Missing girl’s body ‘put into kebab’
12:01AM BST 24 May 2007
A schoolgirl was murdered by a fast food shop owner who joked that she had been “chopped up” and put into kebabs, a court was told yesterday.
The prosecution alleged at Preston Crown Court that Charlene Downes, 14, was killed by Iyad Albattikhi, 29, owner of a food shop in Blackpool, who had sex with her.
Charlene was one of a number of young girls who visited an alleyway in the town to have sex with older men who worked in the fast food shops, Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting, told the jury.
Charlene, from Blackpool, was “well and happy”, the court heard, but had a “chaotic” home life. Expelled from school, she spent her time hanging around shops on the Blackpool Promenade. She was last seen on the evening of Saturday Nov 1 2003. After kissing her mother goodbye she left alone – and vanished, Mr Holroyde said.
A missing persons inquiry began but police later launched a murder investigation after receiving information that Charlene had been “killed and chopped up”, the court heard.
No trace of Charlene’s body has ever been found.
Mr Holroyde told the jury that a witness had heard Albattikhi and others talking about her.
“These people were talking about sex with white girls, and there was mention of having sex with Charlene,” he said.
“Albattikhi laughed and said she was very small – the plainest possible indication that he was lying to the police when he said he did not know her. He and others present then laughingly said that Charlene had gone into the kebabs.”
Albattikhi, a Jordanian immigrant, is charged with murder. His business partner and landlord, Mohammed Reveshi, 50, is accused of helping dispose of the body.
Both deny the charges and have told police they did not know Charlene.
Albattikhi and Reveshi were joint owners of the food shop, the court heard, which Albattikhi ran.
Charlene became a “familiar figure” hanging around the shops where she would sometimes get free food.
Mr Holroyde said: “In addition she was one of a number of adolescent white girls who sometimes went at night to the alleyway behind the restaurants. She and others went there to meet much older men from the restaurants, and it seems perfectly clear that there was at times some sexual activity.”
Albattikhi took advantage of one of those vulnerable girls – Charlene Downes, the jury was told.
Mr Holroyde added: “It is the prosecution case that the background to the murder of Charlene Downes and the disposal of her body is some sexual activity between her and one or both of the defendants.
“Sexual activity between these adult men and a 14-year-old girl would be a crime which could be expected to have serious consequences for them.”
After Charlene’s disappearance, both the accused were questioned and told police they did not know her, the court heard.
In 2004, Albattikhi had a dispute with his brother, Tariq, who told a witness, David Cassidy, that he knew what had happened to Charlene – “she had been killed and chopped up and there had been a lot of blood”, the court heard.
Mr Cassidy was allegedly later offered a £20,000 interest-free loan from Reveshi.
Police searched the flats of both accused men but found nothing. Detectives then bugged the premises and Reveshi’s car, and Mr Holroyde told the jury some of the recordings were “revealing”.
The trial continues.
Girl’s body ‘chopped up in kebab’
A fast food shop owner murdered a teenager before joking her body had been chopped up and ‘put into the kebabs’, a court heard.
Iyad Albattikhi is accused of killing 14-year-old Charlene Downes, who it is claimed he had regular ‘kinky sex’ with in an alleyway.
Mohammed Reveshi, who co-owned Funny Boyz fast food shop with Albattikhi, is accused of helping to dispose of the body.
Both men deny the charges and claim they did not know Charlene.
The court was told Albattikhi, 29, and Reveshi, 50, were overheard talking about her.
Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting, said: ‘These people were talking about sex with white girls, and there was mention of having sex with Charlene.
‘Albattikhi laughed and said she was kinky and she was very small – the plainest possible indication that he was lying to the police when he said he did not know her.
‘He and others present were then laughingly saying that Charlene had gone into the kebabs.’
Charlene, from Blackpool, went missing on November 1, 2003. Her body has not been found.
She had a ‘chaotic’ home life and spent her time hanging around Blackpool Promenade after being expelled from school, the court heard.
Mr Holroyde said Charlene had become a ‘familiar figure’ at an alleyway behind Funny Boyz, known as ‘Paki Alley’.
He added: ‘She and others went there to meet much older men from the restaurants, and it seems perfectly clear that there was at times some sexual activity.’
