The Murder of Charlene Downes: a (slightly) sympathetic view of Karen Downes

The Murder of Charlene Downes

A (slightly) more sympathetic look at Karen Downes

Although this is about the Downes family it is inevitably mostly about Karen.  Many see Karen as Satan’s younger sister.  But I want to explore the view that Karen is a victim of circumstances. 

Karen is a marmite person.  And she is a formidable personality.  For the public with only a passing knowledge of the Charlene Downes case Karen has created the narrative.  Karen is a storyteller.  She is an intriguing and contradictory character.  The story of Charlene Downes, aside from the sadness of Charlene’s fate, confronts us with people who are larger than life. Three characters in the Charlene Downes case are stunning are Karen Downes, Mohammed Raveshi and Liam Wood. Their lives intertwine… Liam Wood was once close to Karen Downes.

Karen Downes and Mohammed Raveshi are unusual characters, but they are contrary to one another.  Karen revels in attention and Mohammed shuns it, Karen is loud, and Mohammed is not, Karen speaks before she thinks, and Mohammed does not.  And yet they are both in their own way effective. Karen Downes is effective at creating the story of Moslem Grooming Gangs and the Girl in the Kebab and these are the stories that stick. Although Karen’s tale is unsupported by evidence and implausible it is the story people have to refute and they enforce its power.

The case against Karen: liar. To say that Karen lies is almost unnecessary. You might invent a new word: “telling a Karen.”  It would be boring to reiterate every lie that Karen tells. You may at this point say I am not doing a decent job of defending Karen or at least humanising her. I will come to that.

To give a brief sample of how fragile the relationship is between Karen says, and the truth is look at the piece in Sold in Secret when Karen tells us about the central event in the work: Charlene Downes fails to return home on Saturday 1st November 2003. According to the book:

  1.  Karen gives Charlene pocket money and tells her to be home by 9.30
  2. The time is 7.30pm
  3. When Charlene does not return Karen rings the police.
  4. The police tell her to wait.
  5. Bob Downes is so worried that he rides round on his bicycle looking for Charlene.

1 is unlikely knowing Karen as we do, she would be unlikely to give any money to Charlene who had plenty of money. Bob would be  displeased. 

2 is untrue. The probability is that the encounter was much later and was angry. It may well be that Karen and Charlene’s last words involved Karen saying that she would tell Bob about the money that Charlene had and Charlene replying that if she did that Charlene was not coming home.

3 Karen did not ring the police.

4 Therefore the police did not tell her to wait.

5 According to his statement to the police Bob was so drunk he did not know where he was, and he did not return home until 2.30 am on the Sunday.

This is the crucial event of Sold in Secret.

Karen is racist, friendly to paedophiles, tolerant of the sexual abuse of her children. In her social media she describes a “minging ugly baby,” the baby who is charming is black. She says that Moslems should all be burned and destroyed with explosives. 

Karen has friends on social media who are paedophiles. She and Bob welcomed child sex-offender Ray Munro into their home against his bail conditions.  While at 109. Buchanan Street he was involved in an incident with one of Charlene’s friends and later admitted an incident involving Charlene. Ray’s offences were well known, he was threatened in the local pub. He had committed sexual offences involving a young boy and a young girl. He was babysitting the children at the time. He had been convicted for this offence and was awaiting sentence.

Karen tells two different versions of this tale. Version A is that she and Bob thought he had merely raped his girlfriend and Version B is that they knew of the offences but believed Ray had been fitted up by the police and he was going to sue them for “deformation of character” (sic)!

Taffy, one of the close circle around Bob and Karen admitted paying Charlene for a sex act and told Karen that he had “feelings” for Charlene. He remained a friend of Karen.16 men with various sexual offences visited 109, Buchanan Street.

109, Buchanan Street is the most paedophile friendly location in Blackpool.  Karen does not hesitate to call people she does not like a “paedophile.”

Take John McNally. He had a long affair with Karen although he was living with Becki and so Karen was John’s common law mother-in-law. Becki had gone to live with John when she was fourteen and John was in his late forties or fifties. You can imagine her reasons.

In the Facebook spat that followed John says that Bob Downes used to bounce Becki off every wall in 109, Buchanan Street.

Karen is referring to Becki when she calls John a paedophile which leaves a question over why she was having an affair with him and why Bob remained a close friend of John. Neither Karen nor Bob gives a toss who is a paedophile and Karen is only using it as a term of abuse when it suits her.

It is difficult to describe 109, Buchanan Street and the visitors who frequented it without using the term “grooming.”  Stretching language to breaking point the kindest conceivable way of describing Bob and Karen is “grooming enablers.”

As we have seen Karen’s antagonism to Moslems is not confined to Moslem groomers but Moslems in general. Her objection to grooming does not include white groomers. When Karen addresses Far Right rallies about Moslem grooming, words fail…

Karen’s attitude to Moslems has a comic side. When Robert Junior is involved in a fight when he is drunk, she blames the doormen. When the doormen produce CCTV evidence, she says that they are friends of Moslems and that they “distrote” things.

When explaining that the jury did not reach a decision in the trial of Iyad and Mohammed she says that friends of Iyad and Mohammed followed the jury members round and stared at them. And that the jury had a friend of Iyad or Mohammed amongst them.

This technique of just making things up to explain an inconvenient situation comes easily to Karen. When little Jack Renshaw is convicted for plotting to kill an MP and a police officer and for crimes involving using his phone to store pictures of naked under-age boys Karen blithely explains that the Far-Left have planted the images on Jack Renshaw’s phone. One reason that Karen is something of a Jack Renshaw fan is that Jack was supportive of Justice for Charlene Downes. This points to a quality of Karen: she is loyal to friends.

An aspect of Karen’s hypocrisy is that she complains when people behave towards her in the way that she behaves. After the documentary, The Murder of Charlene Downes Karen complains that she is “trolled.”  Karen has no compunction about trolling others: take this: the infatuated New Zealander Mark Bailey has committed an act of vandalism directed at somebody Karen has taken a dislike towards. She messages him: “HOW DARE U SLAG ME OFF AS FOR BREAKING GROTBAGS WINDOW THE BITCH DESERVED IT ANY DECENT GUY WOULDN’T NEED TELLING.”

A “decent guy” is one who breaks windows without needing telling.

Karen underlines her message by encouraging Far Right followers to beat Mark up and grassing him up to the authorities for working in a restaurant against the terms of his UK visitor status. Nice.

It is only fair to acknowledge that when Mark is tried for assaulting Karen she appeals for leniency. Karen is loyal to friends and family.

The status of victim is also claimed by Bob. Bob complains about abuse   which followed his appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Bob and Karen have appeared on the Jeremy Kyle show and Karen turns the show into a discussion of Bob’s cross-dressing (I do not know if Bob realises this: he puts the blame on Jeremy Kyle). Bob says he has suffered abuse which has left him “at breaking point.” This is the same Bob who beats his fourteen-year-old daughters. Bob is against abuse when he is the victim…

Violence is endemic in the Downes household and Bob is stabbed by Karen with a potato knife, Karen is assaulted by Becki and Karen is assaulted by Robert Junior. Charlene complains to the Social Services that she is beaten by Bob and Karen.

A former teacher at Charlene’s primary school told me that Karen was a sex worker, and that Charlene was aware of this. This is hearsay. If true it is enlightening. It explains why Bob was able to regard his children as property to be traded. He had already been there. If Bob ever had a moral compass the tooth-fairy stole it.

Karen is interested in sex. She has affairs and Bob knows about them. She suggests an event to raise money for a memorial to Charlene should include male strippers and sex toys. Her welcoming attitude to groomers may be because she is excited by all kinds of sexual activity. She is not as stunned by Bob’s cross-dressing as one would expect. When Karen talks about Charlene giving a blowjob for a bag of chips… well TMI. It is in this area that Karen sometimes misjudges her audience…

Karen does not have many female friends. We hear about Bob bringing home more than a dozen friends but Karen…  Is it that she is just not interested in female friends. When Karen meets Bob at a disco she is with her mother. Did many girls go to discos with their mother? Are we missing something?

The lack of female visitors to 109, Buchanan Street may relate to the goings-on there.

After Charlene’s murder Karen became a micro-celebrity and she does manage her public appearances with skill.  She addresses the EDL and then the BNP.  She has regular “exclusives” in national newspapers always the grieving mother, the grooming gangs of which she was unaware and the kebabs. 

She accompanies Nick Griffin, “a great guy,” on his trail round his constituency. She appears on BNP television. Karen Downes from Buchanan Street is the companion of a British Party leader… admit its the BNP but still…

Nick Griffin is right to see her as powerful propaganda… her appearances sets the tone he is aiming at: poor working-class woman grieving for her lost daughter whilst the establishment ignores Moslem grooming. 

It may be that speaking at Far-Right demonstrations, appearing on BNP television, accompanying Nick Griffin on tours of his constituency, appearing in popular newspapers gave Karen a taste for celebrity. Contrast how Karen is treated by the investigators (contempt and disdain) and by Nick Griffin and the Far Right who idolise Karen and see her as a symbol of injustice at the hands of Moslems and their allies.

“Sold in Secret” and the lamentable appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show were amongst other things attempts to keep the celebrity going.   

An episode in Karen’s life (and whatever else it is a life full of incident) coincided closely with the 10th anniversary of Charlene’s disappearance and the article in the Times which said that the grooming of Charlene had begun at home.

This was the appearance of Mark Bailey from New Zealand who was besotted with Karen. Mark was much younger than Karen. Not only that but he worshipped Karen which was pleasantly reflective of how Karen felt about herself. With these advantages Karen was able to overlook the obvious…

It all came to a sticky end when after three assaults Mark was sent down.

Demonstrations and regular ceremonies to remember Charlene maintain this celebrity and the culminating ritual/ farce is the remembrance service of November 1st, 2013, which not coincidentally happens on the same day that the Times publishes an article based on the files made available by Liam Wood.  The article says that Charlene was groomed at home long before her murder.

Sold in Secret is partly an attempt to rehabilitate Karen after the revelations of the files. It confirms that Karen is an unreliable narrator. It is interesting for what it leaves out: for example, that Ray Munro child sex offender is staying at 109 Buchanan Street.

The article in the Times prompts a characteristic Karen reaction. The paper is posh. Not a normal paper that normal people read. Karen attributes the intensity of the Madeleine McCann investigation to the fact that Madeleine is posh.  Sadly, Bob agrees. There is competition… a reward of £30,000 is offered for information regarding Paige Chivers. Why not a reward for information about Charlene Downes. But when a reward of £100, 000 is offered it is too late.

Karen as a working-class hero has boundaries. No section of the population is more working class than the Asians who work in take-aways, but they do not excite her working-class sympathies. She does want Moslems to be burned with petrol and explosives. Karen is sympathetic to the section of the working-class represented by Karen.

Karen is hostile to the police. For Karen, the early investigation must have been excruciating. Karen hates criticism and has a dislike for all institutions: school, the social services, the police. She is hostile because these institutions impose standards on the family. The questioning focusses on Karen’s shortcomings.  Investigators believe that Bob pimps his children and that Karen is complicit.  There are accusations of neglect and violence. Karen does not cooperate. The investigators are often on the point of charging Karen for withholding information. Rage at this treatment is behind many of Karen’s subsequent actions.

When the CCTV of Becki and Charlene turns up Karen threatens to sue the police.  Karen has not cooperated with investigators regarding Charlene’s disappearance.  In 2013 the police say that they are launching a new investigation into Charlene’s disappearance.  The BNP take this as a victory for the Justice for Charlene campaign, Karen says she will not cooperate with the new investigation which leaves the question: What was the Justice for Charlene Campaign for?  When Nigel Lloyd is arrested in 2017 Karen attributes this arrest to her threat to sue the police which has nudged them into action.

There are aspects to Karen and Bob Downes which are mysterious.  Take the relationship with Becki.  Becki has had much the same kind of upbringing as Charlene: violence and abuse. Becki has left home at 14 to live with the much older John McNally. 

And yet in 2013 Becki assaults Karen.  The reason?  According to Becki it is because she suspects her mother of having an affair (presumably with Mark Bailey).  What is going on here?  Becki is loyal to her father and to the Downes family. Reminiscing about Charlene Becki says how much Charlene loved her dad.  What outsiders fail to understand is the steely solidarity of the Downes family. 

Karen had the opportunity to dissociate herself from Bob and to distance herself from the abuse of her children.  But she does not.  Bob was violent towards Karen.  And there is the cross-dressing.  Karen does not budge in her loyalty to Bob even as she is having an affair with her common-law son in law. 

In Sold in Secret we have a presentation of Saint Karen and Bad Bob.  But Bob is presented as ridiculous (throwing potatoes at a social worker) but also with a degree of sadness and tenderness.

Bob has a new male partner and Karen has a new partner, but they all live together in the same house. Becki remains close to Karen. Bob defends Karen on social media.

What is difficult to understand is that they do love one another in some way.  Bob and Karen probably did love Charlene.  The family include Lena, Karen’s mother who makes the journey to join them in Blackpool.  This is a close family.  They leave Coventry to avoid the children being taken into care.

Bob and Karen are  rubbish parents. They do not mean to be, but they are.  They come close to being the worst conceivable parents. They have no role-models: they look back to and reproduce their own childhood.

This is not an unfamiliar situation to social services.  Some women, addicts or women with partners who are child abusers, have child after child only for the children to be taken into care. 

Bob and Karen neglect and abuse and beat their children. None of this excludes the possibility that they also love their children. 

That they are an unusual family with unusual secrets binds them closer.

It is the Downes against the world.

Karen’s bust up with the New Zealander Mark Bailey comes about because Mark wants Karen exclusively to himself and Karen is unable to detach herself from her family.

How did it happen? In an interview with Joe Cusack, Daily Mirror October 27, web edition, Karen comes as close as she gets to speaking the truth and she also reveals something:

“I was abused by my father. “

Anybody who is a Karen watcher knows that Karen is not one to minimise her victimhood.  Why does Karen only mention this in one interview? Is it because readers might make a connection with Charlene. We are talking about abuse through generations.

What if Karen is abused as a child by her father and her mother Lena is complicit.  

Bob and Karen reproduce the conditions of Karen’s childhood. Karen goes from Bob who is violent and abusive to Mark Bailey who is violent and abusive.  We are at a cycle of abuse and violence. 

Karen grieves over Charlene, but this grief becomes a source of celebrity which she enjoys. The public demonstration of grief and accusation become an emotional performance which relieves Karen’s feelings.

  Adulation by the Far-Right confirms her view of herself and that the murder of Charlene Downes was the work of a Moslem grooming gang who put her into kebabs.  Karen continues to peddle this line after the arrest of Nigel Lloyd who the police think of as the prime suspect and who is white and known to the Downes family. 

Karen wants to separate the murder of Charlene from the goings on at 109 Buchanan Street.  Even if we accept that nobody in the Downes family is responsible directly for the death of Charlene, it is impossible to separate Charlene’s fate from her way of life which was initiated in the home. If Charlene had other parents, she would be alive.

In Sold in Secret Karen seeks to portray family life as normal in the Downes household but Karen cannot do so without lying. 

One element in Karen’s book might be magical thinking, by reimagining Charlene’s life as Karen would like it to have been she is compensating for what Charlene’s life  was.  Karen has a vivid imagination and if she recalls what she imagines she may think she is recalling what happened.

There is a thing called “honour culture.” In the Far East it is the belief

that dishonour arises not from doing wrong but because it is known  that you have done something wrong. If lots of people believe that Charlene was groomed by Iyad and Mohammed and put into kebabs… well that makes it true.

The ritualistic ceremonies around Charlene are a counter to neglect when Charlene was alive.

Behind Karen’s activities, her bluster, her violent and lurid imagination, her inability to tell the truth, there lurks a monster.  Karen knows that Charlene died because of the family.

If it were not for the tragedy of Charlene, that is in another context, Karen would be a comic creation and often she is funny such as when she claims credit for nudging the police to arrest Nigel Lloyd by threatening to sue them. There is the mind-boggling lack of insight where Karen wants to open a youth centre (what would the social services thing about that?), or when Karen writes of Charlene being groomed,” I should have seen the signs.”  Well, yes…

At the heart of Karen’s rage is Karen’s attempt to deny a cloud of doubt: the way of life is  connected to Charlene’s death.   

Without the tragedy we could see Karen  a character like Falstaff who always lies and is self-aggrandizing. 

Imagine a character by Dickens… Mrs Grubscuttle. Mrs Grubscuttle always wants to be the centre of attention. She wants to be adored.  Mrs Grubscuttle can do know wrong.  People who criticise or offend Mrs Grubscuttle must be dealt with severely.  Perhaps a decent chap could break their windows?  Mrs Grubscuttle is very, very wise.  Not only that but she has the gift of clairvoyance.  She can see what others cannot see such as when the Far Left try to drag the name of that nice Jack Renshaw into the mud by putting porn on his four mobile phones.  Mrs Grubscuttle can go from friendly chatter to earsplitting rage, Mrs Grubscuttle has an abiding interest in all things seedy.  She is incapable of doubt or nuance.  People are either friends or enemies who must be destroyed. Mrs Grubscuttle believes she is a very good person.

The comedy is that what we see and what Mrs Grubscuttle sees are two different things.

Karen Downes is widely disliked but would you swop lives with her? She has suffered violence and abuse.  She has led a very difficult life. She has a vitality.  Paige Chivers’ father died in a fight over money to feed his heroin addiction. Guilt and shame seeking oblivion.  That’s another option for dealing with loss.

Have you had a happy childhood? Have you been abused as a child by your father? 

Karen has a following.  For people on her wavelength Karen is a martyr, a grieving mother, a victim of an establishment that is unconcerned about poor whites. Many of these followers might share some of Karen’s background and for them rage is a drug. 

Karen had a limited education and does not do critical thinking.  It is alarming that she can find followers. Karen may be right about one thing: the establishment is unconcerned about poor whites. In another context… education and a supportive family Karen could have been brilliant… you can imagine her as a barrister. The death of Charlene enabled her to find her voice.

What Nick Griffin spotted was that Karen is a highly effective communicator and that she can project feelings that her audience share: outrage, suffering, a sense of being rejected and ignored. Karen has that elusive charisma quality.

And she has provided endless entertainment and outrage. Karen is a soap opera. Larger than life, ludicrous, chilling, funny, frightening… Karen Downes like her or not is a giant of a character. The Jeremy Kyle Show… Karen is the Jeremy Kyle Show.

The Murder of Charlene Downes: Who did kill Charlene Downes?

THE MURDER OF CHARLENE DOWNES 

WHO DID KILL CHARLENE DOWNES? 

There are so many characters in the Charlene Downes murder who could be the perpetrators.   

In most cases there is an obvious suspect but in the case of Charlene Downes there are many suspects…  Remember that the perpetrator might not be any of the suspects or groups discussed I think the probability is above 70% that the killer (or the killer’s group) will be in this evaluation, but if I were writing in 2016 Nigel Lloyd would not be a suspect.  Probability in the absence of knowledge which is a fancy way of saying guessing.  

A LIST OF SUSPECTS 

This is a list of suspects or suspicious groups.  Some of the groups might interact. For example there may be takeaway workers who are involved in trafficking. 

The Downes family or their circle. 

Ronnie Fraser. 

Charlene’s contacts including white contacts and takeaway workers. 

Charlene’s traffickers. 

Nigel Lloyd 

Bob Ewing. 

THE DOWNES FAMILY AND THEIR CIRCLE  

The original investigation took seriously the possibility that Bob Downes was the perpetrator.  Their reasoning: he was violent, they were sure he was pimping his daughters… probably his son or any member of the family if he could find a client. Bob Downes had a craving for alcohol which was the foremost thing in his life. He was cross with Charlene about withholding money. Bob had no coherent account of his whereabouts when Charlene disappeared.   Drunkenness plus rage equals… 

The Downes family is a black hole.  Nothing emerges.  You will only find out what they want you to find out.  Bob Downes is… how can I but this kindly?  There are what somebody calls “thickness issues.” Bob is not without a quality of cunning. Bob knows enough never to incriminate himself. Bob also aware of his limitations and he forms close friendships with people who are more able, Karen and then John McNally. 

Bob’s interviews with the investigators must have been hateful to Bob. Bob plays the role of macho man beating his wife and children and carrying on like Mr Punch on amphetamines, and the investigators discover his cache of ladies’ underwear and his interest in his feminine side… Martina.  The investigators are hostile to Bob and not above a bit of mischief.  Such as telling Karen about Martina.   

Imagine Bob’s inner state.  He is the leading character in his own world, the king of 109, Buchanan Street and he must answer queries about how he finances his lifestyle or his drinking which are the same thing.  The investigators do not hide their contempt for Bob.  This is the father whose word is law and who beats up his family on a random basis and here is a young detective constable telling him he’s a cross-dressing, drunken pimp who beats his own children.  Most pimps have the decency to pimp other people’s children.   

It is no surprise that Charlene’s blood is found at 109, Buchanan Street.  Photography equipment is found, which is puzzling because Bob is not a man to splash out money on anything but alcohol.   

