BNP supporter. Morris objected strongly to the deletion of Wikipedia's article on Charlene Downes, and pointed to the fact that the moderator who removed the article — "Srikeit" — is Indian. This, according to Morris, is evidence enough of an ulterior motive.[7]

What Morris' clearly racist assessment of the facts ignores is that the deletion of the article was actually put to a vote at Wikipedia, with the majority of commentators agreeing that it should be removed because the incident does not fit Wikipedia's notability guidelines. Srikeit himself did not place a vote one way or the other, and in deleting the article was merely following the decision of the majority.[8]

Karen Downes has embraced the far right reaction. While it is understandable that Mrs. Downes may have made some irrational comments following the loss of her daughter, some of her statements are clearly bigoted and cannot be justified. At one point, for example, she posted a picture of an African infant on Facebook with the comment "MINGING BABY". A friend responded with "this wog is too ugly by half"; "your[sic] not kidding babe lol" replied Karen.[9]

Certain campaigners within Casuals United and the Infidels dropped the case after unconfirmed rumours began circulating that the Downes family was itself involved with child abuse;[10] these were first reported by former EDL member Liam Wood, who was working as an undercover source for The Times newspaper.[11]

Later findings[edit]

In November 2013, The Times reported that it had seen confidential police documents indicating that Charlene's abuse began at home. The file contains a 40-year-old man's admission of having paid Charlene to perform a sexual act on him, along with evidence that child protection officials had identified her as "vulnerable to sexual exploitation" as an infant, that a hospital report made when she was 11 identified signs of sexual abuse, and that her household had been visited by various men with convictions of rape and assault, including a man on bail for sexual offences who was staying there at the time that Charlene disappeared.[12]