The trial, at Preston Crown Court, continues.
Charlene Downes – a murder too far for the MSM
Charlene was last seen by her family on 3rd November, 2003. She had walked from her Blackpool home to the North Pier, and never returned. For more than two years the police pursued their enquiries diligently, categorising the case as a murder investigation as well as a “missing persons”. Some 3,000 men were DNA-tested during the course of the investigation, and an appeal was launched on the BBC’s “Crimewatch”.
A few days ago the breakthrough came and this brief report appeared – though originally in which paper, regional or national, I have not yet discovered.
The body of a missing schoolgirl may have been turned into burgers and kebabs and served up at a seaside fast food outlet.
Police fear the remains of 14 year old Charlene Downes, who went missing in November 2003, may also have been ground up into tile grout.
Iyad Albattikhi, 28, who ran the Funny Boyz takeaway in Blackpool, is charged with her murder.
The co-owner of the business Mohammed Raveshi, a 49 year old former social services worker and foster father, is charged with assisting in
the disposal of her body.
The men appeared at a hearing at Blackpool maistrates court yesterday.
The teenager whose body has never been found left home on Halloween saying she was meeting friends on Blackpool’s North Pier.
It was initially thought Charlene, a pupil at St George’s Church of England High School, had run away.
Appeals for her to come forward were subsequently posted in missing persons’ columns.
However six months after her disappearance police searched freezers at three Blackpool curry houses looking for her remains.
Well, try googling for Iyad Albattikhi. You will find no shocked national reportage of how an English child was slaughtered, her flesh rendered for burgers of all things and her bones for tile grout. You will find no claims that she was “academic”, nor that she had “high hopes” of a “bright future” when her “studies” were complete – she is not African, after all. Actually, you will find literally nothing.
One day in ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years, her abuser and killer will walk from his cell into the gentle, misty light of north-west England. He will be free and will, under English law, be considered to have repaid his debt to society.
Neither in the shameful failure to report the end of the police investigation now nor in the eventual punishment of the killer does our effeminated, debt-paid society honour her aright.
What are the liberal arguments for that, again? What is the argument for press censorship on crimes against whites? And what is the argument for keeping murderous animals – any murderous animals regardless of you-know-what – alive and breathing the fart-filled air in our prison system for a couple of decades?
Thursday, May 24, 2007
“Charlene Downes was not even from a decent or important family”
The trial continues. My money’s on an acquittal for lack of evidence. Anybody up on Arabic/street slang who can translate ‘Miah/Myah’ ?
‘My sister vanished – I can’t believe she’s dead’
Seven years ago, teenager Charlene Downes disappeared. Now police suspect she was the victim of a sex ring targeting young girls. Her sister Becky and mum Karen describe the agony of losing her
Becky Downes will never forget the last time she saw her younger sister Charlene. After an afternoon shopping and eating McDonald’s, the 14 year old hugged her goodbye, then skipped down the street with two friends towards the bright lights of Blackpool pier.
She was wearing black jeans and a diamond-print sweater she’d borrowed from Becky, and looked just like any other teenage girl. Carefree, happy, innocent.
Charlene disappeared in 2003
Becky, now 23, had no idea her sister had already been sucked into the town’s seedy underbelly, where organised gangs of men groomed teenage girls for sex. And she never suspected that this was the last time she’d lay eyes on her.
That was November 1, 2003, and Charlene has not been seen since. Her body has never been found.
“When Charlene vanished that day, a massive hole opened in our lives. We were always inseparable,” says Becky, who was 16 at the time.
“I was involved in a car crash when I was nine, and ended up on a life-support machine. When I came out of the coma, I couldn’t even tie my own shoelaces, but Charlene did everything for me. She was so caring, she helped me recover. Who would have wanted to hurt her? I couldn’t understand it.”
The answer was even more horrific than Becky could have imagined. Three years after Charlene’s disappearance, a detective superintendent told the devastated Downes family that he was 99.9 per cent sure she had been murdered.
By then, police suspected Charlene had fallen victim to Blackpool’s secret sex ring of older men plying young girls with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol in return for sexual favours. And detectives have since uncovered the appalling sexual abuse of dozens of girls like her.