Bob cannot say where he is when Charlene disappears.  Charlene is last seen at 10.30 on Saturday November 1st at the alley off Abingdon Street.   

Bob says he was so drunk he could not recall where he was.  He went to bed about 2.30 am on Sunday.  He was on his own and he believes he was at Barney’s a nightclub near his home. 

The investigators may have had this scenario: Bob is known to be violent especially when drunk, Bob is given to rages, Bob is angry with Charlene who has been diverting cash which he needs for alcohol, Bob is evasive about replying to questions, investigators believe that 109, Buchanan Street is a grooming centre,  

Another explanation is that Bob’s amnesia is connected to his troubled sexuality. 

Bob’s evasiveness regarding Thornton Ronnie is striking. Thornton Ronnie, was known to Bob Downes and the family. Becki Downes suspected that Thornton Ronnie could be Charlene’s killer.  Thornton Ronnie is among the last known contacts of Charlene.  Becki will have told the family about her suspicions.  Thornton Ronnie stalks Charlene and Becki is within reach when Charlene encounters Ronnie.  There is the possibility that Becki is a go-between for Ronnie and Charlene and that Becki is mistrustful of Ronnie and wants to be available for their encounters. 

Bob and John McNally strongly discourage Becki from identifying Thornton Ronnie.  Becki influenced by Bob and John gives a misleading description of Thornton Ronnie and it was only after a year that she identified him. 

The Downes family operates in ways that we cannot understand but: you believe a man may be responsible for killing your daughter and you mislead the investigators. Is it because Thornton Ronnie has incriminatory knowledge, and he is outside Bob and John McNally’s influence? 

Karen Downes is non-cooperative with the investigation.  Most jaw-dropping is that she refuses to account for her whereabouts about the time that Charlene is last seen. The investigators many times consider charging her with withholding information.  Eventually Karen admits that she met John McNally.  Why does Karen make herself an object of suspicion?  Karen is having an affair with John McNally who is also living with Becki Downes.  Karen does not conceal this from Bob who is also a good friend of John McNally. John McNally walks his partner’s mother home after work 

Ronay Crompton puts Karen Downes’ last meeting with Charlene much closer to the last time Charlene is seen… as late as 10.15.  There is evidence from Bob Downes and John McNally to support this.  One reason might be that Karen is more aware of the goings on in the alley off Abingdon Street than she claims.  Her last view of Charlene might be of Charlene heading towards the alley. 

But there is a mystery here… why does Karen not cooperate with investigators searching for Charlene and bring suspicion on herself.  

Karen cannot bear criticism.  Karen is acutely sensitive about Karen.  About others… not so much.  Karen carrying of with John McNally might not be something she does not want to share with investigators.  Not a good look… Karen also wants to dissociate herself and Charlene from the alley. 

After the documentary The Murder of Charlene Downes, Karen says that she is haunted by trolls who believe she has something to do with the disappearance of Charlene Downes.  Critics of Karen might say that if you advocate that Moslems should be burned with petrol and killed with explosive on your social media you probably should not complain about trolling.    

The trolls have a point… if Karen is entirely innocent why not cooperate with investigators. Karen’s trollers probably believe that because Karen is concealing something it concerns the death of Charlene. Or Karen might not be involved in Charlene’s disappearance but have plenty to conceal. One quality that Bob and Karen share is a hatred of criticism.  Karen’s encounters with the investigators where she is accused of helping Bob pimp her children, negligence regarding Charlene’s welfare, sexual misconduct, these encounters burned into Karen’s soul. Much of her subsequent behaviour involves an effort to deny these accusations.  Over-deny… if it were not for Karen’s denial nobody would care.   

Sometimes I think that Karen is scapegoated and sometimes I think that she creates her own scapegoating, I have more time for Karen than most people in the Real Justice for Charlene Group. 

And now… the extended Downes family. Could any of them, or any combination be involved? 

John McNally…  he too has something to conceal but it may be nothing to do with Charlene. John is from Northern Ireland and claims to have contacts with paramilitaries.  Possibly the contact he had was when he was asked to leave Northern Ireland by paramilitaries.  Why?  No idea.  Could it be something to do with sex? John is the most dominant member of Bob’s gang, and he is bright.  He coordinates the release of information to the investigators.  Bob and his gang are a bit afraid of him.  Bob needs somebody brighter who can give him guidance   

The contact between Charlene, Becki and Thornton Ronnie is enigmatic. Two encounters between Charlene and Ronnie and Becki is close to both encounters.  Is she arranging the encounters and protecting Charlene?   

It may seem incoherent that Becki loves Charlene but is willing to pimp her and feels a duty to protect Charlene.  This is Downes territory where loving and pimping may not be mutually exclusive.  Becki is very under John McNally’s control.    

The circumstances of Charlene’s encounter with Thornton Ronnie on the day of her disappearance: Charlene meets Ronnie by arrangement (arranged by?) at the Mecca Bingo Hall.  The encounter is witnessed by Becki.  Ron gives Charlene money. The Bingo Hall is visible from John McNally’s flat. 

John and Bob put pressure on Becki to conceal the identity of Thornton Ronnie. 

After a year Becki identifies Thornton Ronnie… Ronnie Fraser. 

The other key members of Bob’s inner circle are John McNally, Taffy and Glenn Padgett.  Taffy (real name Robert James) has confessed to paying Charlene for a sexual act. He also says that Charlene threatened him with exposure to get money from him.  This may be true and may be a clue to Charlene’s disappearance.  Charlene may have felt that if she played the “exposure” card she will always get her way. This is an assumption that works until it does not work. Taffy also says to Karen that he has “feelings” for Charlene. Glenn Padgett threatens Ray Munro when he finds Charlene sitting on Ray Munro’s knee.  When they are stopped by the police in Fleetwood Glenn is holding Charlene’s hand.  Ray gives Charlene money and is upset when Charlene goes to meet her “boyfriend.”   

Ronay Crompton memorably calls Bob’s circle: “alcoholic tramps.”  But they are lonely people steeped in depression.  To them the Downes family represent acceptance and family… Taffy and Glenn both have an emotional attachment to Charlene. 

Ray Munro: according to Karen we have three different accounts.  Ray Munro has been tried for raping his girlfriend. Which makes him an ideal guest.  Version two is that both Bob and Karen knew about the charges against Ray Munro but Ray told them he had been “fitted up” by the police and was going to sue the police. Version three is that they were “horrified” to learn that Ray’s sentence involved sexual offences against children.  They managed to remain friends and visit him in prison.  Ray Munro’s case had been reported in local newspapers and was such common knowledge that he was threatened in a Blackpool pub.    

Ray Munro has Charlene sitting on his knee with Charlene’s parents present. There is an incident involving one of Charlene’s friends and another incident involving a row between Charlene and Ray Munro.  Charlene says: “I hope you go to prison for what you did.” Ray is to be sentenced for sexual crimes against a very young girl and boy.  He carried out the crimes when he offered to babysit.   

These are people closely connected with 109 Buchanan Street. There is a wider circle men connected more occasionally with 109 Buchanan Street.  

Bob is violent, he is known to be angry at Charlene because he thinks she is holding back money, he has no alibi.  His claim that he was alone and does not know where he was at the time that Charlene disappeared is odd.  I have been drunk many times but can always recall where I have been. If Bob were drunk and incapable, would he not attract attention?   

If somebody in the Downes family or their close associates killed Charlene in some combination: where is the body and why is there no forensic evidence?  There are really two questions: could they have done it, and did they do it?  How could they dispose of a body?   

The Downes family are beyond our comprehension.  I have no doubt that Karen and Bob and Becki loved Charlene.  But they seek to frustrate the investigation.  In a situation where their love for Charlene is set against their fear of incriminating themselves… it is the fear that wins. Bob and Karen and the others have a deep dislike of the police and the relationship with the investigators was antagonistic from the beginning.  Bob and Karen are very aware that the investigators look down on them… so they are kings and queens in 109, Buchanan Street but they are scum to the investigators.  Karen is fuming.   

Because Bob and Karen and their gang have plenty to conceal there is an overlapping suspicion that they know more about the circumstances of Charlene’s death.  They had suspicions about Ronnie Fraser but mislead investigators and obstruct the investigation.   

RONNIE FRASER 

Ronnie Fraser, man of mystery.  Although Ronnie Fraser inevitably knows Bob Downes he is not among close friends at the time of Charlene’s disappearance.  There are many puzzles about Ronnie Fraser.   

Ronnie is wealthy by the standards of the Downes household.  He gives Charlene £70.00 and he has given her money previously.  Although Ronnie Fraser goes around on a bicycle, he has a car. 

There is also the question of Ronnie Fraser’s health. At the time of Charlene’s death which happened on the last day he saw her, Ronnie was a fit man according to witnesses.  Afterwards his health declined, and he died in a nursing home at a young age.  His health deteriorated very rapidly. It is possible that he had a brain injury, an industrial accident.  This would account for his wealth, pension plus compensation. It would also account for his unusual behaviour. 

Unlike Bob’s inner circle, Ronnie had a girlfriend.   

Ronnie originally knew Becki.  He gave Becki money although she says there was no sexual activity.  His injury may have made Ronnie behave in a peculiar way.  Becki appears to have mistrusted him. 

Ronnie asked to meet Charlene.  Was he stalking her?  He met her twice both times Becki was nearby, and money changed hands. Charlene gave John McNally £10.00. 

A witness claims that Ronnie was involved in cocaine supply which would also account for his money. 

Could Ronnie Fraser have killed Charlene? Could he have met Charlene at the Carousel Bar? Ronnie lived within walking distance of the Carousel Bar. There is CCTV evidence that Ronnie was outside North Pier at 11.30 pm on the day that Charlene disappeared.   

If Ronnie killed Charlene at his flat in Warley Road, he had time to clean up. This scenario would require Charlene to go back again to the Carousel Bar from the alley off Abingdon Street, but if she followed the obvious and quickest route she would be spotted on CCTV. There is no evidence that Ronnie has a history of violence. Ronnie was a person of interest, and the Downes family thought he could be Charlene’s killer. But why did they make such an effort to misdirect the investigators.   

There is a link between Ronnie Fraser and the Downes family. Investigators finally found him in a flat in Warley Road with all kinds of pornography including child pornography and photography equipment (remember the photography equipment at Buchanan Street). Ronnie Fraser must have been at that time the prime suspect.  Investigators found no evidence and must have had a strong reason not taking the matter further. 

CHARLENE’S CONTACTS, GROOMING GANGS AND TRAFFICKERS 

Charlene is reported to have had 100 contacts shared between older white men and takeaway workers. Many of these we do not know about and any of them could have been Charlene’s killer. 

While there was grooming around takeaways some of it was low-level. One of Charlene’s friends says that she went in the alleyways and accepted food, drink and alcohol but it never went beyond kissing. Looking at the geography of the alley it is hard to believe that sexual intercourse was a frequent feature because it was a busy spot during business hours. 

That is not to say that grooming did not happen.  Iyad Albattikhi and his friend Chico went in for competitive, boastful, sexually aggressive behaviour. They could use food, drink, drugs, the offer of jobs to lure vulnerable young girls to their flats above takeaways which were equipped with tacky stuff to facilitate seduction.  They would have no scruples about using drugs.  

Chico (real name Nabil Awadi) was arrested along with Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi…  At this time Iyad and Mohammed were not close friends although they later became friends. 

Chico owned lots of catering businesses and his conflicts with the Council make comic reading. On one occasion a council employee was offered a lump of marijuana to overlook a health and safety violation. Another time a council employee was visiting a strip club run by Chico. When a customer fell downstairs and needed treatment. Pressure was put on dancers to work naked against the conditions of the license. 

Chico’s technique for dealing with violations was to change the license holder and some of the license holders had nothing to do with the premises or were fictional.  

There are allegations involving drugs and young girls. 

Chico had some dodgy friends, and he may have exagerated his “gangsta” status. Like John McNally he hints at “contacts”: this aura of menace may have been a ploy to increase his influence or even to impress little girls. 

One witness places Charlene at a party in Blackburn where she was injured by one of Chico’s acquaintances and put in a white van. 

Not all Chico’s colleagues were Asian, some were white and black. 

Chico’s parties  involving drugs and girls were a way of bonding his “gang.”  Not unlike Bob and his alcohol. 

The incident at the party does not fit in with the timeline for Charlene’s last day, it might be mistaken or refer to an earlier incident. Or the timeline could be wrong. It is troubling.   

Is there any connection with Charlene being driven to Blackburn and Manchester where she received money in an envelope?  She was driven to the locations by an Asian or two Asians. This arrangement, the money in the envelope, the transport arrangements, imply organised crime. How was this contact arranged? Did it involve Chico or one of his gang? 

Two events in the alley on Charlene’s last day alive draw attention. In one case a man from one of the takeaways asked her to see him the next day. It is unlikely that this was a first contact… Charlene regarded one of the takeaway owners, Rashid, as her “boyfriend.” Charlene’s trip to the alleyway may have been to rendezvous with him. He had a flat with access to the alley. Rashid will have been questioned in 2003. 

NIGEL LLOYD 

Nigel Lloyd was also questioned in 2003. Nigel Lloyd was a gifted chef. He only became a suspect in 2017 when he was arrested and then released.  Nigel was a mini-celebrity… he had appeared on TV with Gordon Ramsey. Subsequently he worked in a café on Central Drive. He lived in a flat which had access to the alley. He is the last known person to have spoken to Charlene. 

The Downes family knew Nigel Lloyd.  

In 2017 Nigel Lloyd was convicted for indecent assault and gross indecency in connection with two 15-year-old girls.  The assaults happened in 2003… the year that Charlene disappeared. 

Investigators have stated that Charlene went into the alley and did not come out.  This has been questioned. Charlene could have gone into the alley and exited by going through a takeaway onto Clifton Street. She could have been missed by CCTV. 

The case against Nigel Lloyd does look convincing.  But Nigel Lloyd has no known history of violence. It is characteristic of the Bob and Karen that after being told about Nigel Lloyd… and they knew Nigel Lloyd… they went back to the girl in a kebab and Muslim grooming gangs yarn. 

At one time Nigel Lloyd had a dog. If he had a dog when Charlene disappeared it would be a reason to use the alley. 

Nigel was a much more upmarket person than Bob’s gang. He was neat and particular about his appearance which was not the case with Bob’s gang. There is a hint that he was slightly unusual… anxiety, depression or OCD.  But he was well liked and there was surprise when he was in trouble over offences involving young girls. 

BOB EWING 

And there is Bob Ewing… two girls of similar age and background disappear in the same town over a space of four years. The similarities are so striking… violent father, chaotic lifestyle, neglect, promiscuity. 

There is no evidence that Bob Ewing had anything to do with Charlene. Bob used the Ramsden Arms as did Bob Downes. Both Bobs were of similar age and had a military background. Both had right-wing views.  

If Bob Ewing had nothing to do with Charlene’s disappearance it means that there were two separate men in Blackpool who had the capacity to kill a girl and make her disappear. Or that Bob’s crime was a copycat crime… He learned about investigation techniques and understood the difficulty in a murder investigation in the absence of a body.  

After the trial Bob Ewing was further tried for crimes involving young children which are unspeakable and persisted over time. Investigators will have looked very closely and been unable to connect Bob Ewing to Charlene Downes. Bob’s murder of Paige Chivers is a notable escalation from grooming.  

Bob Ewing’s timeline before and after he came to Blackpool could be examined… it would be surprising if the crimes with which he has been charged are his only crimes.  Are there any unsolved murders?  Can you escalate in your 50s from grooming to murder without any intervening step? 

EVALUATION 

Evaluating the evidence is tricky… A colleague knows much more about the case and has different opinions. It may be that many of the characters could have killed Charlene. Which one did? 

It is haunting that investigators found a death threat letter that they believe that Charlene wrote to herself.  Was she unconsciously channelling the fact that some part of her acknowledged that her lifestyle was amazingly perilous? 

This is a view and can be dismissed, or debated: it is likely that Charlene died in or near the alley. There is no CCTV evidence of her being elsewhere after being in the alley. 

The alley was a busy place, and it is unlikely that she was murdered in the alley… it is more likely that she was murdered indoors 

Charlene was killed accidentally. It was not premeditated. 

Charlene was killed and disposed of by a single person.  It is much harder to contain rumour if more than one person is involved. Robert Ewing and Gareth Dewhurst… it was Gareth’s confession that was crucial to the conviction of Robert Ewing. And if two people are involved a perpetrator and an assistant… the perpetrator is much more heavily invested in keeping the matter secret. The fact that the reward elicited no response supports a single perpetrator acting alone.   

In the alley Charlene had a blanket and told her friends that she was going to “sleep out.”  It was a cold wet day. Charlene had asked a friends’ mother if she could sleep at her house that night.  

Charlene might have been anxious to accept an invitation to come indoors. 

What happened to Charlene’s body?   In the alley there were industrial size container bins serving the takeaways. This method of disposal of a body has been used before in a case which oddly involved DC Don Fraser and Mohammed Raveshi. 

In December 1997, Stuart Diamond (21) put the body partsof his victim, Chris Hartley, in a bin behind a Blackpool Hotel. This crime was detected because the body was visible in the bin. If a more sophisticated operator put Charlene’s body in a rubble bag… Charlene was only small and slight… Charlene would never be found. 

Is this what happened? It is one possibility. 

For the sake of clarity I have simplified some of the options… if you think something needs more exploration let me know. But please tell me what do you think? 

THE MURDER OF CHARLENE DOWNES: LIAM WOOD

THE MURDER OF CHARLENE DOWNES:  LIAM WOOD A FAR RIGHT TRUTH TELLER?

It is Thursday, October  30, 2013.  Halloween: the spirits of the dead roam the earth. 

It is a busy day in Blackpool. 

Karen Downes is busy preparing for the memorial service that the British National Party have arranged for her daughter Charlene Downes.  It will be is ten years since Charlene disappeared on the 1st, November 2003.  Karen and Bob Downes have joined the BNP and Karen speaks at rallies supporting Justice for Charlene Downes. Karen says that the BNP and the English Defence League are the only groups who supported her campaign. 

The police are busy: the Far Right will mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Charlene Downes.  

There will be violence. 

The police will announce that they are going to boost the Charlene Downes investigation.  And Karen Downes says she will not cooperate…   

Mohammed Raveshi is busy avoiding English Defence League Goons who roam around Blackpool seeking to beat him up, or his friends, or anybody with a darker skin.  Mohammed Raveshi’s house had been broken into, his windows broken, his car vandalised, his friends attacked, his family threatened.  Mohammed Raveshi has a brain the size of Norway.  And he is rich.  Starting from nothing he has worked his way up by making loans, often to immigrants who would not get credit from mainstream banks.  He trades a loan for a share of the business.  This requires judgement.  Get it right and you make a profit. Mohammed gets it right. Mohammed is an enigma.  He is rich but unostentatious. You would walk past him in the street and not notice him. He lives modestly. He does not care what people say or think about him. 

 But he is displeased at having pig’s heads thrown through takeaways with which he is involved.  

 Karen Downes and Mohammed Raveshi are two of the most interesting characters in this tale.   

And Liam Wood aged 20, is another interesting character.   Liam Wood is in the English Defence League, the EDL. He is the LGBT organiser for the EDL. 

The EDL is a Far Right group, often adrenaline  junkies, supporters have been involved in football violence.  They are only racist as far as Moslems are concerned.  They are more switched on than the rival British National Party… they use social media and are masters of conjuring up a flash-mob.  But do not go thinking that they are a kinder, gentler form of Far Right.  The average EDL supporter is probably more dangerous than the average BNP supporter.  They are often young men, working class and angry.   

Their rivals, the British National Party, have a more Nazi heritage which their leader, Nick Griffin, is desperate to abandon: to present the BNP as a democratic party to the right of the Conservatives. 

The EDL is busy in Blackpool.  They are busy harassing Mohammed Raveshi and preparing for the 10th anniversary of Charlene’s disappearance.  Liam Wood is busy too.   

Nick Griffin is busy.  As leader of the BNP and he is the Euro-MP for the North-West.  He gained 15% of votes in the Fylde.  And he feels that the BNP has improved its standing because of the high-profile Justice for Charlene campaign in Blackpool.  Ostensibly a campaign for Justice for Charlene Downes but the message is that Charlene was killed by a Moslem grooming gang who used her for sex and then minced her up for kebabs.  This is a well-known fact, everybody in the BNP knows it.  But the jury could not reach a verdict and Iyad and Mohammed were released when the prosecution reviewed the case and found that they could present no evidence.  

Mohammed and Iyad received over £250,000 each.  This especially annoys the Far Right; many will never have had £250.   Patient and diligent Mohammed archives every piece of information from the trial. 

It is a big day for the British National Party, the culmination of their long campaign in Blackpool where the Justice for Charlene Campaign has become a symbol of the campaign against the Islamification of Britain.  “Girl in a kebab,” in the Daily Mail makes the case succinctly.   

Nick Griffin is not some gutter politician.  He is the leader of a National Party.  He has been invited to the Queen’s Garden Party, although he was rapidly uninvited because he used the invitation for party political purposes.  Nick Griffin has been on Radio 4’s Any Questions….   It is tempting to portray the Far Right as knuckle scrapers and some are, but there are very bright supporters who believe that there is room for a party to the right of the Conservatives.  

Nick Griffin is confident that November 1st, 2013, will be a propaganda coup.  A dignified service for Charlene. Conducted by the BNP. 

When Nick Griffin campaigned as MEP he was accompanied round his constituency by Karen Downes.   

The two have appeared together on an outfit called BNP Television.  Karen recalls her loss of Charlene and becomes angry at the police response to the phone call that she did not make.  Probably because she is white and working class. 

To many people Karen Downes represents how they feel.  Ignored and despised by the system. The BBC and the liberal elite have no idea what happens on our streets.  Moslems are a threat to our young people, but the elite do not care.  White young people are being groomed, killed and eaten.  The Far Right is a “word of mouth” outfit, and it is accepted that Iyad and Mohammed have escaped justice on a technicality.  Outside the Far Right it is widely accepted that Mohammed and Iyad might have killed Charlene and that she was put into kebabs.  That is the only story available. 

Paige Chivers aged 15 has disappeared.  She went to the same places that Charlene did…  Karen says that some of the family knew her, but Karen… you know… reliable?  Obviously, Paige has been groomed and murdered by a Moslem grooming gang.  They have got away with it once. And the police will not investigate because of political correctness.  

Paige might very well have been groomed and murdered by Iyad and Mohammed knowing that the authorities would do nothing. Iyad and Mohammed were in prison when Paige disappeared.  Maybe… 

When Nick Griffin campaigns with Karen at his side he is the voice of the true English people not the effete camomile tea drinking liberals in their ivory towers. 

Nick Griffin is busy preparing for a propaganda coup. The Justice for Charlene Campaign has brought him national attention. It was astute to choose Karen Downes as a partner and Justice for Charlene as a campaign slogan. Nick Griffin might be re-elected to the European Parliament. True the BNP has passed its peak support in recent years. But it only needs a nudge, say a terrorist incident…  The BNP does well after a terrorist incident.  

The EDL and the BNP are different animals. The EDL is more switched on to social media and younger. The BNP is more formal, as Nick Griffin would like to say, more disciplined. Inevitably the two groups are rivals because they are competing for the same audience.  The individual members probably do not care much about ideological differences.  The EDL is led by Tommy Robinson when he is not in prison.  But they are united in their support for Justice for Charlene Downes.  Until 1st November 2013. 

How is Liam Wood busy? Aged 20, and with a long record for football violence.  He is banned from every football ground.  Gay, a drug user with a taste for cocaine, he is the GLBT organiser for the EDL. He has been banned from many Blackpool pubs for fighting. He has done time for cocaine, and he has lost a former partner to a heroin overdose. Kim Burns reports having last seen Liam Wood outside a Blackpool nightclub fighting two bouncers.  

Liam Wood was a fiery supporter of the Justice for Charlene campaign.  As he observed the Downes family doubts arose, and he took to researching the Downes family. 

This is what Liam Wood found. 

The Downes family had persistently been the objects of Social Services and police attention. The children had been left alone with a paedophile and rapist. Robert and Karen were warned but the visits persisted.   Charlene and her sister Emma allege that they abused by a friend of the family.  They withdrew the allegations. 

Charlene alleged that she had been beaten by her father and that she had been touched inappropriately by her mother Karen and Grandmother Lena. 

Walsall Social Services were on the point of taking the children into care and acting against Karen and Bob for willful neglect when Karen and Bob and the children and later the grandmother went on a journey that ended at 109 Buchanan Street. 

Cheap beer, a “mind your own business” mindset, zero sense of community and a cross-dressing tradition… Bob had landed in Bob Paradise and his behaviour escalated. Bob would not be tolerated in Fleetwood.   

Following the move to Blackpool there are incidents:  Charlene is in a skimpy nightie while a man in his sixties is buttoning his trousers when an enviromental health officer calls. A doctor sees signs of sexual abuse.  Aged 9, Charlene’s sister Becki has sex with her “boyfriend” who is nineteen. Charlene makes a dozen visits in two years to the Walk in Health Centre. Charlene alleges to social workers that both Karen and Bob beat her. Charlene tells her friend that Bob has raped her. Three people who have stayed in 109 Buchanan Street admit paying Charlene for sex acts.  Sixteen men with records for sexual crimes visit the home and there is the inner core of Bob’s drinking buddies. 

A “friend” of Bob says that Bob likes to see his daughters involved in sexual activities.  

The Social Services warn Bob and Karen many times.  Nothing is done. Aged 11 Charlene is in a sexual relationship with a female neighbour. 

Charlene is twice driven to Northern towns where she is sexually abused by take-away workers and receives money in an envelope.   

A social worker spots a sex-offender near 109, Buchanan Street. After Charlene’s disappearance the Social Services decide that Charlene is to be taken into care when she reappears.  Charlene does not reappear.   

Liam Wood has assembled these files.   

He and his EDL colleagues attempt to sell the story to the Sun and other popular newspapers.  They are turned down.  Popular newspapers thrive on the “girl in a kebab” story. 

They take the story to the Times. The Times agree to publish the story on November 1st, 2013, to coincide with the memorial for Charlene. Liam Wood either wrote the Times article or cooperated with the writer. 

The article does not pull punches: the headline reads: 

“No one knows where the abuse of Charlene Downes ended, but it began at home.” 

1st November 2013: Karen is preparing for the memorial service put on by the BNP when she is told about the Times article. She buys the paper. You can find film of the service on You-tube. Remember that the guy pretending to be a vicar is not a vicar. He is a supply teacher who was fired for saying that Moslems worshipped the devil.  He took to dressing as a vicar.  A solemn and dignified service or a bunch of sad clowns? 

Imagine Nick Griffin.  He has been campaigning for Justice for Charlene Downes appearing on platforms with Bob and Karen.  He has been campaigning against Asian grooming gangs on a platform with grooming enablers.  

The EDL had originally spotted the Downes family as a cause and they had courted them.  A few incidents had soured relations somewhat.  Robert Junior had been refused entry to a bar and told the door staff that the EDL would beat them up.  Eyebrows were raised when Karen Downes suggested an event to raise money for a memorial should feature male-strippers.  And the EDL had a whip round for a memorial for Charlene and handed a younger member of the family £400.  The younger member had promptly gone on a cocaine spree. 

Nick Griffin had a bigger picture in mind. And the big picture was that a young, working-class girl had been sexually abused and murdered by Moslems and that her body had been ground up for kebab meat.  It was a microcosm of England. 

Nick was playing the Downes family. Giving them presents to secure their support because the support of the Downes family, the fact that they joined the BNP, boosted the credibility of Nick Griffin and the BNP. 

The Downes family have been using the BNP to push their narrative that Charlene was groomed and murdered by Iyad and Mohammed, which exonerates Bob and Karen.   

Nick Griffins first reaction is to blame the EDL. There are angry exchanges. “Traitors,” “betrayal,” these are the kind of words. In the background, perhaps, a more strategic Nick Griffin is thinking: “f… this for a game of soldiers.” And he is packing his suitcase.   

Reporters ask Karen for comments on the article in the Times.  One does not often have sympathy for Karen, but she has just attended a memorial service for Charlene. Karen says that the documents are: “Widely exaggerated and untrue.” 

In “Sold in Secret” Karen writes a letter to the Times complaining that the article says that Charlene was a slut.  But the article does not say that in any way, the article says that Charlene was groomed at home by her parents or at least with the knowledge of her parents. Karen is spinning the article which is an attack on Karen and Bob into an attack on Charlene.  It is masterly.   

The police announce on the same day that they are relaunching the investigation into Charlene’s disappearance. The BNP claimed that this was a result of their activity although Karen Downes announces that she will not cooperate, which might give the impression that she had cooperated with the investigation in the first place.   

The BNP began to distance themselves from the Justice for Charlene Campaign and it was largely Nick Griffin’s brainchild.  He was soon to be deposed as leader of the BNP and then expelled from the party.  Karen Downes and Bob might have the distinction of being “no platformed” by the BNP. 

The BNP had loudly linked the disappearance of Charlene Downes with that of Paige Chivers. In August 2014 a pair were arrested.  They were supporters of the BNP and had taken part in the Justice for Charlene campaign.  They had met at a BNP meeting. and they were grooming Paige Chivers and involved in her murder while they were campaigning against Moslem Grooming Gangs. The BNP were right, there was a link between the murder of Charlene Downes and the murder of Paige Chivers.  The link was that the murderer of Paige Chivers and his accomplice had been active in the Justice for Charlene Campaign. 

If the article in the Times were untrue Karen Downes would be able to take legal action.  In “Sold in Secret” Karen says that the family could not afford to this.  It does seem likely that the BNP sought advice and would have taken legal action if there were grounds.   

Liam Wood, aged 20, was the centre of this storm.  There are death threats, the EDL say that one of their supporters has uncovered the evidence and published it.  

Some Far Right supporters had fallen under Karen’s spell. Imagine a follower finding that Mother Teresa sneaked around stabbing the occasional leper.  Karen portrays Charlene as a victim of grooming when she has been thoroughly groomed at home.  Karen is demonstrating against grooming, but she enables the grooming of Charlene.      

Liam Wood met all the leading figures on the Far Right: Karen Downes, Nick Griffin and he even met little Jack Renshaw, who was interested in the EDL but turned down because of his racist and homophobic views. After a spell in the BNP, a protégé of Nick Griffin, Jack Renshaw went on to plan the murder of an MP and a police officer.  Jack Renshaw was also charged with child sexual offences involving young boys.   

Noble Liam Wood researches the Downes family and discovers a long history of abuse. People familiar with the case of Charlene Downes often have the feeling that there is something else going on. Conjurors speak about the art of distraction.  What you see is not what you get. Liam Wood lives a chaotic life.  He has done time for cocaine, his former partner has died of a heroin overdose, he enjoys fighting. Diligent researcher? 

Here is the secret. Liam Wood was terminally ill.  It seems more likely that the files came from the EDL who wished to use Liam Wood as cover to avoid an outright conflict with the BNP.  The EDL can say: “It is one of our members working on his own who wants to make this information public, and he has every right to do that, but he is acting as an individual.”  There will be death threats aimed at Liam Wood, but he is dying anyway. He dies four years later in Brighton, he liked seaside resorts.  The EDL use Liam Wood as a deniable source of the files. Spare a thought for Liam Wood, whatever the case he transformed the story about Charlene Downes. And it is a brave thing to exploit your own death. 

Who gives the files to the EDL? 

The files that Liam Wood posted, and which were the basis for the articles in the Times, originated from the police computer system: the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System: Holmes.  HOLMES records all the details of major crimes on a national police database and collates millions of pieces of information.  Following a murder in Bolton HOLMES was able to produce a list of South Asians between the ages of 17 and 30 who suffered from asthma and had bought an inhaler within one mile of the crime.   

A criticism of HOLMES is that it records information received.  An entry might not be true.   

 Some police officers have access to HOLMES.   

That is the mystery.  

Who passed on the files and why? 

What if it was a police officer? Why do that?  To correct the view that Karen and Bob and the BNP are promoting that Charlene was groomed by Moslem Groomers.  The grooming began before that. 

Or a police officer took a dislike to the Downes Family.  There must have been resentment at the lack of cooperation and the suspicious activity around 109 Buchanan Street. 

It might be somebody who had the files who was not connected to the police. 

Who benefits from the publication of the files?  

The police gained: misimpressions about the investigation promoted by the Downes Family and the Far Right were corrected.  And public order was promoted by the defection of the EDL, and the disengagement of the BNP. 

The EDL gained.  They appeared to behave in an “honourable” way by the release of information that undermined their previous support for the Justice for Charlene campaign. They got money for their cooperation with the Times.  And they managed to damage their rivals the BNP. The fact that the EDL was able to change when the evidence changed is creditable. 

Mohammed Raveshi gained because EDL Goons stopped hunting him and damaging his businesses and vandalising his property and businesses. 

The Times gained by publishing new material on the Charlene Downes case and two journalists Andrew Norfolk and Julie Bindell published articles about Blackpool and child abuse.  Joe Cusack (the creator of the documentary The Murder of Charlene Downes) had earlier freelanced an article in Bella on this topic. 

People gained a new perspective. Instead of one narrative: girl in a kebab, Moslem grooming gangs, there were two narratives.  The second narrative was that Charlene had been groomed from an early age in her home and that despite repeated warnings her parents had failed to protect her.  Because there were now two narratives interest and debate increased.   

Who lost through the release of the files? 

The BNP lost. Their credibility fell.  There are only two explanations.  Nick Griffin knew how dodgy the Downes family were, but they ignored it for propaganda reasons.  Or Nick Griffin did not know and had been taken in.  It is not a good look. And the revelation that two BNP supporters were responsible for grooming and murdering Paige Chivers… the BNP snuck away from Blackpool.    

Karen Downes had no hesitation in blaming Moslems and in a social post in 2011 she suggested that all Moslems should be burned: “With petrol and explosives.” 

Karen Downes lost credibility.  Karen Downes has spoken to rallies about Moslem Grooming when it is difficult to describe the events in the Downes household without using the word grooming.  Karen’s passionate belief in the girl in a kebab yarn is a distraction to draw attention away from the household.  And it worked. For a while. For ten years Karen’s tale was the only tale. But Karen persistently draws attention to Karen, and this attention leads to evidence which undermines Karen.  Karen was best friends with the Far Right but it was through this contact that the files became available.  

 Liam Wood supported Justice for Charlene Downes and Karen’s story. And then he did not.  Karen’s attachment to Moslem grooming gangs and the girl in the kebab led Liam Wood to explore the family background.   

Liam Wood published an article about the case aimed at Far Right supporters. Among other things asks that a report on the case should examine the role of the family, the social services, the police and grooming gangs.   

The last thing on earth Karen and Bob want was a re-examination of their role.  

We do not know how much of the investigation into Charlene’s family was down to Liam Wood but he was a clever and articulate reporter.    

And there is the mystery: who leaked the files on the Downes family to the EDL, or to Liam Wood… and why? 

One thing to remember is that the released files are not “neutral,” they are not a random sample of files on Charlene Downes, they are telling a story.  The story is antagonistic to the Bob and Karen.  There must have been many files on the case, for example about grooming gangs or how Charlene had been trafficked, but none of these files were released.  Whoever released the files did so to undermine the Downes’ narrative.  But whoever released the files had a narrative of their own…  Is it possible that the files themselves are a distraction? 

You might think that the Far Right would have given up on the Charlene Downes case: but you would be wrong.  Britain First is targeting Moslem Groomers: its campaign is called:” Operation Downes.” It can depend on the support of Karen Downes. 

Here we go round the Mulberry Bush… 

The murder of Charlene Downes, Charlene’s last days

Two things: in this piece I have assumed that Charlene was murdered close to the time when she was last seen at 10.30pm on Saturday 1st November. Second thing: this is an update of an earlier piece but it has been entirely changed by hearing Ronay Crompton. For those who have not seen it recommend Real Justice for Charlene Downes: Ronay’s discussion of the last meeting between Karen and Charlene.

CHARLENE’S LAST DAYS  

Charlene Downes was fourteen years old when she disappeared on Saturday, 1st November 2003.  She was last seen in the alley off Abingdon Street at 10.30 pm.  The events preceding Charlene’s disappearance give a snapshot of her lifestyle.  Less than a week before she had been driven to Manchester in a BMW. After an interlude she was driven back to Blackpool. She was given an envelope of money.  

Charlene had also been driven to Blackburn. By a different person. When Charlene was asked about money, she said: “It’s what I got for what I did in Blackburn.” 

Charlene was being trafficked by organised criminals.  Who drives girls from Blackpool to a clientele in Manchester or Blackburn?  Somebody experienced. The fact of handing over money in an envelope is professional.  The person is in contact with groups in Blackburn, and Manchester.  The chances are that Charlene is not the only girl being trafficked in this way.  And how did the trafficker find and negotiate with Charlene?  There is a network. These are journeys we know about involving Charlene: there are probably others. 

Charlene was damaged before she was trafficked.  She had been groomed from her earliest years.  There may be an innocent explanation: sixteen men with a history of sex crimes were regular visitors to 109, Buchanan Street. Were Bob and Karen running a sanctuary for sex criminals? 

Charlene Downes was reaching an age where she was thinking that if she was going to be abused it might as well be for her own benefit.  Becki, Charlene’s sister aged 16, left home to live with John McNally when she was fourteen. John McNally was in his mid-forties.  Becki was leaving a violent and abusive home.   

Becki’s older sister Gemma left home at the earliest opportunity.     

You might think that Becki had good reason to feel anger towards her mother and father.  She had been abused and beaten.  But you would be wrong.  There is an intense, unbreakable mutual relationship.  It passes all understanding, but it is the case. One factor: all the family have a distrust of institutions outside the family.  

In her own world Charlene was living a good life… running wild, smoking, free, making money hand over fist…. If Charlene had been taken into care she would have been unhappy… but she would be alive. 

What kind of person was Charlene?  There is a temptation to idealise her.  Young girl, groomed and murdered, innocent and so on…  But you could not live Charlene’s life without picking up survival skills.  Avoid being beaten, hold onto the money you get… and (this is the most dangerous) you can turn the tables on an abuser by threatening exposure.  Like all the Downes family if you fell out with Charlene retaliation would not be a sulk… it would be a full-on attack.  Her friends said she was a lovely person: “but she could be a little shit at times.”  Charlene would have no difficulty making allegations to social workers. Sometimes these claims would be triggered by antagonism. Social workers treated her claims cautiously. She claimed that and a family friend was paying her for sexual activities.  This man was Stephen Jebbs, occasional sofa surfer at the 109, Buchanan Street, since deceased.  One of Charlene’s siblings confirmed this, and a social worker saw Stephen Jebbs near 109, Buchanan Street. An emergency meeting was arranged, and it was agreed that Charlene would be taken into care.  The meeting took place on Nov 8, 2003.  Charlene had been dead for seven days.   

(I am assuming, and I believe, that Charlene died shortly after 10.30pm on Saturday 1st November.  There are perplexing claims that she was seen after that time.  Remember that Paige Chiver’s brother claimed to have seen her a month after she disappeared when it is assumed she had been murdered.  The claims that Charlene was alive after 1st November need to be examined, but for the moment let us assume that she was murdered shortly after 10.30pm on Saturday 1st November.).   

Thinking about Charlene we think her exposure to sexual abuse meant that she was aged beyond her years.  But this is not the case.  In most respects she was a “normal” fourteen-year-old girl. Her friends regarded her as young for her age.  She loved music and Darren Day, she was a good dancer, she liked to party, she smoked and probably did drugs such as marijuana and speed. She regarded one of the men she met as her “boyfriend.”  She ran around with a group of girls ranging far and wide. She would talk to anybody and had a wide range of acquaintances.  She was acquisitive regarding money.  But she was generous with her money.  She may have been addicted to gambling, she spent hours playing games in the arcade. Many aspects of her life seem repetitive… but is this not the case for all of us? 

Because she had been abused so frequently, she may not have regarded as usual. Sexual activity might be the only thing in her life for which she was rewarded and praised. She may have thought sexual activity and love are the same thing.  Children assume that the conditions of their lives are the same for everybody. The Japanese author Ishiguro grew up in Hiroshima… he said that when he was young, he thought all towns underwent nuclear bombing.     

Charlene’s friends met take-away workers down alleys and were treated to food and alcohol and cigarettes.  The alleyway… plays a big part in this tale not least because it is the spot where Charlene may have died… but it had a range of functions.  In the light of events, it is assumed that “Paki Alley”, I will not use that term again, was the scene of endless orgies.  Not entirely true. It had many roles.  It was a meeting place for young girls, young girls and takeaway workers socialised, there was also sexual activity in that alley.  It may be that Charlene did not know how to “play” men like her streetwise friends. One of Charlene’s friends says that she was given food, alcohol and cigarettes and did not engage in sexual activity beyond kissing. It may be that as a result of her childhood Charlene did not know what it meant to withhold consent. 

Think about child soldiers.  They do things beyond imagination, but they are still children.  In a recent case a man was accused of war crimes… his defence was that he had been a child soldier and grown up forced to witness and carry out atrocities.  The court said he was still guilty of crimes he committed as an adult.  I am not so sure… “Those to whom evil is done, do evil in their turn.” 

On Friday November 31st, the evening Charlene has a hissy fit row with Ray Munro.  Ray Munro is awaiting trial for child sexual offences.  Charlene says: “I hope you go down for what you did.”  The word “fuck” is used a lot.  Charlene reports this and other incidents involving Ray to her social worker.  We do not know if Bob and Karen and Ray were aware that Charlene reported this incident.  Ray was breaking the terms of his bail and lying to the police about where he was living. Bob and Karen were complicit.  In an incident that would be comic if it were not desperate, the police had brought Charlene home and warned the Downs that she had been in the company of Ray Munro a child sex offender.  The Downs forgot to mention that Ray Munro was also staying at 109, Buchanan Street. 