Preying on young girls
Now it has emerged that at least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex by a Blackpool gang. Police suspected that the children were targeted at a series of fast-food outlets – and offered chips and vodka in return for sex.
An unpublicised police report produced after Charlene disappeared alleged that the girls had been victims of a gang of mainly Middle Eastern men who met them through takeaway joints, or “honeypots” as police describe them. Police believe that the men systematically groomed girls – mostly aged between 13 and 15 – for sex.
This shocking report has only just come to light, after being uncovered by The Times. It includes accusations from the police that the problem had been denied by agencies for years for fear of being accused of racism.
The investigation, however, came too late for Charlene. Two men were arrested in connection with her alleged murder, but were later cleared of any involvement. The general evidence that emerged during their trial in 2007 shook her family to its core.
If I stop thinking she’s alive, I’ll crack
“We found out she had been hanging out in a takeawayin the town in the evenings. She told us she was going to the arcades with her friends,” says Charlene’s mother, Karen, 45.
“We wish we could have stopped her from going out that night, that we could have protected her. But we had no idea what was going on.
“About 13 girls, all similar in age to Charlene, gave evidence to allege they had been given food, alcohol and cigarettes in return for sex with men they met at takeaways. I thought Blackpool was a nice town. I was dumbfounded.
“It broke my heart, seeing these young girls describe how they were given the date-rape drug GHB in drinks and were woken up after they’d been abused. One of them said Charlene was plied with vodka, and would give sexual favours in exchange for chips,” adds Karen.
“It made me feel sick to the stomach. I had to leave the court and throw up in the toilet when I heard that. How could anyone do that to our little girl? How could anyone abuse a child like that? It’s disgusting.
“The court case lasted 13 weeks and it was sheer hell. I had to run from the court when I heard some of the details.
“The prosecution floated a theory that Charlene had been strangled and put through a mincing machine before burying her remains. Someone even apparently joked that she’d gone into the kebabs. To hear that my daughter could have died like that was unbearable.
“I couldn’t bring myself to go into court for a few days after that but then I forced myself to return for Charlene’s sake. I would have felt like I was letting her down otherwise.”
No new leads
The trial ended with the jury failing to reach a verdict and a scheduled retrial collapsed in 2008. Both the accused men were formally cleared of murder and of helping to dispose of Charlene’s body. They denied ever knowing Charlene, and each of them was paid almost £250,000 in compensation for malicious prosecution.
The murder investigation is ongoing into other possible suspects, but so far police have no new leads. The only hope is new evidence will emerge so they can get justice for Charlene.
The Downes family moved from Wolverhampton to Blackpool 10 years ago. Karen and her husband Bob, 49, wanted to raise their four children somewhere safe, somewhere idyllic. The seaside resort seemed perfect and they soon settled into a three-bedroom terrace on Blackpool’s north shore, just a few minutes walk from the Golden Mile.
Karen and Becky have not given up on their search for justice
Their dream life seemed complete. Until the day in November 2003 when Charlene disappeared into the crowd with her two friends, Natalie and Natasha. At around 9pm, they said goodbye to Charlene as they were babysitting for a friend, and she told them she would go home. But she never arrived.
Even now, Becky holds on to the belief that her little sister is alive.
“If I let go of that little feeling of hope, I’ll crack,” she says. “I carry the guilt around with me constantly. If I didn’t leave her that day, would it have happened? It’s on my mind 24/7. This November marks eight years since she disappeared, but I can’t move on. I can’t let go.”
Struggling to live in the shadow of her missing sister, Becky had to give up her job in admin. Her parents have also floundered. Bob, a security doorman, is currently off work sick. Karen, who used to work as a club promoter in town, can’t cope with work either. Charlene’s other two siblings – Emma, 26, and Robert, 19 – are both scarred by their sister’s disappearance.
The police have made it clear that they think Charlene is likely to have died the night that she vanished.
“Charlene was quite immature for her age and impressionable,” says Karen. “Perhaps she was drawn to the buzz and excitement, like young girls can be.
“But I’d never smelled drink on her and she wasn’t a drug addict. She was a giggly, cheeky young girl.”
After Charlene’s disappearance, one of Britain’s first multi-agency sexual exploitation projects, Awaken, was set up to target attackers in the town and offer support to vulnerable young girls.