After the incident with Ray Munro Charlene went trick or treating with her brother Robert Jnr who was 12 years old. After trick or treating Charlene and Robert went to the Carousel Bar on North Pier where there was a disco for young people.  There is a photograph of Charlene (typically of this twisty case it is disputed if the person in the photo is Charlene.  Let us assume it is Charlene for the moment.) It is striking how happy Charlene looks.  
The details of Charlene’s life make it difficult to believe that she could be happy… but it was the only life that she had known. Charlene was raking in money.  She probably had more money go through her hands in a day than Bob and Karen would have in a week. Compared with earlier years Charlene might have felt that she was taking control of her own life.  She had more money than anybody else she knew.   

That was Friday night and the next day, Saturday 1st November 2003, was Charlene’s last day alive.   

Saturday 1st, November, Charlene woke up at 10.00am.   

She went to see a friend who lived nearby and then she went to see her sister Becki who lived in a flat at Eccleston Road with John McNally. The three of them John, Becki and Charlene went to the Carousel Bar on North Pier.  Both girls had been banned so the three went to the arcades.  Becki was banned from the arcades as well, but the ban was intermittently enforced.  At 2.15 they split up.  Charlene went to see two of her friends. At 3.00 pm Charlene met Ronnie Fraser at the Mecca Bingo Hall.  Ronnie gave her £70.00.  This was seen by Becki.  The Bingo Hall is in sight of Becki and John’s flat. 

Is this the full story? How likely is it that Charlene would meet Ronnie Fraser at a spot that Becki could observe the meeting? Are Becki and Charlene and John McNally operating a side-gig?   

Becki had also been given money by Ronnie Fraser: she claims that no sexual activity took place.  We also learn that Charlene had previously met Ronnie Fraser in Becki’s presence and that she had waited while they went into an alley. Becki does not want Charlene to be alone with Ronnie Fraser. 

Becki first claims not to know who Ronnie Fraser is.  Later she says she thinks he may be Charlene’s killer. John McNally and Bob Downes encourage Becki to keep Ronnie Fraser’s name to herself. Why?  The police are in a long quest for “Thornton Ronnie”, when the family could have told them. It is a long time before Becki admits to knowing Ronnie Fraser.   

One possibility is that the family think that Ronnie Fraser could be Charlene’s killer and they do not want him caught because he is connected to the family and in a position to spill the beans.    

25 minutes after meeting Ronnie Fraser Becki and Charlene are on CCTV for nine seconds near McDonalds in town. In a typical piece of Karen behaviour she says she is going to sue the police because this evidence was missed for years, she is probably forgetting that she withheld evidence from the police. Charlene and Becki go to the arcades and to McDonalds. Then back to Buchanan Street and at 6.45 they meet Karen who is in Church Street giving out leaflets for an Indian Takeaway. 

This meeting is a central event in Karen’s book “Sold in Secret,” and is an oft-repeated tale.  On a quiet Newsday Karen can be relied on to fill a page with an account of her last meeting with Charlene.   

There are varying versions of the meeting. In the first version Karen sees Becki and Charlene coming towards the Winter Gardens from Abingdon Street.  It would be normal for Charlene and Becki to look in the alley to see if any of their friends were knocking about.  In a later version Karen has the girls walking towards her from the Winter Gardens on Church Street.   

Karen’s version is that Charlene then rang up her friend.  Becki left. The two friends arrived on a bus… and Karen kissed Charlene who went off with her two friends.  This meeting took place around 6.45 pm.  It is central to Karen’s story, the pivotal event in Sold in Secret and in many newspaper accounts.  Whatever else you think Karen has captured the narrative.   

Given the time frame: is it possible that Charlene rang a friend at her home who then got changed and then contacted her friend who got changed and they both got on a bus and arrived within about 15 minutes?  

More likely Charlene rang one of the phone boxes outside the Post Office on Abingdon Road that the gang used as “their” phone. 

The two girls were in town and probably in or near the alley since it is only yards away from the phone boxes. 

Charlene spends a short time with her two friends and then says she is going to John McNally’s.  At 9.00 Charlene is seen with a local working girl walking towards the railway station.  The railway station is a site of drug-taking and sexual activity. 

Charlene meets her friend and briefly goes to Buchanan Street and then to the alleyway off Abingdon Street.  Takeaway staff give the girls vodka. 

The girls then go to the Carousel Bar on North Pier where a man buys Charlene two drinks.  He is a friend of her father, he says. Could that man have been the elusive Ronnie Fraser?  

The girls go back to the alley.  Investigators say that the last evidence for Charlene being alive is in the alley at 10.30pm.  Charlene’s friend says that they met local takeaway workers and that a man from another takeaway asked Charlene if she would come to his flat at 7.00 pm the next day.   

Nigel Lloyd now says he spoke to Charlene in the alley.  More about Nigel Lloyd in a later piece. Nigel Lloyd knows the Downes family including Charlene. 

Talbot Square heavily policed.  There is CCTV everywhere and if an incident will be attended by police, often waiting in vans, within 30 seconds.   

The CCTV does not confirm the route between the Carousel and the alleyway off Abingdon Street that Charlene’s friend says they followed. 

Ronay Crompton in a brilliant analysis puts an alternative that accounts for many anomalies.  Is it true?  You decide. 

Ronay takes as a starting point the fact that Karen refused to disclose her whereabouts after she finished work at 9.45pm on Friday.  She persisted for a year. Investigators threatened to charge her for “perverting the course of justice” by not disclosing her whereabouts at a critical time. 

A critical time?  6.45pm was not a critical time.   

Finally, Karen disclosed that she was met by John McNally, who walked her home. 

Both John McNally and Bob Downes say that Charlene was present at this final meeting as was Charlene’s friend.   

There is no overwhelming reason for Karen not to admit this. It does put Karen and Charlene together within almost half an hour of the final sighting of Charlene. 

Let us suppose that Ronay is right.  What is the supporting evidence?  The investigators must have a compelling reason to disbelieve Karen.  Possibly CCTV. 

Second there is John McNally’s and Bob Downes’ evidence. These two are Karen’s husband and her lover, they have no motive to misrepresent events. 

Third: when Bob Downes learns that Charlene has quite a sum of money, he goes straight to the friend of Charlene’s who was with Charlene at the final meeting with Karen.    

Charlene had been with two other friends earlier at 6.45.  Charlene only had a small sum of money at that time. Bob’s information reflects the situation at 9.45 pm, not the situation at 6.45pm. 

Finally, the route from the pier to Church Street explains why Charlene and her friend did not follow the obvious route from North Pier to Abingdon Street and why they were not picked up on CCTV. 

The final meeting between Karen and Charlene was around 9.45 pm. 

Why would Karen want to mislead investigators? 

First, Karen did not want to associate Charlene or her friend with the alley off Abingdon Street.  This pre-supposes that Karen knew about the alleyway.  Church Street outside the Winter Gardens is in line of sight with the alleyway. Karen already had seen the “death threat” letter accusing Charlene of going with “Pakis.” 

This is not conclusive it is a suggestion.  It is unlikely that Charlene was the first member of her family to be explore the monetary benefits of sexual activity.  Second: the encounter between Charlene and Karen, if the hypothesis is correct, was angry and confrontational.  Charlene showed Karen a wad of cash and said something like: “I can get all the money I want.” 

Karen was miffed.  Here she was getting £20.00 for giving out leaflets in the wind and the rain and Charlene could get as much money as she wanted.  It might also be a reminder that Karen’s pulling power was waning.   

Karen said something like: “I’m going to tell your dad about this.” Knowing that if she did Charlene would be beaten.   

Charlene said: “If you tell my dad, I’m not coming home.” 

And she did not.  

This varies from the Disneyfied version in Sold in Secret and repeated numerous times.   

Finally, Karen might not want to disclose her relationship with John McNally.  Did Becki know they were having affair?  No idea. The internal dynamics of the Downes family make the Borgias look like bumpkins. 

Imagine this from Karen’s point of view.  Her last encounter with Charlene is hostile and contains a threat.  Worse still it gives Charlene a motive for not returning home which may be a critical factor in her disappearance.  It increases Charlene’s vulnerability. This is something Karen will not want to disclose. 

One of Charlene’s friends recalls that in the alley she had a blanket and said she was going to “sleep out.”  Imagine you are Charlene; you are afraid to go home.  It is cold and wet. Somebody offers you shelter… 

This account explains the low level of concern when Charlene does not appear on Sunday. In Sold in Secret Karen explains her distress when Charlene does not return, but Karen had given Charlene a motive not to return home. 

Nothing is as it seems. 

Is Ronay right?   

Reflecting on Charlene’s last days, it is striking how many persons of interest crop up.   

Ronnie Fraser.  I think that he was the main suspect as far as the Downes family were concerned and that is why they sought to dissociate him from the investigation. 

Ray Munro.  He had a hostile relationship with Charlene. 

Some combination of the Downes family.   

John McNally 

Glen Pagett (have not discussed Glen much but he was a close friend of the Downes and he is said to have given Charlene money.  He may have believed (like Taffy) that he had a relationship with Charlene.   

Taffy 

Whoever was arranging Charlene’s visits to Blackburn and Manchester, or the people she encountered there.   

The takeaway workers and especially the man who summoned Charlene and asked to meet her at 7.00pm on Sunday. 

Nigel Lloyd. 

There must have been an encounter on the Saturday that we do not know about because Charlene had £70.00 when she met Karen at the last meeting, but she had spent almost all the money Ronnie Fraser had given her.  An unknown actor?  

Not to mention other contacts that Charlene had that we do not know about. 

Charlene made £140 that Saturday.  As much as Karen would earn in seven days.  By the standards of the Downes family Charlene was wealthy. 

On that Saturday night the following people were somewhere in Blackpool (probably): Ronnie Fraser, Bob Downes, John McNally, Karen Downes, Nigel Lloyd, Bob Downes and (probably) Glen Pagett, Taffy… the takeaway workers and possibly the people who trafficked Chalene.  

Think of Blackpool Town Centre as a dark pool.  Many things are moving, looking for love, looking for company, looking for oblivion. And many of these things are harmless or innocent.  It is 10.30 pm on Saturday 1st November and something is moving in that dark pool… 

All Charlene’s friends dissociate themselves from the alleyway.  This is understandable and the reputation of the alleyway is probably exaggerated.  Some of the parents of Charlene’s friends are intensely hostile to investigation. Charlene’s friends like Charlene, were children and unable to consent.   

The Murder of Charlene Downes: The Murder of Paige Chivers

 

The Murder of Charlene Downes:  The disappearance of Paige Chivers. 

The disappearance of Paige Chivers has some common features with the disappearance and murder of Charlene Downes. 

Since the perpetrators were caught it might give us some clues as to the kind of person that killed Charlene Downes.  Not least the trial of Iyad and Mohammed and the subsequent fall out over the nature of the investigation of Iyad and Mohammed which had revealed shortcomings made the investigators ultra-cautious before risking a trial.  The perpetrators were fully aware of the methods used by investigators so that they took steps to frustrate the investigators. 

Two girls aged 14 and 15, both with chaotic home lives disappear in one town within four years of one another.  One perpetrator?  Or is one perpetrator imitating the earlier perpetrator?   

It is August 23, 2007.  Paige Chivers aged 15 is in trouble.  Her father Frank Chivers says he will murder her when he sees her.  Money is missing and Frank blames Paige. He says he will kill her. Frank has been violent towards Paige, over her drug-taking, but Frank is a drug and alcohol user, so he is not leading by example. 

Paige puts her stuff into two shopping bags and leaves the family home.  She goes to the bus-stop. 

Blackpool is a big town, but it is not really.  My colleague saw Paige Chivers, on a bus, shortly before she died.  

Paige’s mother had died earlier that year.  Paige’s father Frank sometimes blamed Paige and he was sometimes violent and often drunk.  Paige and her brother Jack were largely neglected whilst Frank tried to cope with his grief. 

Because of behavioural problems Paige did not attend her school. She used drugs, mainly amphetamines and cannabis, and alcohol.  She claimed to be “the hardest girl in Bispham.”  She was promiscuous. 

And she was last seen at a bus-stop on 23rd August 2007. 

The resemblances to Charlene are striking.  A heavy-handed father, a chaotic lifestyle, a lack of structure in her life, her age, the fact that she disappeared.   

Paige’s disappearance was not immediately reported and was only reported, like Charlene, after three days.  A cock-up meant that Paige’s age was wrongly recorded as 45, and the error was not corrected until September 7.  This error gave the perpetrator time to clean up the crime scene.  The case could have been resolved quickly. 

This led to Lancashire Police submitting themselves to an IPCC procedure.   

It may come as a surprise to learn that the early investigation was led by DS Jan Beasant.  It had not yet become clear, through the IPCC report, what a world class shambles the Iyad and Mohammed investigation had been.  Iyad and Mohammed were still in prison when Paige disappeared. The police in Blackpool had not processed the implications of the failure of the trial and many still thought that Iyad and Mohammed were guilty.  Iyad was charged with rape five times in the aftermath of the trial.  But none of the cases came to trial. Coincidence? 

The police did not know if the disappearance of Paige Chivers and Charlene Downes were connected.  They had an open mind.   

Two girls similar age disappear in a town within 4 years of each other.  What are the chances?  But like many things it is not that simple. The second disappearance could be influenced by the first. 

Amongst people who did not have an open mind were the Far Right.  The disappearance of Paige Chivers was linked immediately to that of Charlene Downes. This was not entirely unjustified.  Both girls had restless lives and they may have both visited the same take-aways.  The main argument of the Far Right was that of similarity. 

This is my opportunity to reproduce my favourite Far-Right work by the wonderful Margaret Walker, a grandmother who was given a lifetime asbo for sending 500 racist and threatening letters anonymously.  Her views include that Scottish people are “scum”, and that Pakistanis are “scroungers.” She was briefly defended by the BNP on freedom of speech grounds, but she ended up in that rare category: “too loopy for the BNP.”  But her work has a strange beauty.  One would like to be in her head for one minute… one minute would be enough. 

Have the Far-Right got a point: is grooming being ignored if it involves “Moslems.”?  The Far-Right are only interested in grooming for racist reasons.  When the narrative involved mainly Catholic and Protestant Clergy the did not have rallies against Christians.  If the EDL were an “equal opportunity” organisation determined to root out all grooming and child abuse… well good luck with that.   

Perhaps no group of young people are more under stress than Moslems… torn between a hedonistic drug-fueled lifestyle of their white contemporaries and the conservative values of traditional Moslems.  I met a guy who had a PhD in something or other and his father grew up a peasant farmer.  He had an arranged marriage.  When he told his father he was seeing a white girl his father had a stroke.  Imagine the tensions and the temptations. 

A success of the Far Right is to put “Girl in a kebab,” and “Moslem Grooming Gang,” into the national consciousness.  

It is not only the Far Right but the broad Right that accepts these stories.  “Girl in a kebab,” and “Moslem grooming gang,” brilliantly capture Right Wing thinking. The Star’s headline: “GIRL, 14, ABUSED… THEN SLICED UP FOR KEBABS,” (Nov 2, 2013) sums.  The two “facts” in the headline are speculative but are taking as the starting point for a further point: “Paige Chivers, 15, who went missing from the same area.”  It depends on what you mean by: “area.”   Paige was last seen in Ashfield Road Bispham, and Charlene in an alley off Abingdon Street.  Most people would not think of it as the same area.   

This is the only story most of the public hear and it has a spurious reality.  It evokes emotions even if it is not true.  A lot of things in the world are held together by things that are not true but are believed.   

The Far Right have no trouble at all believing that girls are being groomed and murdered and put into kebabs by Moslems. 

One of the oddities about the case is that the investigators knew who the perpetrator was from the get-go. But knowing and proving… 

Here is DS Jan Beasant: “I do not view such a relationship as appropriate.” She is referring to Paige’s relationship with a man aged 50. Robert Ewing. 

DS Jan Beasant… soon to be fired for her role in the trial of Iyad and Mohammed.  Then to be reinstated.  Then to take legal action against Lancashire Police because she felt unable to work since she had been fired.  A marmite kind of person but you cannot fault her plain speaking here. 

The long investigation of Paige’s disappearance is painful because the investigators had a pretty good idea from very early on who the perpetrator was.  The long shadow of the Iyad and Mohammed trial inhibited the investigators. 

Paige’s case like Charlene’s was a “no body” murder.  These are the hardest possible cases to resolve. 

The main perpetrator was clever, shrewd, manipulative… not entirely lacking in a kind of charisma.  He could be beguiling.  Let’s not get carried away I have met him, and I don’t recall him.  Blackpool is a big town, but it is not.  If you have lived in Blackpool for some time, you will have passed the main characters. 

Paige is 15 years old, like Charlene she is afraid to go home because of her father.  She stands at a bus-stop in Ashfield Road.   

And she meets her old friend Robert Ewing.  Robert Ewing has a flat in Kincraig Road, which is an open house for young girls.  Paige often goes there.  She has been introduced by her friend, probably her closest friend, Tiffany Bell.  Tiffany Bell is four years older than Paige.  She is the former girlfriend of Paige’s half-brother.  Tiffany sometimes sleeps in the same bed as Robert Ewing but says that they do not have a sexual relationship.  At his place it is liberty hall.  Girls take drugs, discuss their sex-lives, get drunk.  Paige is seen in front of Ewing’s house in her underwear clearly drunk or drugged or both. 

If this happened in Fleetwood, Robert would desist or go.  Probably without the option of desisting.  But this is not Fleetwood.  This is Blackpool where a drunk fifteen-year-old girl dancing in her underwear on the lawn in front of Ewing’s flat is normal for Blackpool.     

According to Robert Ewing he met Paige and took her to his place and then walked her to the bus-stop and she went into town. 

As DS Jan Beasant implied this is a worrying relationship.  We assume that Robert Ewing is entertains young girls exactly because he conceals any sexual intent.  He becomes “one of the girls.” 

Robert Ewing is arrested, and his place searched.  And Tiffany Bell is also arrested. This is a surprise because she had been Paige’s closest friend.  However, the two might have had a falling-out (no idea over what) and don’t seem to have spoken for months.  Were the investigators thinking that if the argument were bitter enough Tiffany might have aided Robert Ewing?  No idea, much in this case is not available. 

The search of Robert Ewing’s place revealed nothing.  Well, it did reveal something.  A piece of carpet had been replaced and three tiny blood spots, too small to be of forensic significance. 

Robert Ewing’s flat is forensically clean.  He explains that he has OCD and compulsively cleans everything with bleach.  

Think about the investigators.  The have a prime suspect but no evidence.  Robert Ewing has served 12 months for sexual offences involving a thirteen-year-old girl.  It is almost certain that he has been questioned in the Charlene Downes investigation.  And there he is, denying everything.  And no proof. 

The investigators know one thing.  If Robert Ewing disposed of Paige Chivers’ body, he had to have help.   

Robert Ewing did not have a car and even in Blackpool you do not walk far with a corpse without drawing attention.  And Robert Ewing has a friend, Gareth Dewhurst.   

Gareth Dewhurst is always described as “weird.”  A colleague went for a drink with Gareth and a group of lads.  Gareth was called Rusty because of his ginger hair.  During the evening Gareth opened the door to the ladies’ toilets and shouted: “Whores.”  Not normal even for Blackpool. 

Gareth Dewhurst has a job at Fleetwood Nautical College. He is obsessed with Nazis and describes himself as a Neo Nazi.  He is very fond of marijuana.   

He goes to British National Party meetings in Blackpool where he can meet with like-minded individuals.   

And here he meets Bob Ewing.  Bob Ewing can be enchanting, and Gareth Dewhurst has not got a peer-group.  They can discuss Nazis and so on.  Part of Gareth’s isolation is that his often-referenced weirdness is that other people do not understand him. But Robert Ewing gets it.  He has a friend. 

Robert Ewing has qualities that Gareth admires, he has a military background and a tactical understanding. Robert is thorough.  Robert can present himself in a genial slightly bumbling way.  But because Gareth talks to Robert, he sees that this is not the true Robert Ewing.  The true Robert Ewing is as cold as ice.   

From Gareth’s point of view, it is no disadvantage that Robert’s flat is visited by young girls who take drugs and drink and discuss their sex-lives. Robert listens and joins in like a bland man of the world.  

Gareth is a little bit afraid of Robert because he has a sense of the menace behind the joviality. 

The investigators work out that if Robert has moved the body, he must have had help from somebody with a car.  The investigators never had any other serious suspect except Robert Ewing. 

Gareth and Robert are arrested and questioned again. 

The opportunity is taken to plant covert listening devices in Robert’s flat.  The biggest fear for the investigators is that the whole story will be a replay of the omnishambles of the investigation into Iyad and Mohammed which had exposed catastrophic failures.  The investigators are very cautious.   

As it happens nothing much worthwhile is recorded.  This is because Robert and Gareth are innocent.  Or it is because Robert has paid very close attention to the trial of Iyad and Mohammed and he knows two things: it is hard to convict without a body and using covert listening devices is a technique of investigators. 

There are times when the transcripts are read in court when it sounds as if Robert is taunting the investigators or playing the role of an innocent man for the benefit of the listeners: “Where the hell is that Paige Chivers? I’ll give her missing when she turns up.” This is Robert speaking to himself and his unseen listeners. 

Robert and Gareth attend protests about Moslem grooming gangs and linking the disappearance of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers.  

The investigation team are certain that Robert and Gareth are the perpetrators, but they have no evidence. 

Gareth Dewhurst is a prolific user of marijuana, and he finds a lady friend. His lady friend, Mary Washer, has a son called Michael Washer.  Michael is fifteen or sixteen.  While his mother is supposedly drunk Gareth and Michael retire for marijuana session.  When they left the mundane state of normal life Gareth tells Michael a story.  Gareth has a friend, and this friend is not a nice person.  One evening his friend rings Gareth and asks him to come round.  (The next bit makes uncomfortable reading.)  His friend has the body of Paige Chivers.  Gareth says, and the imagination fails, that his friend made him have sex with the corpse of Paige Chivers. Then the body is taken in the Gareth’s car. 

Michael says that the conversation is repeated.  Michael asks where the body is and Gareth says he cannot say.  Gareth is afraid of his friend. 

Mary Washer also hears the conversation. 

Gareth Dewhurst and Mary Washer fall out.  Mary Washer and Jack go to the police. 

But it is hearsay evidence.  There is still no physical evidence. 

Gareth Dewhurst realises what he has done in confessing to Michael Washer.  And he is not pleased.  And Robert Ewing will not be pleased.   

Gareth and Robert set about intimidating the Washers.  Gareth attacks Michael with a rusty machete.  The Washers have their doors and windows damaged, and they receive threatening letters which have Gareth’s fingerprints on them. 

Frank Chivers meanwhile is not thriving.  Consider the situation: Paige left home when Frank threatened to kill her.  And she has disappeared.  He loved his daughter, but they were wrecked by addictions, violence, neglect.  He blames himself but this does not improve his behaviour. He uses alcohol, marijuana and heroin to dull the pain.  He does silly things like attacking his fiancee’s home in an argument.  He is jailed for assault and traffic offences.  Frank Chivers and Robert Ewing have been acquaintances and it may be that Frank even welcomed Robert’s attention to Paige.  Robert is interested in Frank and keeps a file on him: “Frank Chivers: Blackpool’s hardest man.” 

2013, Frank Chivers is living at Walter Robinson Court: “The Layton Flats.” Robert Ewing used to live in that area.  Frank Chivers is using heroin and he is in an argument with Sean Conlon over money. Remember that Frank’s final threat to Paige was over money.  Sean Conlon kills Frank Chivers and then goes through a charade to claim that he did not.  Sean Conlon is imprisoned.  It is the 11th August 2013. Hard to imagine the pain of Frank’s last years. 

There is a time when both Paige Chivers and Frank Chivers are being investigated as murder victims. You read a sentence: “Paige’s father Frank, was murdered in an unrelated incident.” 

The net is closing on Robert and Gareth.  

It seems beyond belief that investigators took seven years to bring Robert and Gareth to justice.  A considerable factor was the paralyzing fear of repeating the Iyad and Mohammed trial.  This meant that everything had to be done correctly.  And there was the lack of physical evidence. Washer’s evidence could be attacked: it was hearsay, Michael was intoxicated, there might be antagonism between the family and Gareth. 

Gareth’s behaviour convinces investigators that he was involved.  Why seek to intimidate Michael and Mary Washer unless they were a threat? 

Gareth did behave in some unusual ways. One occasion he turned up at the Police Station in Bispham and asked to speak to detectives investigating Charlene Downes. He said he thought he was a suspect and he wanted to talk about it. But it was no confession. The intensity of the investigation and the knowledge that they were the only suspects was making Gareth desperate. 

Robert Ewing also began or accelerated a series of ploys. One was to seek to bolster the notion that Paige was still alive by “sightings.”  Another was to implicate other suspects: one was a man who was dying. Bob claimed that he had “confessed.”  

The investigation team were not for a moment misled by any of this. It confirmed to then that Robert and Gareth were involved in Paige’s murder and disappearance. 

But there was no evidence from the covert listening devices. One more piece of physical evidence could take it over the line.  

The decisive factor was that the investigation was taken over in 2013 by DCI Mark Rothwell.  Lancashire Police were going to give it their best shot.   

Robert and Gareth were arrested and Robert’s flat was forensically searched again. Forensic techniques had improved considerable since 2007. There were three small spots of blood. The blood belonged to Paige Chivers.  Robert Ewing said that it came from when she had come into his flat with a small cut. The forensic evidence said that it did not match that kind of injury. 

Intriguingly, besides Robert and Gareth, another Bispham man was arrested. Who was he? It does raise the ghost of a suspicion that there may be more to this tale than we know. And what happened to this man? We never hear of him again. It is hard to believe that at his stage the investigation team arrested somebody with no involvement. If he were marginally involved in some way the investigators may have felt that it was better not to involve him in a trial which would only further complicate an already difficult case.  

Finally the investigators have got the case over the line and you can bet your house that the Chief Constable of Lancashire and the Crown Prosecution Service have gone over every bit of evidence.     

“Girl in a kebab,” well now the papers have a headline to September 25th, Daily Mirror: “Man charged with having sex with corpse of missing schoolgirl.” 

The media were there. Robert and Gareth may well have occupied the same places in Preston Crown Court as Iyad and Mohammed the “Moslem Grooming Gang” against whom they had demonstrated whilst grooming and murdering Paige Chivers.  

The prosecution had a weak case. There was the evidence of the blood spots, but what was the degree of certainty that the forensic interpretation was correct? There was Gareth’s confession to Michael Washer. There was (and this was most telling) the way that Robert and Gareth had sought to pervert the course of justice, intimidate witnesses, and lay false trails.  Although no single piece of evidence was decisive it did add up to behaviour that implied guilt. 

And that is what the jury found. No majority verdict the jury found the pair guilty.  Except that Gareth was not found guilty of having sex with Paige’s body. Is it possible that it might have been included in the charges to bias the jury against the defendants? 

There was one interesting piece of evidence by Paige’s brother Jack.  He claimed he had seen Paige in her house in September.  This reminds us of puzzling claims that Charlene was seen after her disappearance.  Jack’s life was chaotic… mistake? 

When asked why he did not immediately contact police regarding Gareth’s confession Michael Washer said: “It is not the done thing in our circles.” 

An interesting point came out during the evidence.  Robert Ewing had attempted to commit suicide.  He had used a car and inhaled exhaust fumes.  He had been rescued but a doctor said that there was a possibility that he had brain damage. Some of Robert’s behaviour: his keeping of files and lists, a certain compulsiveness, might be a result of brain damage and short-term memory loss.   

The pair were found guilty and there must have been relief amongst the investigation team.  Robert Ewing was sentenced to 32 years and Gareth to 8 years.  Gareth’s sentence might light look but there was a feeling that he had been manipulated by Robert. Left to himself he would have been a pot smoking Neo Nazi but no real threat to anybody.  He would not have done as he did without Robert and very likely Robert would not have acted as he did without Gareth. 

We will never know what really happened.  My guess is that Robert was under threat from Paige.  When he revealed himself not as a kindly uncle but as a determined sexual predator Paige threatened him with exposure.  Paige Chivers was a tough kid.  After the verdict it was revealed that Robert had served 12 months for a sexual offence against a thirteen-year-old girl.  Robert was not going to prison again if he could avoid it.   

Something of Robert’s state of mind emerged in the covert recordings and was referred to by the judge. “You don’t mess with me.  Quick hammer over the fucking head, then you will be sorry.” 

Another haunting piece of evidence was that about a week before Paige’s disappearance Robert had rung Bispham Police Station.  He said that a troubled young girl who he did not know very well had come round and he asked what he should do.  The reply he got convinced him that the Police were not all that interested in such matters. 

Other evidence showed that Robert had an inappropriate sexual interest in Paige.  There was a picture of Paige with an arrow pointing down from her stomach and the word: “Sex.” 

Robert Ewing also had a file that he was hoping to sell to a newspaper where he recorded his “uncovering” of the real murderer.  Presumably this was one of the “false trails” with which he hoped to confuse the police. 

And there the tale almost ends except that there was a further trial for Robert Ewing.  The details are unpleasant.   

The case goes back to the 1990s and involves a young boy and girl.  The boy was originally five and the girl eight.  Robert would urinate on the boy and defecate on his bed.  The girl he would almost drown.  He was found guilty of child cruelty and sexual offences regarding the boy sentenced to a further 14 years.  The judge has a good grasp of Robert’s character: he could be “charming and beguiling, “behind closed doors he is a “brutal, perverted and sadistic bully, “some would call him:”evil incarnate.”  

These two children.  Robert Ewing had access to them for a considerable time.  Could they be relatives or his own children? 

On the covert recording Robert says: “I am a Neo-Nazi but I’m not a weirdo.” Not sure we go along with your thinking there, Robert. 

1995, Robert Ewing served a year for sexual offences involving a thirteen-year-old girl.  If we put together a quick CV: 1984, suicide attempt: 1990s, abuse of children.  1995, abuse of 13-year-old girl. 

Robert followed the well-worn route for released sexual offenders to Blackpool. 

The murder of Paige Chivers was connected by the BNP to the murder of Charlene Downes.  The connection was that Robert Ewing carefully studied the trial of Iyad and Mohammed and learnt enough about investigation techniques to avoid capture for some time. 

It is intriguing to wonder if Robert Ewing had any connection with Bob Downes.  They were of similar age, and both had a military background.  Robert Ewing used to drink at the Ramsden Arms which was a home from home for Bob Downes. 

But there is no evidence.  We do know that Robert Ewing met Karen Downes through the Justice for Charlene Campaign.  And we know that Robert Ewing met Gareth Dewhurst through the BNP meetings in Blackpool. 

There is a temptation to think that Robert Ewing might have some involvement with Charlene Downes but that will have been investigated thoroughly.  It is more likely that the murder of Paige Chivers was imitative of the murder of Charlene Downes. 

Paige Chivers and Charlene Downes were both expelled from school, and this escalated their dangerous behaviour and made them more vulnerable. Charlene and Paige were in urgent need of structure in their lives. Charlene and Paige were two of a legion of lost girls, young and vulnerable. How best to protect them? 

Does the murder of Paige tell us anything about the murder of Charlene?  Only possibilities. Paige’s murder was probably not planned: it came about as a result of the threat of exposure. Robert weighed the value of Paige’s maybe 70 years of remaining life against the slight possibility that he might face jail: for Robert it was no choice and down came the hammer. The fear that Charlene would expose an offender is a possibility.  If you calculate the probable motivations, it is high on the list together with accidental murder. 

  V b 

The murder of Charlene Downes: the investigation of Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi

The murder of Charlene Downes 

The investigation of Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi 

November 2004 

The investigation of the disappearance of Charlene Downes had been going on for a year.  The investigation team were unhappy.  The Downes family and their friends were concealing information. The investigation team believed that there was a grooming gang operating from 109 Buchanan Street.  But they could not make any progress.  They accused Bob Downes of pimping his children.  Bob Downes the cross-dressing head of the household did what he does… he played dumb.  It is hard to say whether he has a learning difficulty or whether that is a  mask he puts on in difficult situations.  You may believe he is not the sharpest, but could you withstand aggressive interrogation by investigators for a year and reveal nothing that you did not intend?   

The investigators know that the Downes family are concealing information and they believe they know some of what is being concealed. They believe that if the Downes family and their friends could not tell the truth without condemning themselves.  

Among the suspects is Bob Downes.  But 109 Buchanan Street has been searched forensically. The question is could Bob Downes kill Charlene and spirit the body away? It looks improbable. There is something odd about Bob’s claims for the Saturday night.  Bob says he was so drunk he cannot recall where he was.  Now suppose Bob had nothing to do directly with Charlene’s disappearance but that he was up to something perhaps connected with his unsettled sexuality. 

Could some combination of family members be responsible?  Given that the Downes family and their friends can wrap themselves in an impenetrable cloak it is possible but improbable. 

An outstanding suspect is Ronnie Fraser.  Everybody knows him but nobody can find him.  This is because Bob Downes and John McNally want to keep him out of the investigation. Is this because they cannot control him as they can the other friends of the Downes family? 

And there is Ray Munro.  He and Charlene had a sweary disagreement.  He had been involved in an incident with one of Charlene’s young friends.  He has a history of child abuse. 

There are the hundred or so contacts Charlene has.  Roughly split between older white men and take-away workers.   

On a different scale there are the two visits Charlene has made to Burnley and Blackburn and Preston.  She was driven to Burnley and Blackburn in a green BMW with two Middle Eastern looking occupants. the locations and given an envelope of money. This is organised trafficking. Charlene is going into business on her own account. This is Charlene being marketed on a business basis rather than casually exploited. Somebody knows of her, can contact her, arrange a fee and drive Charlene there and back. And make a profit on the transaction.  Hint of organised crime here.  The man who arranges that: what else does he do? Is there an overlap between grooming in Blackpool and more organised trafficking.  Iyad and his mate Chico both live in Blackburn and they are both involved in grooming and drug-use.   

Is Charlene in league with Becki and John McNally? This will not go down well with Bob: money is being diverted from his alcohol purchasing.  Who was Charlene’s contact?  He was higher up the food chain than the takeaway workers of the older white men. If we assume it is the same man, we know that he knows Blackpool well enough to spot Charlene as vulnerable.  He also knows of a market for young girls in Burnley and Blackburn.  And he can arrange with these groups and Charlene.  He is organised. There may have been visits that we do not know about. 

The Downes family conceal information to avoid police action.  In the process of concealing information, they attract suspicion. 

If investigators are allowed to do so it might have been better to tell all the family and friends that they would not be prosecuted in return for full disclosure. They may have done that to extract admissions from Taffy and the two prisoners on remand who admitted paying Charlene for sexual acts. Or they may have gone outside the rulebook. Can you imagine how the two remand prisoners were persuaded to confess to paying Charlene for a sexual act? It can only have been through threat or reward. 

Getting information out of the Downes family was like extracting molars from an unanesthetized polar bear. 

Becki Downes said that she did not recognize Ronnie Fraser from photographs.  But he was a pal of her father, he had given Becki money although she says no sexual activity took place and he had given Charlene money within Becki’s sight. What if Becki and John McNally arranged the meeting.  Becki attracts hostile comment along the lines: “she is not saying all she knows.” Remember that she was 16 and what she had been through. She has left home at 15 to live with the much older John McNally.  You can picture for yourself her motives. Becki is just as much a victim as Charlene. She knows more than she is saying.  But what does she know? Becki could have been murdered, that it was Charlene and not Becki, is a matter of chance. 

Becki finally confesses to knowing Ronnie Fraser and she says he might have killed Charlene.  She has concealed this because Bob Downes and John McNally have told her to, John McNally and Bob Downes control the flow of information from family and friends.    

The investigation team are furious about grooming associated with mostly Asian takeaways.  Attitudes have changed and in the early days police would talk about: 

” The naughty girls club.” These were underage girls who hung around with older men. Often these girls would have fallen out with their families and would be vulnerable. Drugs, alcohol and gifts could be used. These girls were too young-looking to go into pubs or nightclubs. Imagine the emotions in the investigation team: rage, envy, protectiveness, racism. There was a collective will to hurt the groomers associated with takeaways. 

An investigation that is not going anywhere. 

And in November 2004 about a year after Charlene’s disappearance an officer in another investigation says that an informant has told a story about somebody that knows something about Charlene Downes. 

The informant is David Cassidy, aged 40, and he says that he has talked to Tariq Albattikhi who is the brother of Iyad Albattikhi.  Iyad Albattikhi managed Funny Boyz, a takeaway opposite and named for Funny Girls on Dickson Road.  At Funny Girls there is a transvestite cabaret with dancers and compere.  It is a must visit for stag and hen nights. 

David Cassidy says that Iyad and Tariq have argued and that he has heard Tariq say that his brother Iyad killed Charlene Downes and that Mohammed Raveshi, a business partner, helped dispose of the body. 

David Cassidy owns a slot machine arcade and arranges machines for takeaways. He knows most of the takeaways and the staff. His work colleague is called Mohammed Zakrea. Mohammed Zakrea is usually called “Little Mo.”  He is a comical character: he seems to ask for money in any encounter.  He will say anything for money. 

David Cassidy tells his story to investigators and the investigators listen. 

This story, if true. will take the investigation in a new direction.  At this point the investigators have four lines of enquiry: the family or somebody connected to the family through the spectacular number of sex criminals who visit the house, one of Charlene’s contacts, takeaway workers who are grooming young girls and the mysterious contact who has driven Charlene to meetings in other towns. 

The family and friends are impenetrable, the contacts… well how do you locate them?  Excuse me sir, do you know Charlene Downes, you know the fourteen-year-old girl who has vanished, and what was the nature of your relationship?   Added to that many take-away workers may be illegal immigrants and use “British” names. The investigation is hampered by the obstacle that obscures all of Charlene’s actions: nobody can talk about here with incriminating themselves. There is no incentive to openness. The investigation teems with shadowy characters. 

The takeaways where the girls in “The Naughty Girl’s Club,” gather, these are another case altogether. Takeaway managers can be identified and questioned and Iyad Albattikhi is high profile. He gets on everybody’s wick.  Arrogant, loud-mouthed, not respectful to police, sexually hyperactive, using his premises for grooming girls involving drugs and alcohol. What is there not to dislike? 

The investigation team are not displeased that he is a suspect.  A new line of enquiry energizes the team, suddenly they have a target and a sense of purpose. And the higher management is pleased because the investigation is draining resources without yielding anything worthwhile.  Imagine interviewing the Downes family… 

The other suspect Mohammed Raveshi is a person who has history with the police.  

The investigation team are predisposed to believe that the suspects are of interest. 

David Cassidy’s story is that he has heard Iyad’s brother, Tariq say that he had a fall out with Iyad and during this fall out Iyad had confessed to murdering Charlene.  He says that he has heard from Little Mo who has seen Mohammed Raveshi in bed with three young white girls one of who was Charlene Downes.  He has also heard from Little Mo that Mohammed regularly takes young white girls home. 

Little Mo is questioned and confirms David Cassidy’s tale. 

David Cassidy elaborates… he has heard that Charlene Downes performed oral sex on Iyad and that Charlene has been put into kebabs. 

That would get the investigation team’s attention.   

Out of the blue and not as a result of investigations they have two prime suspects. And the two prime suspects fit into the category of the kind of people who might be responsible for Charlene’s murder. 

David Cassidy is assessed as a “reliable witness.”  He is enrolled as a covert human intelligence source… a CHIS.  He is told he must not bring up the name of Charlene Downes or ask leading questions.  If Charlene’s name is mentioned, he can continue the conversation. 

The investigation team have not got a suitable recording device and other sources in the police refuse the lend them one, so they go out and buy one.  

David Cassidy armed with his newly bought recorder concealed under his jacket is sent off to gain covert intelligence for the investigation team. He comes back and says everything he has said has been confirmed by his conversation with Tariq and Little Mo. Triumphantly he produces the recorder which he has forgotten to switch on. 

The investigation team deploy him again.  This time they use tape to ensure that the recorder is switched on. David Cassidy says that Tariq and Little Mo have confirmed everything he has said.   

David Cassidy is debriefed.  

David Cassidy is deployed in his CHIS role several times and each time he reports that Tariq had confirmed that Iyad and Mohammed have murdered Charlene and disposed of the body. 

The leading active elements in the investigation team are DS Jan Beasant and DC Don Fraser.  At some point the team assess the credibility of David Cassidy. 

David Cassidy is about 40, round headed and with a round body.  He looks like he has been around and that he can take care of himself.  He comes across as frank. 

The evaluation and the course of action is decided by the Senior Investigating Officer. Detective Superintendent Paul Buschini.  The SIO has had some hostile interaction with Mohammed Ravishi.  DS Paul Buschini has a perfect record for solving murders in Blackpool, every murder in Blackpool has been solved during his watch.  He is about to retire shortly.  He is anxious that the case is solved in which case his career will end with an outstanding success. 

Seven months later the intelligence tapes (now transferred to CD), “the product,” of David Cassidy’s interactions with Tariq are used to prepare a summary. This summary is evidence to secure permission for intrusive surveillance on Mohammed Raveshi’s flat in Hornby Road and his Fiat. Permission is requested from the Chief Constable of Lancashire and permission is granted when an officer from Blackpool affirms that there is a strong case for intrusive surveillance based on the intelligence product from David Cassidy’s deployment. 

Iyad and Mohammed are arrested and while they are held surveillance equipment is placed in Mohammed’s flat and car. 

A covert monitoring unit is set up in Blackpool Police Station.  The surveillance lasts about a month. 

The result is disappointing. There are 52 ninety-minute tapes and when investigators hear unintelligible noise of no evidential value. 

The devices had been badly placed.  There was interference noise from the television and both Iyad and Mohammed, who generally spoke in English their common language, had accents. 