“I think parents and girls are now much more aware because of the Awaken project and because of what happened to Charlene,” says Karen.
“The tragedy of Charlene is a lesson. I just pray no other family has to go through what we’ve suffered.
“Charlene wasn’t a bad kid. She went out at night but she’d always be back when we told her to be, usually by 10.30pm.
“I think she was killed because someone made her do something she didn’t want to do and she threatened to tell the police. She’s the sort to fight back. She’d have reported him. I think she was killed in anger.”
Most child sex offenders in Britain are white men, usually acting alone. But the allegations about a Blackpool sex ring suggested a totally different kind of offender.
In a town that is over 95 per cent white, many of the men said to be grooming these girls were of Middle Eastern origin.
A former senior Lancashire police officer cited “concerns about upsetting community cohesion” to explain the reluctance of authorities to publicly accept the very specific offender profile for a long time.
“If someone has done wrong, it doesn’t matter whether they are black, white or whatever,” Karen says angrily. “I think it’s disgusting that it was kept quiet for so long.”
I just pray no other family goes through this
The trend for groups of non-white men sexually grooming young white girls for sex is believed to be widespread.
Since 1997, there have been 17 court cases across northern England in which gangs of men have been tried for preying on girls aged 12-15. A total of 56 men have been convicted of a number of crimes including child abduction, indecent assault and rape. Of those, 50 men were Muslim and most were of Pakistani origin.
A national inquiry was launched earlier this year into the findings. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards, from West Mercia police, has called for an end to the “damaging taboo” surrounding gang-led grooming.
“These girls are being passed around. To stop this type of crime you need to start talking about it, but everyone’s been too scared to address the ethnicity factor.”
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a national Muslim youth organisation, says: “These people think that white girls have fewer morals and are less valuable than our girls. This is a form of racism that is abhorrent and totally unacceptable in a society that prides itself on equality and justice.”
The bottom line for Charlene’s family, however, is that her killers remain at large. Justice still eludes them and the lack of answers has left them devastated.
“Without Charlene’s body and without someone jailed for her murder, there’s no closure,” weeps Karen. “We live our lives in limbo. We had a bench put up in Stanley Park in the town in memory of Charlene, because we had nowhere to go. It’s in a beautiful spot overlooking a lake.
“We go there for every birthday, every Christmas and the date she went missing to take flowers and remember her for an hour or so. She used to love going there with her dad as a little girl to feed the ducks. And on her birthday, all the family come over and we have a cake and toast her.”
But they refuse to give up hope. “We want justice for Charlene,” says Becky. “We want to find her.”
- For further advice and information, contact Missing People on 020 8392 4590 or Missingpeople.org.uk.
The other victim?
Charlene isn’t the only young girl to disappear in Blackpool. In August 2007, 15-year-old Paige Chivers (left) also vanished after storming out of her family home following a row.
Paige regularly visited local fast-food outlets, and detectives suspect she was another victim of sexual grooming, exploitation – and murder.
In one of their biggest investigations, police interviewed over 2,800 people, and took 1,200 statements. A £12,000 reward was offered but, despite several arrests, no one has been charged.
Like Charlene, Paige’s body has never been found.
Paige Chivers disappearance: man arrested
A 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a teenage girl who disappeared two years ago and is presumed dead.
10:07AM GMT 09 Dec 2009
Paige Chivers, 17, went missing from her home in Bispham, Lancashire, on August 23, 2007.
Her body has never been found and she is the subject of a missing persons inquiry by Lancashire Police.
However, several people have, in the past, been arrested in connection with her death.
The latest suspect, who is from Blackpool, is being questioned by detectives in Preston.
Forensics searches are being carried out at premises in Blackpool and police have also seized vehicles for examination.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Rothwell, from Lancashire Police’s major investigation team, said: ”This is yet another development in our ongoing investigation as we continue to try and establish what has happened to Paige.
”Today’s arrest demonstrates that, despite the passage of time, we are still receiving new information in to the inquiry team and the investigation continues to move forwards.
”I would like to thank those people that have responded to media appeals for information and would continue to urge the public to come forward and call us, anonymously if they wish, as the smallest piece of information could prove to be very important.
”It is never too late to come forward.
”Paige’s family continue to live with the daily anguish of not knowing what has happened to her and this month will face their third Christmas without her.