The investigation team were unhappy.  Intrusive surveillance is expensive.  They were back where they had been before David Cassidy had delivered his breakthrough information. Some of the investigators believed that Iyad and Raveshi were responsible for the murder of Charlene Downes. To admit that the surveillance had failed would be embarrassing. 

DS Jan Beasant volunteered to listen to all the tapes and prepare a transcript.  There were 52 90-minute DAT tapes.  DS Jan Beasant would listen to a tape and then assess if it was of interest.  If it was of interest, it would be sent to a commercial company to be evaluated, enhanced and saved on a CD. 

DS Jan Beasant spent 6 hours a day for eighteen months listening to and transcribing the tapes.  Only parts considered relevant were transcribed. 

It paid off.  After 18 months DS Beasant had prepared a transcript in which was highly incriminatory. 

The morale of the team depended on mutual trust and a sense of purpose.  DS Jan Beasant and DC Don Fraser were hostile towards Iyad and Mohammed.  The English Defence League alleged that there was a relationship between Mohammed and DS Jan Beasant.  This tells us more about the EDL than it does about DS Jan Beasant and Mohammed.   

Jan Beasant’s transcript transformed the investigation team.  On first hearing the recordings appeared to contain nothing of evidential value.  But after DS Jan Beasant’s heroic effort the transcript revealed detail about the fate of Charlene Downes that only the murderer could know.  The investigation team were convinced that they could not lose and that the credit for solving a long and difficult case would benefit their careers.  Iyad and Mohammed would be convicted for one of the most horrific murders of recent times. 

Nobody was more central to the investigation the DS Jan Beasant.  She was the driving force behind the investigation.  

The next step was to approach the Crown Prosecution Service.  The CPS evaluates the case.  Acceptance of a case for trial by the CPS means that there is a likelihood that the accused will be found guilty.  More than 80% of trials for serious matters result in a guilty verdict and the percentage is higher for murder. The CPS accepts that the evidence is compelling enough to secure a guilty verdict. 

For the investigation team this means that Iyad and Mohammed will be convicted.  Nobody can look at the transcript evidence and fail to see that it is conclusive. 

The investigation team await the trial with a sense that they have solved a difficult case. 

Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi are arrest. 

The trial is scheduled for May 2007, 

The murder of Charlene Downes: the trial of Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi

The Murder of Charlene Downes, the trial of Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi. This is a long piece about the trial of Iyad and Mohammed. Comments most welcome. Please ignore if its not your cup of tea.

The trial commenced in May 2006. 

Things looked snowball in hell bleak for Iyad and Mohammed.  The police know what they are doing, and a case does not come to trial unless there is solid evidence.  The accused are charged with an especially stomach-turning offence.  Juries take a dim view of paedophilia combined with cannibalism and murder.  Iyad and Mohammed are accused of murdering a fourteen-year-old white girl. The accused were Middle Eastern and “grooming gangs” had been in the news. They were alleged to have ground up Charlene and served her up as kebabs. The quality of the evidence looked powerful.  The transcripts of the covert surveillance from devices in Mohammed’s flat and car are devastating for the defence.   

Picture the defence team reading the transcripts and rolling their eyes: 

Iyad: I killed her. I killed a girl.  I was just angry. 

Mohammed: There is nothing left of her.  She was here.  She died.  There really is nothing. 

Why did you kill her? 

Iyad: You’re being stupid if you thought that, we think we release her. 

Mohammed: The big bones went into the machine as well, you know that don’t you? 

It was the last deep one and then it was the heart that finally killed her. 

Do you remember she was bleeding to death so that she made a fucking mess?” 

The defence team feel despair. 

The prosecution and the investigation team have a sense of triumph. There are words in the transcript that have no innocent explanation.  “The big bones went into the machine,” not the thing you hear on an evening out. 

The judge was Richard Henriques, a Lytham man.  The case was the highest profile court case that year.  Richard Henriques was distinguished and had been involved with some of the highest profile cases: the appeal of Jeremy Bamber, the trial of Harold Shipman, the killers of James Bulger.  He was later involved in the investigation of the Yew Tree Enquiry and Operation Midland.  These last two cases are of interesting because they illustrate the panic around child grooming.  In the wake of the Savile case the police took all allegations of historic child abuse seriously.  This caused a wave of allegations involving high profile figures… Edward Heath the most prominent. 

Allegations of child murder followed. 

One of the lines of enquiry involved Elm House in London and Charlene Downes was mentioned in relation to Elm House.  The story was that Elm House, a London hotel, was used by a paedophile hierarchy. 

It was drivel and the police investigators were gullible, but we police had been criticised for not paying attention to accusations.  The assumption, following Savile, was that all allegations are true. Compensation payments contributed to allegations. 

The defendants were Iyad (29), from Jordan, and Mohammed (49), originally from Iran. Recent cases involving grooming gangs Rochdale and Bradford where vulnerable white girls had been groomed by Asian gangs were unhelpful to the defence.   

The media are out in force.  The “girl in a kebab” story is a standard page filler ever since.  Karen Downes can always give a grieving mother tale and this together with “girl in a kebab” can fill a page on a poor news day.  And the message does have a right-wing anti-immigrant tone.  The fact that it is ludicrous is no deterrent to the Daily Mail.  And the story has that dark archetypal gothic fairy story quality that sticks in the mind long after we accept that it is drivel… well sub-drivel, it is not even coherent drivel. As Plato said: “storytellers rule the world.”  A good story is more readily believed than a boring truth. 

These were the realities that faced the defence when Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi appeared on trial for the murder of Charlene Downes aged fourteen. 

The investigation team are anticipating glory and promotions.  Iyad and Mohammed will become infamous. Their images will adorn a chamber of horrors.  Everybody in the investigation team can sell their reminiscences after they retired. The star of the investigation team is Jan Beasant. 

The defence make two points. One is that David Cassidy’s evidence is hearsay. The police assure Richard Henriques, the judge, that David Cassidy is a “reliable witness.”  On this assurance the judge had agrees that his evidence is admissible with a warning to the jury that it is hearsay evidence. 

The more critical matter for the defence is to prevent the jury from reading the transcript of the covert surveillance made by DS Jan Beasant. The defence say that the quality is too poor for a reliable transcript to be made. When investigators first heard the tapes, they concluded that they were of no evidential value.  DS Beasant had listened to 53 ninety- minute tapes and prepared a transcript of parts that she considered relevant. 

Judge Henriques agrees that relevant parts of the tape can be heard with DS Beasant’s transcript alongside.  The judge agrees that he will give a warning that the transcript was only an interpretation and should not be taken as definitive. 

The defence are two nil down when the game starts.  

The defendants were an unlikely pair.  Iyad Albattikhi managed Funny Boyz.  He comes across as arrogant, loud-mouthed, sexually aggressive, sometimes violent.  Somebody said of Henry VIII that the whole problem was that he couldn’t keep his cock in his codpiece.   

Iyad took advantage of his status to go after young women on an industrial scale.  Drugs and alcohol were involved.  His ability to offer food, drink, drugs, jobs gave enabled him to punch over his weight in sexual matters.  His flat above Funny Boys was done up as a penthouse apartment with a hot tub… so I hear.  There is something comical about these props.  Remember that this was a time when gangster rap was still around and Iyad slightly had the fashionable persona of a gangster type.  Fashionable but unconvincing.  It is possible that there were real gangsters in Iyad’s circle of acquaintances. 

Cards on the table I am a left-wing bigot and have antagonism to the Moslem Grooming Gangs narrative of the Far Right. But grooming did take place in fast-food outlets.  And may do so still.  And I agree that historic child sex abuse cases should be pursued whoever they involve. The problem is not Moslem grooming it is grooming.   

It will not have escaped your attention that Iyad is not somebody that you would warm towards, and this may have been the case with the investigation team.  One of Iyad’s characteristics is that he cannot or does not modify his behaviour according to circumstances.  When people say: “Be yourself, “they are not thinking of Iyad. Iyad is always himself, regrettably. When Iyad is talking to investigators, he does not show deference. When Iyad is being investigated he carries on using drugs and engaging in sexual activity like a bunny on viagra. 

The defence team keep him out of dock.    

Mohammed Raveshi is something else altogether. For the moment settle for saying that he is a man of astonishing ability. His mind is fast and brilliant, and he has a range of practical skills. Mohammed can give the right impression to a jury: intelligent, detached, calm, unintimidated but not undeferential.  Mohammed conducts himself in a lawyerly way. He quickly picks up the “language” of the court. 

An initial assessment would give then prosecution an overwhelming advantage at start of play. 

The prosecution led by Tim Holroyde, begin aggressively. Their strategy is to stun the defence into panic. 

“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. She was a well and happy girl 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 1st November 2003. After kissing her mother goodbye, she left alone and vanished. 

A missing persons inquiry began but police later launched a murder investigation, after receiving information that Charlene had been killed and chopped up. No trace of Charlene’s body has ever been found. 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. 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.” 

Did Tim Holroyde know where the alley is? It is a good distance from FunnyBoyz. And the defendants had sex with Charlene? How can that be proved? The prosecution is relying on the transcript to establish the murder. 

David Cassidy is one of the first witnesses. He says that Tariq IIyad’s brother) has told him that Iyad killed Charlene by strangling her. Mohammed has helped dispose of the body. He has heard that the body has been made into kebabs.  

The defence ask him why he did not report this to the police when he heard it.  David Cassidy says that it is because he wanted to establish the truth before contacting the police. 

The defence bring up the death threat letters that have been sent to Charlene. This is to establish that there are threats to Charlene from other sources. The letters are irrelevant, but it is intriguing that somebody has threatened to kill Charlene, and then she is killed.  

The most incriminating part of the prosecution case was the transcript. These transcripts are incriminatory.   

Here are extracts from the transcript: 

Mohammed: “I can’t cope I’m so worried and you were the one who killed her” 

Mohammed: “Her big bones went into the machine. “ 

Mohammed: “Charlene Dowens was not even from a decent or important family. If they find her, I have fucking, had it.” 

Mohammed: “I go check the burial place.” 

The tape was played with DS Jan Beasant’s interpretation displayed alongside.  

At first sight the transcription is damning to Iyad and Mohammed but there are questions.  DS Jan Beasant is a member of the investigation team and stands to gain from a successful conviction. The trial was the result of her single-handed transcription. She stresses her sole responsibility for the transcription. There is a possibility of bias. Her transcription is questioned. The word “kill” is claimed to be “tell.”  The recording was very indistinct. Mohammed explained the transcription: “burial place” as “Paul’s place.” 

Mohammed has a tenant called Paul who fell out with his girlfriend. This being Blackpool she did not seek counselling but resolved the matter by asking a band of young men to beat him up. Paul was not at home when the men called so they settled for wrecking his flat. Mohammed urged Paul to contact the police, but Paul said that this would result in a second visit by the young men. The conversation related to repairs to Paul’s flat.  Mohammed said that there was a tracker placed on his Fiat as part of the covert surveillance. If he had gone to a “burial place” the investigators would know where it was. The tracker confirms Mohammed’s account. This is a plausible explanation, and it reveals bias towards the most sinister interpretation DS Jan Beasant’s part, “Paul” has one syllable and “burial” has three syllables. 

The case for the prosecution had looked unassailable. The story the prosecution was telling is becoming incoherent.  It was something like: 

“Charlene was strangled.  No, but she was stabbed… there was lots of blood. She was put in a mincing machine.  But there was not a mincing machine at Funny Boyz.  But then she was buried.  But then Mohammed had to go to the burial place.  But then the “big bones” went into the machine.  But there was not a machine.  Was this before or after she was buried? It is not clear where all this activity had taken place.  Was it at Funny Boyz or was it at Mohammed’s flat in Hornby Road. Then her bones were ground up and used as grout in the tiling of Funny Boyz.” 

Parts of the transcription evidence in another context, would be comical.  Mohammed talks about a “deep cut at a 30-degree angle. This is taken to refer to the cutting up of Charlene. Mohammed explains that it refers to cutting some tiles during a refurbishment of Funny Boyz. 

The jury were unable to reach a verdict.The judge said that he will accept a majority verdict, but the jury are still unable to agree.   

There will have to be a retrial. 

Mohammed Raveshi shows himself to be a master of detail and of legal procedure.  He has a better grasp of the case than the judge or the legal teams.  Mohammed Raveshi is not a striking figure.  You could walk past him in the street and you would take him for… well somebody who works in a takeaway. 

But he has a brain the size of Norway. 

He came to England and was detained when he outstayed his visa.  He had been a sergeant in the Iranian Army.  Was he involved in the bloody war between Iran and Iraq? Released from a centre and penniless he was employed as a chauffeur by a Saudi Prince. 

He next appears in Blackpool where he is the owner of several properties, involved in take-aways, he is a foster-parent, and he works for the social services. There is something of the Great Gatsby about Mohammed Raveshi. 

Blackpool Borough Council’s press officer quickly put a halt to references to him as one of their employees. 

It comes as no surprise that he carries out his own repairs on his properties and fits his own carpets.   

Property tycoon, investor, take-away operator, foster parent, social worker.  At his trial he proved that he understood the trial process as if he were legally trained.  While in prison he listened to all the tapes (well all the tapes that the police were at that time aware of… there was another cache of tapes that of which the investigators were unaware.) DS Jan Beasant spent 2500 hours listening to these tapes.  So incredibly hard working, brainy and with social and skills Mohammed Raveshi is along with Karen Downes one of the most intriguing characters in the tale. 

Does Mohammed Raveshi have a dark side?  You can bet your home that the police investigated every detail of his life and found nothing incriminating. There are some dubious incidents where he seems over-familiar with young girls. But one of the girls he fostered speaks very warmly of him.  She was a troubled young girl and says he gave her a sense of purpose, self-discipline and a work ethic. 

A troubling incident: when a girl Mohammed was fostering said that she did not want to go to school.  She asked if she could go the car sales with him.  Mohammed agreed and then her friend turned up and asked if she could go too. Mohammed agreed.  The investigation team are monitoring Mohammed’s car told the girl’s mother who rang up Mohammed and gave him a mouthful and Mohammed returned the girl. Technically he had abducted a young girl. 

But the police find no instance of criminal behaviour. Mohammed was charged with child abduction.  The evidence is based on intrusive surveillance for which permission was obtained by, how can I put this delicately, lying about the intelligence obtained by David Cassidy. Mohammed Raveshi… the man is an enigma. 

One of the lasting results of the trial was that the “girl in a kebab” story became an urban myth.  The press has no interest in debunking it.  “Girl in a kebab” became a reliable space filler on a day when there was no news. 

“Girl in a kebab,” was favoured by the Downes family because it disconnected Charlene’s fate from her life at home. It was also a narrative of the Far Right. 

I am not certain of the origin of this story.  If I had to guess I would think of David Cassidy.   

It is wildly improbable.  Let us look at what it would have taken to put Charlene into a kebab.  A slaughtered animal is hung from a height.  The blood is collected in a container.  To butcher a carcase requires a skilled practitioner and it is unlikely that one would have experience of a human body.  When an animal is butchered a great deal of material cannot be used.  Maybe as much as 20% is offal.  Imagine that the prosecution story is true up to the point where Charlene is murdered.  Iyad and Mohammed then consult and discover that they have a friend who is a skilled butcher.  They call him up and he does the business.  You now have three people who are aware of the fate of Charlene.  But this butcher must be a very good friend to cut up a corpse and render it suitable for mincing.  And this very good friend must not be tempted by the various rewards. And this friend must be trusted not to gossip. Having cut up the corpse so that it is suitable for mincing the trio then dispose of the offal, bones, hair etc.  But there is not a mincing machine at Funny Boyz so they find another good friend who has a mincing machine and will allow them to use it but is not curious enough to ask why. 

From there on it is relatively simple to make the kebab.  But human flesh I am told has a distinctive taste. 

How likely is that?  I would put it at less than 0.01%. 

But it does not matter because a delicious lie will tap-dance round the world ten times whilst the truth is putting its Reeboks on. 

As late as October 2018 in an exclusive in the Daily Mirror headlined “Missing daughter feared chopped up and sold as kebab meat, “Karen Downes tells of her loss, Bob’s transgenderism, her abuse by her father and her forthcoming book.  This is after Nigel Lloyd has been arrested and released.  It is Karen’s preferred narrative. In 2019 Becki says she feels ill when she goes past a kebab shop.  The Far Right reverently put wreathes outside Funny Boyz. The very spot when Charlene was not murdered. Many people in Blackpool half-believe the story because it resides in a world of myths where fairy stories and Father Christmas co-exist.    

The Murder of Charlene Downes: Welcome to Karenland

And if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.

Storytellers rule the world.

“Real Justice for Charlene Downes” is a Facebook page which examines every aspect of the case. Whenever the name Karen Downes comes up there is outrage from members.

 Karen has become spokesperson of the family.  Much of what follows is about Karen.

The family was the world where Charlene lived.  And the family is resilient.  From Charlene’s disappearance on Nov 1st, 2003, for almost a year, the family were questioned by investigators… tough, sceptical people.

Bob and Karen Downes and Becki Downes did not disclose any information unless they chose to.

Charlene has disappeared and her parents and her sister do not cooperate with the investigation. 

Suppose your daughter or sister is missing. The wish to help find her must be a priority. You would think.

Unless there is something that must be concealed at all costs.   

This ability to stand up to robust questioning makes you think that the family is tightly knit.  But if that is the case why not cooperate in the investigation of a missing member of the family?

 This is a mystery. There are tensions within the family.  But the family is steely in the face of questioning. The family love Charlene. Suppose the family have secrets and that these secrets are entwined.  The close inner circle of friends is near family. Nobody can speak truly without incriminating themselves. This mutual dependence is more than a self-preservation gambit… it is in the deep core of the Downes family: Downes versus the world. 

Bob Downes is the father who leaves his children alone with child abusers. Bob brings child abusers back to his home. 109, Buchanan Street is a networking centre for child abusers and sex criminals. Bob Downes invites his coterie of alcoholic tramps (thanks Ronay) back to 109 Buchanan Street.  Bob Downes throws Charlene across the room.  Bob Downes bounces Becki off every wall in the house. There are reasons to think that Charlene was afraid to go back to 109 Buchanan Street on the night she disappeared.  She told her friends she was “sleeping out.”  Charlene asked the mother of a friend if she could sleep at that house on the Saturday night.  Bob suggested that the last encounter between Charlene and Karen involve an argument over money and that this might be the reason that Charlene (as it was thought at that time) ran away.  When it comes to seeking out money Bob Downes is a truffle pig on amphetamines. He needs it for alcohol.  And he really needs alcohol.

When a baby Komodo lizard hatches from its egg the first thing it does is climb a tree.  Because if the Komodo lizard’s daddy finds it the daddy will eat the baby. 

If Bob knew that Charlene had money, he would take it.  If she had money and had spent it, he would beat her.  Because it would be depriving Bob of money, money he needed to get drunk.

Charlene had a good reason for not wanting to go home.  You are a drunk or half-drunk fourteen-year-old girl and are afraid to go home. 

But rage is directed at Karen.  Not at Bob.  Bob either because of incapacity or a cunning keeps his mouth shut and little of the anger comes his way. It is Karen’s denial of any between the family and Charlene’s fate that puts her in the firing line.  If Karen Downes kept her mouth shut nobody would challenge her. 

Can Karen Downes keep her mouth shut?

Here are a couple of terms: pathological liar and narcissist. A pathological liar is somebody who lies a lot.  The lies are aimed at improving the status of the liar.  For example, a pathological liar will invent a story in which they are heroic or a victim.  Pathological liars are often enchanting because they have a fund of good stories and are practised storytellers.  A pathological liar will tell a story and retell it with other details. Some pathological liars might not know that they are lying.  The best liars might believe the thing they are saying. Pathological liars are good company: they need an audience and learn how to play an audience.

A narcissist believes that their own needs have priority and if other people are injured in meeting the needs of the narcissist… it does not matter. If I have an overwhelming need to get drunk every day and the means to achieve this involves abuse or violence…  well bring it on. Other people are shadowy almost theoretical entities.

Narcissists are self-centred. Arrogant in behaviour and thinking, they need admiration, their sense of self is fragile and must be maintained, they get a kick out of shaming others and creating confusion, they are manipulative and emotionally neglectful.

Imagine this is the Spotter’s Guide to Personality Disorders.  See how many of these traits you can spot.  Being a pathological liar and a narcissist have common features… for example telling stories which show the teller in an admirable light.

We are going on a journey into the strangest place on the planet: Other Minds.  You may think that other people are like you.  You are wrong. 

Two images: you are going to descend into the deep ocean below where sunlight can penetrate.  Strange creatures unlike anything seen before writhe in the darkness.

 You are sent to understand a tribe who have no contact.  Their world is utterly different from your everyday world.  Observe and learn.

Let us look at the Downes family. The main feature on record is the repeated child abuse. In Coventry the Social Services are about to take the children into care. This prompts the move to Blackpool.

Here is a strange thing. If Bob and Karen do not care about the children, why mind if they are taken into care? Two possibilities they do care very much but are just rubbish parents. I am a rubbish singer, and no amount of effort will make me a good one. I am sure there are parents who want to be good parents but do not have the capacity.  Like me and singing.

Another possibility is that the children play a part in Bob’s plans to drink.

Possibility three: Bob and Karen have a deep loathing of being told what to do. They ignore and resent Social Workers.  Their attitude is: these are our children, and we do what we like with them, and no fancy-talking Social Worker is going to tell us what to do with our own children. Bob and Karen are, how can I put this kindly? When social workers engage them what they hear is senseless babble.  Bob and Karen’s world is so different from the jargon of social workers that the two worlds slide past one another. 

What they also hear is somebody better off than them telling them that they are doing things wrong.  Bob and Karen are not keen on criticism.

They extend their household in Blackpool to include Karen’s mother Lena. There is strong family feeling. 

Probably there is no single explanation. You have a family who are close but tolerant of abuse and violence. Perhaps they do not see child abuse as wrong.  They have been abused themselves and see it as a part of growing up. Children learn behaviour from their parents.

Becki, Charlene and John McNally may have been involved with Ronnie Fraser. Becki has been abused and here she is involved in the abuse of her sister. They do not think of it as abuse. Abuse is normalised in the family. Children repeat the behaviour of their parents. Remember that Becki is only 16 and she has escaped from 109 Buchanan Street where she was abused. 

Child abuse is endemic in the Downes household.  Nobody has accused Bob Downes of abuse against the children.  It is his friends and guests.

That is a puzzle.  Is there something other than monetary gain?  Is Bob enacting through others a role he would like to play in his Martina persona? Or both? Although child abuse is endemic the exchange of sexual favours for money may have been part of the family economy from early days. Karen and Bob were a good-looking couple when young, borderline glamorous. It is hard to imagine an ethical consideration that would come between Bob and alcohol.  Trading the family… no problem.

Is this incompatible with family feeling? To you and me maybe but the Downes are completely different.  I know of a family where the mother and two daughters are prostitutes.  Does that mean they don’t have family feelings?  It does not.

In the family sex for money is normalised.  Karen makes no secret of her affairs.  Curiously Bob does not seem jealous.  Bob who has a strong sense of ownership: “my house”, “my children,” does not extend this possessiveness to Karen.  Is it something to do with his confused sexuality?  Or am I being too kind?

The best way to study Karen’s portrayal of herself and her world is to compare her words with evidence.

Let us start with contradictions.  In her book Sold in Secret Karen Downes says that she phones the police at 10pm on Saturday November 1st. Karen says that the operators says: “Give her till morning.”

In an interview for The Murder of Charlene Downes Karen says that she rang on the Sunday and was told to wait 24 hours. Karen gets outraged at being told to wait 24 hours in a phone call that (almost certainly) did not happen… “they’re bloody liars.” In court Karen says under oath that she rang on Sunday. The records of phone calls from Buchanan Street might cast light.

In the recorded call to the police on Monday Karen is asked why she has not called earlier, and she says she thought Charlene would be home. Karen does not refer to an earlier phone call.  Karen does not sound anxious and says she is popping out.  The operator tells Karen quite sharply to stay and wait until investigators arrive.

Which version is true?

In Sold in Secret Karen says that Bob goes out on his push bike to look for Charlene at 10pm on Saturday 1st November.  In Bob Downes’ statement to the police, he says that he is so drunk he cannot remember where he was and that he was alone and that he got home at about 2.20am on the Sunday.

In Sold in Secret Karen is seeking to portray a normal caring family.

It seems unfair to point out disparities between the known facts and Karen’s account.  Some of Karen’s statements are jaw-dropping.  Take this:

“…Blackpool was fast becoming a haven for sex-abusers… it felt to me like the whole sordid story was being covered up.”  Well, yes.

Sixteen sexual offenders called at 109 Buchanan Street, six were close friends of Bob Downes and stayed over.  Three people including two sexual offenders on remand paid Charlene for sex and that Taffy a friend of Bob Downes paid Charlene for a sex act and told Karen that he had feelings for Charlene.  The timing of the phone call to the Police may relate to Ray Munro who was staying with the Downes and was due to appear at Fleetwood Magistrates Court on the Monday.

This is not mentioned in Sold in Secret.  Bob and Karen deny that Ray Munro has been staying at Buchanan Street. While he was staying there an incident occurred involving Ray Munro and a young girl, a friend of Charlene. 

There was also a sweary argument between Charlene and Ray Munro.

In Sold in Secret Karen writes: “I would like to make other parents aware of the dangers of child exploitation and grooming.  I was totally unaware – so unaware of what was happening under my nose.” 

In Sold in Secret we are not told that Charlene would not have been returned home if she had been found alive.  Social Services had planned to take her into a care after a report that a visitor had paid Charlene for a sex act in the home. 

Bob and Karen are questioned.  Bob is questioned intensely. He is accused of pimping his children. Sold in Secret again: this is Bob after talking to Karen about his interrogation: “They accused me of pimping her out, selling her to other men for sex.”  In The Murder of Charlene Downes, the documentary, Joe Cusack asks Bob Downes if he murdered Charlene.  Bob denies it and then says that a stranger offered him £20.00 for one of his daughters. “Which daughter?”

“I don’t remember.”  There’s Bob for you.

The family and their friends are under pressure.  Taffy’s admission that he paid Charlene for a sex act give a glimpse of life in Buchanan Street. 

Sold in Secret says that Emma and Becki are living at home, But Emma and Becki had already left home.  Becki had been living with John McNally since she was fifteen.  John McNally is also in a relationship with Karen Downes. John McNally and Karen have a long-running relationship and Sold in Secret  mentions him as an acknowledgement. There is an incestuous feel… Ronnie Fraser gives money to Becki, then he gives money to Charlene.

What is Karen trying to achieve in Sold in Secret.  In the Middle Ages they had lives of saints which credited Saints with immense kindness and patience. They were called hagiographies.  Karen has written her own hagiography.  As far as it goes it is an interesting tale, but it is what it does not say…

It is the case for Saint Karen.

There are so many things to say about Sold in Secret that it is difficult to know where to start.  Concede that it is a misery memoir, and the Karen is not obliged to reveal herself in the most critical light.

Start with the cover of Sold in Secret.  On the cover it shows a model at evening with Blackpool Tower in the background. “A mother’s desperate search to find the men who trafficked and killed her daughter.”  Really?  In the book and in other research there is no evidence that Karen tries to find the men who trafficked and killed her daughter. 

There is evidence that Karen tries to implicate Iyad and Mohammed.. They are among the few people we come across in this tale who we can say with confidence did not kill Charlene. 

On the dedication page of Sold in Secret it is dedicated to: “all the other poor victims of grooming gangs.”

In Sold in Secret Karen says that the police call, “at last”, on Monday.  Possibly it has slipped her mind that she has not rung them until Monday.  This technique of complaining about a situation you have brought about is… if you forget the sadness of the situation, funny.  Karen speaks at BNP rallies where followers are incited to violence against properties and Muslims.  Then she complains that police are protecting properties: where were all those police when it came to protecting Charlene?

Another trait in Karen’s case is competitive victimhood.  When Madeleine McCann is missing Karen believes that the police are paying more attention than to Charlene because Charlene’s family is “working class.”  Which work is that?  And when Paige Chivers is missing the police offer a reward.  But they did not offer a reward for Charlene.  But then they do offer a reward for Charlene.  But it is too late.

Karen joins the BNP in the Justice for Charlene campaign.  The BNP take it as a victory when investigators say they will reopen the case.  But Karen says she will not cooperate.  Giving the misleading impression that she did cooperate in the first place.

Karen’s support for the BNP is a cover for blaming it on Iyad and Mohammed.  She does not want the case reopened because that will mean taking another look at the circumstances of Charlene’s life.  And Karen does not want that.

Karen clings to the “girl in a kebab” story blaming Iyad and Mohammed for Charlene’s murder.

To understand we need to go back to the early enquiry. One year after Charlene’s disappearance the best lead the investigation team have involves the family.  The unanswered questions: where was Bob? After all it is unlikely that a man incapably drunk on his own would not be noticed.  Why was Becki so slow to identify Ronnie Fraser.  After all she said he may have killed Charlene.  Is it because Bob Downes and John McNally put pressure on her?  What is going on between Charlene, Becki and John McNally?  What is the cause of the final argument between Becki and Charlene?  Why is Karen so reluctant to own up to her relationship with John McNally?  I do not think there can be any doubt that the police believed there was a grooming gang operating at 109 Buchanan Street and that the main beneficiary was Bob Downes. 

It cannot have been a comfortable time for Karen or Bob or their friends.  And then… the investigation team abandon this line of enquiry and put all their resources into investigating Iyad and Mohammed. 

To the Downes family it must have felt joyful.  All the family could stand up to questioning but it is not pleasant to have a detective questioning you about pimping your daughter.  You can feel the contempt and distaste.  And if you are Bob or Karen who do not take kindly to criticism…

And then it all stops.  Bob and Karen also may have felt that there was a possibility that Charlene’s fate was linked with her life at 109 Buchanan Street. And then it all stopped.  Iyad and Mohammed saved the family from gruelling questioning.

No wonder Karen and Bob adored the “girl in a kebab” explanation of the disappearance of Charlene.  It got them off the hook.  And better yet it placed culpability with strangers, aliens, people unconnected with the family.  Bob and Karen could not have thought of a more exculpatory story. 

The trial of Iyad and Mohammed had no foundation.  There was no evidence.  It should not have gone to trial and the intrusive surveillance was permitted because the evidence was misrepresented.  It was an omnishambles concocted by a benefits fraudster and a police officer who was an “unreliable witness.”

the trial was wonderful for the Downes family because it transferred suspicion away from the family.

That is why Karen and Bob embraced Justice for Charlene Downes.  Justice for Charlene Downes was a sham.  It was a front organisation of the Far Right and it set out to blame Muslim grooming gangs for the disappearance of Charlene Downes and later Paige Chivers.

In an interview with BNP television, we see another of Karen’s skills.  Karen is talking to Nick Griffin about the trial.  She is asked to explain why the trial failed to reach a verdict.  Karen says that there were two reasons: one of the jury members was connected to the defendants and Muslims were intimidating the jury.  Karen just makes things up to explain anything inconvenient to her story. If dark-skinned people were intimidating the jury would not somebody notice?  But these stories were accepted on the Far Right for whom evidence is like kryptonite.  It jis this explanatory power that comes to Karen’s aid to explain that little Jack Renshaw has been convicted for sexual offences involving young boys.  Jack Renshaw had been an enthusiast in the Justice for Charlene Downes campaign before he went on to better things by planning to murder an MP and a police officer.

Karen Downes has an explanation.  The Far Left had planted evidence on Jack Renshaw’s four mobile phones to discredit him.  Ho hum.

And Karen Downes has sharp words for Jack Renshaw’s parents who have dissociated themselves from Jack’s political views.  They should stand by Jack.  Guidance in parenting from Karen Downes. This is on a level with Sold in Secret where Karen confides her wish to start a youth centre with counselling for young people in danger of grooming.

There are times when Karen leaves you stunned: “I wasn’t sure I had it in me to tell a lie to the police.” I never quite knew what the term “flabbergasted” meant until I read that.

Part of Karen’s intention in Sold in Secret is to counter the allegations… well they are not allegations this is hard evidence… an enthusiastic supporter of the Justice for Charlene had become suspicious about the family.  He was a researcher; a journalist and he was terminally ill.  He published his findings on Pinterest.  These are documents from Social Services that reference a long series of incidents involving children in the Downes family. Remember they only capture a percentage of the events.

The reporter also wrote an anonymous article for the Times.

Karen references this but in the same way that she reports the police accusation of Bob pimping his children it is with the intention of undermining the evidence. Here we go in Sold in Secret: “certainly, Bob had friends round,.. We didn’t vet their backgrounds,”

If  the Times published a statement that was untrue they would be subject to legal action and if Karen could convince a legal representative that this had happened they would take on the case for a share of the considerable damages.  But that did not happen.

Why did Karen write Sold in Secret?  Karen really did love Charlene. You may think she had a funny way of showing it, but she did.  In some respects, Sold in Secret expresses how Karen would have liked Charlene’s life to have been.  It is a fantasised, romanticised version.  It portrays a gentle caring mother who protects Charlene.  This is how Karen wishes she had been.

And it is exculpatory.  It is intended to deflect all criticism and paint a picture of a loving family damaged from outside by evil forces.  How far it succeeds… judge for yourself.

I would not be doing justice to Karen if I did not acknowledge that she has a certain… is it charisma?  She has followers.  Many of them are people who follow the “girl in a kebab” story and probably do not qualify as critical thinkers.  But to a certain demographic (now there is a word I never expected to use) Karen’s story is moving and demonstrative.  A working-class girl is groomed and killed by Muslims who put her in kebabs.  They are arrested but escape punishment on a “technicality.”  This story is the core of Karen’s personal story because it places her beyond blame.  But she knows that it is not true. Or she has the handy skill of believing whatever suits her purposes.

Karen does exercise a hold over her followers.  In her BNP Television appearances, she is compelling. She is so compelling that Mark Bailey a New Zealand pianists flies to England and has an affair with her. It all goes a bit sour when he assaults her and gets imprisoned, but in court she says she loves him and asks for lenience.  One has the impression that Karen is not averse to being worshipped.  But then who is?

Bob now has a new male partner and Karen is in a relationship.  But they still live in the same dwelling.

Time to stop.  Karen if you are reading this, I do not despise you.  There are things you have done which are shameful and should not be associated with Charlene.  Support for the BNP.  But Karen you have had a life that nobody would wish on anybody. 

Imagine I am your best friend and I know you have had a troubled life and I want you to find peace.  Just stop.  Stop justifying yourself.  Stop Facebooking.  Be quiet.  Enjoy your life. 

The murder of Charlene Downes: the IPCC report

(This is a long piece about the IPCC report following the collapse of the trial of Iyad and Mohammed.  The report assesses mistakes in the investigation of Iyad and Mohammed.  If this is not your cup of tea please ignore.  Any comments very welcome. I have been fortunate: an informant who is familiar with the IPCC report has agreed to discuss it. This is a summary of the IPCC. The IPCC report is a confidential document and the informant will remain anonymous to protect the informant.)

The Independent Police Complaints Commission Report

The retrial of Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Raveshi was to take place in April 2006. Shortly before the trial the prosecution team asked to review the evidence.  When they did so they withdrew the prosecution. There was no evidence on which a prosecution could proceed.   They submitted a list of “difficulties.”

Lancashire Constabulary voluntarily submitted to an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation.  The IPCC would issue a report that would examine the difficulties in the investigation and give feedback to Lancashire Constabulary to improve procedures.

The defence and the legal team acting for Iyad and Mohammed’s claim for malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment also had complaints. These points were amalgamated and became the basis of the investigation by the IPCC.

The matters examined by IPCC were various and sometimes technical. The police service is rule based and there are procedures to be followed in almost any situation.

When the IPCC reported the critical points were the unreliability of David Cassidy, the quality of the intelligence recovered from recording at Mohammed’s flat in Hornby Road and his Fiat car, and DS Beasant’s transcription of that material. 

The IPCC report gives a succinct account of the involvement of David Cassidy.  In November 2004 about a year after the disappearance of Charlene Downes there was a suspicious fire at a fish and chip shop managed by Michael Kearns.  Two children in a flat above the fire had to be rescued and resuscitated.  The fish and chip shop was called Moby Dick’s and it was on Dickson Road.  Next door to Moby Dick’s was Funny Boyz.

Michael Kearns was questioned by detectives. While being questioned he told detectives that one of his friends had told Michael that he had heard something about the murder of Charlene Downes.

The friend that Michael Kearns spoke about was called David Cassidy.  David Cassidy had an amusement arcade in Blackpool and also supplied slot machines to take-aways in Blackpool.

Detectives spoke to David Cassidy and he said that he knew Tariq Albattikhi.  Tariq was the brother of Iyad Albattikhi who was the manager of Funny Boyz.  Iyad was a colleague of Mohammed Raveshi.  David Cassidy said that Tariq had argued with Iyad and that Iyad had told Tariq that he had murdered Charlene Downes.  David Cassidy had a work colleague called Mohammed Zakrea who was usually called “Little Mo.”  Little Mo had also heard these conversations and he said that he had seen Mohammed Raveshi in bed with three naked young girls. David Cassidy told investigators that he had been told that Charlene had given Iyad oral sex.

David Cassidy was enrolled as a Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS).  He was instructed in his role.  The most important rule is that a CHIS cannot initiate a conversation about a suspected crime.  If David Cassidy was in conversation with Little Mo and Iyad and one of them had mentioned Charlene Downes then David Cassidy could continue the discussion but he could not raise the subject.  If David Cassidy did initiate a conversation about Charlene it would undermine the value of any intelligence.

David Cassidy was equipped with a recording device.  When David Cassidy returned he told his handlers that he had been successful and that Tariq had repeated that Iyad had murdered Charlene and that Mohammed Raveshi had helped Iyad to dispose of the body.

Unfortunately David Cassidy had forgotten to switch on the recording device. David Cassidy was sent back and this time officers sealed the recording device so that it could not be switched off.

Again David Cassidy returned and said that he had been entirely successful. David Cassidy was deployed a number of times in early 2005.  The “product” as the intelligence was called was copied onto a CD.  And nobody listened to it for seven months.  The handlers did not listen to the tape.

When the CD was listened to seven months later David continually initiated conversations about Charlene Downes.  Tariq denied that Iyad had killed Charlene Downes and said that he had never said otherwise.  David Cassidy said to Tariq that he had made a mistake and that he must have been remembering a conversation with Little Mo.

The investigation team needed evidence to support permission for intrusive surveillance of Mohammed Raveshi’s flat and car.  An officer prepared a summary of the intelligence gained from David Cassidy’s deployment as a CHIS.

This summary consisted of three pages.  It was vague and it ignored the fact that David Cassidy had lied to his handlers and ignored his instructions by initiating conversation about Charlene to the point where Tariq had asked him to stop doing it. Tariq also said that David Cassidy hated Iyad. 

The summary is not available but it gave a misimpression by including conversation with Little Mo and it ignored the fact that David Cassidy lied to his handlers and ignored his instructions.

The IPCC report states that there is no evidence that the summary was deliberately misleading. 

There was confusion about the location of the CD from which the summary was prepared.  Blackpool police said they could not find them. At the trial the prosecution seemed to believe it no longer existed.

Finally it was discovered in retired Superintendant Paul Buschini’s safe.  But it was broken.  It was restored.  When it was played it was obvious that the “summary” was more incriminating than the iintelligence warranted. 

David Cassidy had been described as a “reliable witness,” This has a special meaning to police officers.  A reliable witness is one who has delivered generally correct evidence in the past.  In these terms David Cassidy was not a reliable witness and in fact the CD established that he was a very unreliable witness.  David Cassidy had been regraded from a witness whose evidence had not been tested to a reliable witness.  It is difficult to establish any basis for this except to support the application for intrusive surveillance.

The application for permission for intrusive surveillance went to the Chief Constable of Lancashire.  Whether it was deliberate or not David Cassidy was  described as a reliable witness and the intelligence summary of David Cassidy’s deployments supported intrusive surveillance.

A senior officer in Blackpool Police wrote: “In my view there is a strong intelligence case to support this application.”

The judge at the trial allowed David Cassidy to give hearsay evidence on the basis that he had been assured by the police that David Cassidy was a reliable witness.  At the trial David Cassidy returned from Spain to give evidence.  He said at the time that he had moved to Spain because of debts.

By the time that the second trial was about to start David Cassidy had somewhat demonstrated his own reliability as a witness. There was a DWP investigation of David Cassidy regarding benefit fraud.  If he returned to the UK  for the retrial he would be arrested. 

Iyad and Mohammed were detained in connection with unrelated sexual offences.  While they were isolated officers placed listening devices in Mohammed’s flat and in his car and a VHS recording device was trained on the front door. The intelligence from these sources was relayed to a covert monitoring post at Blackpool Police Station.

The quality of the material was bad.  The devices were concealed in a position where sound quality was poor and interference from the television distorted the quality.  Iyad and Mohammed generally spoke in English which was their common language but they both had accents.

In all there were 52 three hour DAT tapes.  An initial hearing revealed nothing of evidential value. 

DS Jan Beasant volunteered to transcribe the tapes. She listened to all the tapes and briefly described the ones that had no material of interest.  If a tape did have material of interest it was sent to a company to be enhanced and copied onto CD.

DS Jan Beasant would then transcribe the material. DS Jan Beasant did not transcribe the tapes but transcribed parts. When the tapes were played in court DS Jan Beasant’s transcription would appear alongside the recorded material.

As the IPCC report comments DS Jan Beasant had no qualifications for this work.  She had never done such work before and had no knowledge of phonetics or linguistic analysis.  There was an expert available.  A phonetician called Allen Hirson. It was reported that there was “antipathy” between Allen Hirson and DS Jan Beasant.  Allen Hirson denied this and his concerns were professional and concerned the ability of an untrained officer to prepare an accurate transcription and also about the possibility of bias.  DS Jan Beasant was part of the investigation team. Allen Hirson recalled that DS Jan Beasant referred to the transcript as: “her baby.”