”I would like to reassure them and the general public that my team are committed to finding out what has happened to Paige and today’s arrest is just one line of inquiry we are currently following up.
”We continue to keep an open mind and look for evidence as to what has happened to Paige.”
Anyone with information about Paige’s disappearance should call Blackpool Police on 01253 293933 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
There is a £12,000 reward for any information which would lead to identifying Paige’s whereabouts or the conviction of those responsible for her disappearance.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Paige Chivers Murder Investigation Opened
Police ‘hid’ abuse of 60 girls by Asian takeaway workers linked to murder of 14-year-old
By James Tozer
UPDATED: 22:12 GMT, 7 April 2011
At least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex by workers at seedy takeaways linked to the murder of a 14-year-old girl.
Children as young as 11 were targeted by mainly Asian staff at fast food outlets in Blackpool. They were offered food, alcohol and cigarettes in return for sexual favours.
An unpublicised police report produced after 14-year-old Charlene Downes vanished in 2003 found the girls, most if not all white, had been victims of the ‘honey pot’ premises. There were claims last night that the report was suppressed for reasons of political correctness.
Four years later another girl, 15-year-old Paige Chivers, also went missing. Detectives believe she was killed like Charlene, whose body has never been found.
Two Middle Eastern restaurant owners were acquitted over Charlene’s murder in 2007 and the crime remains unsolved.
The pair still run a kebab shop in Blackpool which was also linked to Paige, and she too was identified as a victim of sexual exploitation. Last year police reported that the takeaway was attracting young girls who were being supplied with alcohol and cocaine.
Victims: Charlene Downes (left) is believed to have been murdered while Paige Chivers has been missing since 2007
The revelations about the scale of grooming centred around the downmarket cafes comes amid growing concern at disturbing cases involving mainly Asian gangs exploiting young white girls for sex in the Midlands and North of England.
The girls, often from vulnerable homes or in the care system, were befriended by men who showered them with gifts and affection before using them for sex.
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has said the girls were seen as ‘easy meat’, while David Cameron called on police to follow criminal acts ‘without fear or favour’ wherever the evidence leads.
The Home Office commissioned a nationwide investigation into the problem, which has long been considered taboo by police officers fearful of being branded racist.
Indeed, a former senior detective at Lancashire Police yesterday blamed political correctness for its failure to highlight its 2003 findings in Blackpool.
But the force denied this, saying the report had been available online since 2007 but had never been intended for publication.
Senior officers insisted an intensive programme to break the cycle of exploitation had been a success and that in the last six months 50 of 54 grooming suspects were white.
Shocking claims made in court over Charlene’s murder revealed fears that her body had been put through a mincing machine, with takeaway staff said to have joked that her remains had ‘gone into the kebabs’.
A jury failed to reach a verdict on charges that Jordanian immigrant Iyad Albattikhi had murdered her while his Iranian landlord Mohammed Reveshi had disposed of her body.
A retrial collapsed in 2008 amid failings in the police investigation and the men were paid almost £250,000 each in compensation.
The kebab shop run by Mr Albattikhi and Mr Reveshi has changed its name from Funny Boyz to Mr Beanz. It was refused a hot food licence last year amid fears about ‘sexual activity’ linked to the premises, but the pair blame a ‘police vendetta’ and have appealed.
Following Charlene’s disappearance in 2003, police found more than 60 girls were being groomed for sex by non-white men centred around 11 Blackpool takeaways.
They were mainly aged between 13 and 15, but some were as young as 11. Yesterday former Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell warned that research into the problem was being hampered by ‘political correctness and concerns about upsetting community cohesion’.
But Lancashire police denied a cover-up. Assistant Chief Constable Andy Rhodes said his officers were making significant progress in tackling child sex exploitation across Lancashire, regardless of the background of the culprits.
He added: ‘We recognise that in some areas the number of Asian offenders is disproportionate to the population and far from ignoring this, have been tackling the issue head on by working with the local communities, giving presentations to community forums and visiting mosques to raise awareness.’
It was reported yesterday that while most British sex offenders are lone white men, details of court cases in 13 towns showed that out of 56 men convicted of multiple offences of grooming girls for sex, 50 were Muslim, mostly of Pakistani heritage.