There were 53 tapes each of them three hours long.  DS Jan Beasant volunteered to transcribe them.  For six hours a day, for 2400 hours, for almost a year DS Jan Beasant listened to the tapes.

Why did the investigation team prefer DS Beasant to an unbiased expert?  The IPCC says that one reason could be the expense of an expert.  But compare the cost of a failed trial with the cost of an independent expert: that argument is unconvincing.  Other reasons that the investigation team might prefer DS Jan Beasant to prepare the transcript will occur to those with suspicious minds.

To understand the trial it needs to be clearly understood that the only evidence against Iyad and Mohammed was David Cassidy’s hearsay evidence and  DS Jan Beasant’s transcript. The officers who first listened to the tape heard nothing of evidential significance.

At court DS Jan Beasant was described as an “expert”. This was a justifiable use of the word based on case law but it does suggest that she had previous experience of transcribing difficult audible intelligence. She was not supervised or asked how she went about her work.  Her work was not checked for quality or accuracy.  She did not consult an expert on any point.

The IPCC report reveals that DS Beasant was questioned for perjury.  This arose because she said in court that she had listened to all of the tapes, even tapes that had no audible material at all.  Of one tape she had written: “No conversation.” But there had been conversation on the tape. One explanation might be that the DAT tapes did sometimes behave erratically and it could be a simple mistake. 

Another point raised by both the defence and by Iyad and Mohammed’s legal representatives was that DS Jan Beasant’s transcript consisted only of incriminatory material but there was also exculpatory material which was not included in the transcript.  Iyad and Mohammed’s legal representative claimed that this was: “Beyond coincidence.”  Iyad and Mohammed’s legal team are politely saying that DS Jan Beasant scanned the tapes for anything that could be construed as condemnatory and left out everything else. 

And a lot was left out.  The defence team in the trial had not been told how much material there was.  This is “failure to disclose” means that the defence team were not given material that supported their case.  DC Don Fraser was the disclosure officer but he claims he was instructed that he was not obliged to reveal covert surveillance material.

The transcript was prepared from a very small proportion of the surveillance product. The only selection was carried out by DS Beasant. Unknown to the officers staffing the covert monitoring post in Blackpool Police Station the DAT tapes were not the best source of audio material. Astonishingly the VHS tapes which were capturing video material and trained on the front door of Mohammed’s building were also gathering audio material which was also transmitted to the unit in the Police Station. The VHS audio material was better quality than the DAT material which was transcribed by DS Jan Beasant. It seems that everybody involved forgot to assess the VHS material.  When this was understood it meant that although DS Jan Beasant had only transcribed only a small proportion of the DAT material it now turned out that the amount of  covert product had doubled and that it would be possible to compare DS Jan Beasant’s transcription with the better quality VHS material. It is unclear when this overlooked evidence was discovered, it may be that it was only discovered when the defence asked to have access to all the covert surveillance audio evidence.  What does appear to be the case is that the disclosure officer did not reveal the amount of covert material possibly because he was not aware of it. 

DS Jan  Beasant attended a Licensing Meeting for Funny Boyz.  Iyad’s brother had taken over the management of Funny Boyz while Iyad was in prison and DS Jan Beasant opposed the licensing. She wrongly revealed material from the investigation into the murder of Charlene Downes.

DS Jan Beasant was also involved in a mysterious visit to Thora Rigby an older lady who was a neighbour of Mohammed.  DS Jan Beasant denied that she had ever visited Thora Rigby.  Covert VHS evidence revealed that she had visited Thora Rigby in Hornby Road. 

When DS Beasant was confronted with evidence that she had visited Thora Rigby she had an explanation.  She had a form of epilepsy which impaired her mid-term memory. There was no evidence of an official reason for the visit to Thora Rigby and the visit was not recorded. Thora Rigby recalled that DS Beasant had wanted her to say incriminatory things about Mohammed. If this is true  DS Beasant was talking to Thora Rigby in order to add material or evidence of “bad character.”  DS Jan Beasant’s memory problems should have been reported to her management because it might undermine evidence that she gave in court.

The IPCC had many criticisms of the investigation team, But DS Jan Beasant was the only one who had lied under oath. The IPCC report:”DS Jan Beasant had been shown to be an unreliable witness.”  This is the more striking because of the mannered and restrained tone of the report.

“It was only through DS Jan Beasant volunteering that the material was reviewed at all,” from the IPCC report. There would not have been a trial except for DS Beasant’s transcript.

Again the IPCC report: “DS Beasant steadfastly refuses to accept any suggestion that she has made any mistakes despite overwhelming evidence that she had done so,” There is a tone of exasperation.  DS Beasant was the only one of the investigation team to be made to resign.  DC Don Fraser moved to a civilian police post and members of the investigation team retired.

The IPCC is critical of other matters.  The Covert Monitoring Unit was staffed by inexperienced staff and not well managed.  Recording equipment was switched off without explanation. 

Iyad and Mohammed’s legal team alleged that Blackpool Police had attempted to delay an investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) into David Cassidy concerning benefit fraud because it would undermine David Cassidy as a witness. The IPCC could not find evidence to support this complaint.

The investigation team were accused of “corralling.”  This means that they carried out a forensic search of Mohammed’s flat.  This was to initiate discussion of Charlene Downes which could be incriminatory.  The IPCC did not uphold this.

The Disclosure Officer Don Fraser did not disclose the amount of covert material to the defence and he did not disclose the accounts of the last sighting of Charlene by her friend which would have been helpful to the defence.  The accounts by Charlene’s friend are inconsistent.  If Charlene was last seen alive by her friend on Saturday 1st November 2003, it is difficult to explain how she could reappear at Funny Boyz passing CCTV and security staff who she knew without being seen. 

There was a complaint that DC Don Fraser had an antagonistic relationship with Mohammed that went back some time.  DC Don Fraser did explain his relationship to Senior Investigating Officers.  The IPCC says: “I can find no evidence that DC Fraser’s objectivity and impartiality have been affected… but it is impossible to refute the allegation.”

One issue exposed by the IPCC is the number of times officers were unaware of their responsibilities and the line of command was confused.  There were three Senior Investigating Officers in the time leading up to the arrest and trial of Iyad and Mohammed. This might be seen as a reason for the weak supervision of the investigation team but it would also have been an opportunity for a critical look at the evidence.  Take DS Beasant’s transcription: it could have been checked against the audio evidence by a linguistic expert.  It would not be necessary to check the whole of the tapes only the most incriminatory parts.  But this quality control was never carried out.  It might be that the Senior Investigating Officers subsequent to Paul Buschini assumed that this had already been carried out. 

The decision to award over £250000 to settle Iyad and Mohammed’s claim for false imprisonment was an acknowledgement of how flawed the investigation was shown to be and to avoid a further legal procedure which would examine the behaviour of the Investigation Team which would be damaging to Lancashire Constabulary.

Iyad and Mohammed were released from prison. Not immediately because Iyad was charged with rape and Iyad was charged with child abduction. Before the trial the police had studied Iyad and Mohammed in detail.  They wanted evidence of “bad character,” which would support a conviction. The charges were dropped.

The damage done by the arrest and trial of Iyad and Mohammed might be irreversible.  DS Jan Fraser was forced to resign. DS Don Fraser was redeployed working for the police in a civilian role. Money had been wasted. The settlement with Iyad and Mohammed had limited the reputational damage of a court case. Iyad and Mohammed received more than £250,000 each. One person who benefitted from the trial of Iyad and Mohammed, when all other lines of enquiry were abandoned. was the murderer of Charlene Downes. Karen and Bob Downes also benefitted.  They had been subject to hostile questioning by the investigators and they had concealed information.  When Iyad and Mohammed became suspects all other lines of enquiry closed down.

Bob and Karen Downes must have felt relief and that partly explains why they were enthusiastic supporters of the “girl in a kebab” tale.  It pointed away from the involvement of the family or friends in Charlene’s murder and it pointed away from the suspicion that Charlene was groomed at home and involved in a dangerous way of life.

DS Jan Beasant was able to direct events and it may be that Senior Officers were relieved that they had somebody to blame.  But if DS Jan Beasant and the investigation team had been effectively supervised the trial would not have taken place and opportunities to pursue other lines of enquiry might have led to identification of the perpetrator. There are three things that seem suspicious: it is difficult to believe that David Cassidy’s handlers did not immediately listen to the intelligence that he recovered. The preparation a summary to David Cassidy’s tapes to support intrusive surveillance clearly misrepresented the material on the tapes. The mysterious loss of the CD of David Cassidy’s intelligence and then the claim that it was found but damaged…. really? Was the case against Iyad and Mohammed deeper and more widespread and encouraged at a higher rank than the “rogue officer” explanation?

House of secrets: the early investigation of the disappearance of Charlene Downes

The Downes home is on the right. The flamboyant architecture of the building next door may be because it used to be a sex club. Blackpool!

During November 2003 Charlene did not reappear and it became clear to the police that the matter was more serious than a simple runaway.  The family were questioned and DNA samples taken.  Bob Downes, Charlene’s father, was questioned in depth. 

Many lines off of enquiry developed.

A pair of burgundy knickers, a bra, black tights and red nail polish were discovered with Bob Downes’ clothes.

Under what you can imagine were excruciating conditions Bob explained that he was undergoing gender counselling. He would dress up in burgundy knickers, black bra, red nail polish when he was alone in the house.  I have given you an image that you will take to your death. Bob’s feminine self was called Martina.

Picture Bob, he’s a round headed man with close cropped hair, he dresses in black, he often wears tee-shirts that show muscly arms.  He looks strong.  He looks like a bouncer.  In fact, he did work in security when he did work.  His mood varies between rage and aggression. He is often cross to the point of shouting.  In a later episode when a social worker comes to the house Bob cannot contain his rage and takes the unorthodox step of throwing potatoes at her.  This guarantees that Robert Junior is taken away by the Social Services and the reason given is that Bob represents a danger to Robert Junior.  Bob’s rages get him in trouble. 

Bob has a military background. Bob often describes things in terms of property… my house, my children.  Actually, it wasn’t his house and they weren’t all his children.  But the message is: “I own these children.  They are my property.” He acts like a Victorian father which is undermined by the burgundy knickers.

Fly on the wall anybody when Bob explains to investigators that he has a feminine persona called Martina?  Picture the investigators struggling to keep a straight face.  Imagine being Bob and explaining to Karen. One does not often feel sympathy for Bob but…

Perhaps this is the reason for a shift in power in the Downes’ household.  Bob is no longer running the show. Apart from the loss of status connected with the burgundy knickers, (Knickersgate?) Karen was more adapt at dealing with people and tended to become the spokesperson for the family.

A possible clue was discovered in Karen’s handbag.  It was a poison pen letter addressed to Charlene in an envelope.

The letter said:

“I’ve been watching you

you dirty little bitch.

I don’t like girls who go

with Pakis they use you

like a piece of shit.

you should be in a box

underground you dirty cow.

Get out of Blackpool

because I’m ready to put you

below, still alive

             You have been warned

             (illegible).

What to make of that?  There is another poison pen letter similar in tone.  The envelope is properly addressed with the post code and a stamp, but Charlene’s name is incorrectly spelt.  The police think that the letter was sent by a girl who knew Charlene, they have a suspect but she will not admit it.  The second letter was written by Charlene.  What was she doing?  Was she creating a narrative of victimhood?  Was she just being dramatic?  And did Charlene show it to Karen, her mother?  Does that account for it being found in Karen’s handbag?  Is it that Charlene showed the original letter to Karen and was pleased by Karen’s response and wrote her own letter in a bid for attention.

One thing the letter shows is that Charlene’s involvement with take-away workers was well-known amongst her acquaintances.  If Karen read the letter, she is mistaken when she says she knows nothing about Charlene’s involvement with take-away workers. There is an ambiguity about the letter.  Is the writer trying to persuade Charlene not to go with “Pakis” out of concern for Charlene?  What is the point of the letter?  Is it to make Charlene desist from something the writer thinks is harming her?  It’s very strange but probably irrelevant.

The investigators encountered more difficulties. Karen would not disclose her whereabouts on the Saturday night that Charlene went missing.  Imagine: your fourteen-year-old daughter is missing.  You are heart-broken. Why not cooperate with the investigators. Add that to the Knickersgate incident and investigators are beginning to see 109 Buchanan Street as a house of many secrets.

Another puzzle is that Charlene received £70.00 from a gentleman outside the Mecca bingo hall.  Becki, Charlene’s older sister, tells us this.  Becki saw them meet.  Becki was staying with John McNally who had a flat overlooking the Mecca bingo hall.  Coincidence?  Charlene gives John McNally £10.00. It’s unusual for a gentleman to give a young girl £70,00 because he likes the cut of her gib.  John McNally’s flat overlooks the Mecca bingo hall so it is within easy walking distance.

The man that Charlene met was Ronnie Fraser.  He lived in spectacular squalor in various flats in Thornton and in Warley Road Blackpool.  “Thornton Ronnie” as he was called was surprisingly elusive.  He was known to Bob Downes.  He seems to have stalked Charlene because he had met her previously and given her money.  A familiar figure on his white bicycle he proved difficult to find.

This is the man that Becki saw giving money to Charlene. She says she has never seen the man before. Becki does not identify Ronnie from photographs.  Later she  says she does recognise the man, he is Ronnie  Fraser, a man in his fifties.  Becki had been given money by Ronnie but says there was no sexual contact.  Eventually Ronnie Fraser was tracked down to a flat in Blackpool, squalid, knee deep in all kinds of pornography including child pornography.

Ronnie Fraser has since died in a care home.  It is possible that he was suffering from a mental health problem as a result of injury. 

Was there something going on between Becki, Charlene and John McNally? Had they developed some side-gig of their own?

A difficulty arose regarding Bob’s movements on the night that Charlene disappeared.  In her book “Sold in Secret” Karen says that Bob went looking for Charlene on his bike. In his police statement: Bob says he was drunk and does not recall where he was or who he was with and did not come home until 2.30am.

Confusion arises from interviews with Charlene’s friends.  They appear to be concealing information perhaps because they do not want to be associated with the activities in the alley at the back of Clifton Street where take-away workers would socialise with white girls. The parents of the girls are unenthusiastic about cooperating with the police.  One girl has a civil servant acting as the “responsible adult.” Research by the police shows that she is linked to a massage parlour… well this is Blackpool.  An interesting piece of information from one of Charlene’s friends, if it is reliable, is that Charlene had a blanket and said she was sleeping out. Charlene had also asked if she could stay at a friends’ house that night which might be because Charlene was afraid of Bob.

Why did Karen wait until Monday to report that Charlene was missing?  Karen says that she rang up on Sunday and was told to wait 24 hours. Calls to Blackpool Police Station are recorded. There is no evidence that Karen did ring up on the Sunday,

When confronted Karen says the police are liars.

In the book by Karen: Sold in Secret, Karen says she rang the police on Friday night.

When Karen did make the phone call on Monday, she does not refer to a previous call and her tone is casual.  The call is recorded. She says her daughter Charlene has been missing since Friday.  The operator says police will call.  Karen says she has to pop out.  The operator tells Karen sharply to stay in until the police call.

Karen and Bob have good reason to delay calling the police until Monday.

 They have a guest: Ray Munro.  Ray Munro is due to appear in court in Fleetwood on Monday charged with sexual offences against two children, a boy and a girl.  Karen and Bob claim that they thought that Ray had merely raped his girlfriend which is quite acceptable, they had no idea that children were involved and that they were disgusted although Bob visited Ray in prison.  Other sources say that Ray did admit the charge, but said that he had been “fitted up” by the police and was going to sue them. Ray Munro was breaking his bail conditions by staying in Buchanan Street.  He had feared violence in Fleetwood and he had been an incident in Buchanan Street involving a young girl, a friend of Charlene. There had been a row between Charlene and Ray Munro.

Ray had to sign daily at Fleetwood and he had gone there with Charlene and Glen Paget.  They were spotted in a car together by a policeman and Charlene was taken back to Buchanan Street to separate her from the suspected sex offender Ray Munro… who was staying at Buchanan Street.  The police had taken Charlene away from Ray Munro suspected of sexual offences against children to unknowingly take her to Buchanan Street where Ray was staying.

Now Karen and Bob would not want the police coming around investigating the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl when they had a sex offender awaiting trial staying at their home. Not a good look, as the young folks say.

Did Karen ring the police on Sunday (or Saturday as she says in Sold in Secret)?  You decide.

The police wanted to know about Karen’s movements on the Friday that Charlene went missing.  They threatened to charge her for withholding information.  Karen had been with John McNally.  You will recall that John McNally and Becki shared a flat.  There is also a report that when Charlene made a couple of phone calls on her final meeting with her mother on Church Street.  One of the calls was to John McNally.  This provoked an altercation between Charlene and Becki. When Becki gets cross she goes full council estate as Ronay says. Becki might have angrily revealed about the money Charlene had received from Ronnie Fraser. Karen might have told Charlene that she would tell Bob. Bob would have beaten Charlene if she showed up.  Bob was in constant need of money to top up his blood alcohol ratio. That  would account for Charlene “sleeping out.” She is very vulnerable because she is afraid to go home.

 Now John stays with Karen, he shares a flat with Becki and he is getting phone calls from Charlene… does that mean?   I don’t know.

John McNally remains a long-term friend of Karen Downes. Except as tends to happen with Karen when they have a falling out.  The have a Facebook falling out in which Karen calls John a paedophile and John says that Bob bounced Becki off every wall in Buchanan Street.  And  then they make up. 

The police are facing a difficult situation. 109, Buchanan Street is a house of secrets.

The police use the urgency of the investigation into the disappearance of Charlene Downes to put pressure on visitors to Buchanan Street.  The police were desperate to understand the state of affairs in the Downes household quickly and were prepared to offer immunity in return for disclosure.  This explains why people were willing to admit to sexual activity involving Charlene.

One visitor paid Charlene for a sexual act.  The informant may be lying to minimize guilt but he says that Charlene was the initiator and that she said that she would expose him if he did not give her money.  It is tempting to portray Charlene as an exploited innocent but she was becoming aware of her power.  She was a cheeky girl, chatty and mischievous and as one of her friends said: “She could be a little shit at times.” I like to think of Charlene as an artful dodger.

 Charlene’s willingness to make threats might be connected with her fate.

Taffy as he was called was a family friend and told Karen that he had “feelings” for Charlene and would wait until she was of age.  You sometimes have a sense of being in another world. A family where a friend in his forties says he had “feelings” for the fourteen-year-old daughter.

The Downes family had been operating as a boarding house for prisoners on remand.  One assumes this is connected with Bob’s chronic thirstiness. Many of these prisoners had been charged with crimes such as rape or sexual offences.  Two of these men confessed to paying Charlene for sexual acts.

Sixteen men with histories including rape and sexual activity with children visited the home.

The police thought that Charlene had up to a hundred contacts with older white men and with take-away workers.

The number of suspects made the case so difficult.  Any of the contacts could be the murderer and the police were unable to contact the majority.  Contact with Charlene would make you a suspect and also involve a sexual offence.

Did the police have a suspect at the time?  I don’t know. At one time the police suspected Bob Downes and also believed he was pimping his children.

 Ronnie Fraser comes to mind as the last known contact. The take-away workers were suspects.  Charlene had twice been driven to different Northern towns and been paid for acts involving take-away workers.

The level of non-disclosure and mendacity among the Downes family and their visitors and Charlene’s friends tell their story: a house of secrets.  Some families have a skeleton in the cupboard but open any door in the Downes family and a whole regiment of skeletons come rattling out. 

There was much to hide and the people who would be most anxious to uncover Charlene’s fate were busily concealing information that might help uncover the circumstances.

Imagine the investigation team.  They were utterly bored.  There was a wealth of information but no prime suspect.  They were lied to.  They had distaste for many of the people they dealt with. 

The police were criticised for neglecting what one journalist called a culture of endemic child abuse in Blackpool.  The Awaken project sought to help the 60 young girls who were groomed at a dozen mostly Asian owned take-aways in Blackpool.

Many people were interviewed by the police. Originally the police were very active.  But enthusiasm only gets you so far.  With no end in sight the investigation team was resentful, bored and ill-tempered.  What the police like best is a simple case which is solved using all their skills and abilities.  What they like least is a long-running investigation with no end in sight and no suspects (or several weak suspects).  And Charlene’s case was becoming just like that.  It wasn’t even a murder case.  It wasn’t that the police knew that a crime had been committed.

Imagine this debilitating lack of purpose or goal and suddenly a detective working on a different case says that a man he has been questioning regarding another matter has said that he knows somebody who knows something about the Charlene Downes case.

The man who knows something is called David Cassidy and he has a tale to tell.  The investigation team learn of two suspects who are Asian and involved in take-aways

This is exactly what the police had hoped for.  Take-away workers had been regarded as suspects.  The story David Cassidy had to tell was this:  Iyad Albattikhi managed Funny Boyz  on Dickson Road.  David Cassidy knew Iyad’s brother and Tariq.  Tariq said that one day Iyad had confessed killing Charlene Downes.

David Cassidy certainly did have a story to tell.