I love Blackpool because of its faults. When a thirty four year old woman felt amorously inclined to a gentleman she saw in in newsagents in North Shore they consummated their relationship on the bonnet of a red Peugeot in Hyde Street within minutes. Interrupted by the police the man ran off and the lady appeared in court. We were impressed. We’re friendly. We don’t stand on ceremony. Nobody likes us, we don’t care. Blackpool people never let you down: they always behave worse . Every day we read in the “Gazette” that a man has stolen twenty-eight packets of bacon from the Tesco Express in Central Drive. Part of us relishes this lawlessness… .When I go on holiday say to Cambridge something is not right. I can’t put my finger on it and then it comes to me. There are no teenage mothers pushing prams. Nobody is smoking. There are no overweight people attempting to eat their own mass in sausage rolls. Nobody is shouting at anybody. Nobody is running down the road clutching packets of bacon chased by security guards. It is boring. You don’t have to go as far as Cambridge. You can go to Lytham. You soon notice the irritating lack of betting shops, tattooes, smoking, very large people, Cash Converters, McDonalds. What do they do there? In charity shops in Lytham they have second hand jackets that cost more than my entire wardrobe. You could keep a Blackpool family in skunk for a month for the cost of that jacket. They live ten years longer in Lytham than in Bloomfield but I bet it feels like twenty. Blackpool is street theatre, you are in a 3D full size version of a cross between Beckett and the Jeremy Kyle Show. People come here to get drunk and take drugs. The sex industry is a bigger employer than rock-making. You are never more than ten minutes away from a drug dealer or a prostitute. Legal highs and new drugs feed into a nightclub culture. People coming home from nightclubs pass people going to work. Low paid work or jobs in the black economy are easier to find than in some towns and the availability of housing encourages people who have trouble in their home towns. Blackpool is a destination of choice for people on the run. You can come to Blackpool with £150.00 and a bin-liner full of clothes and find a flat. . Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. Or you die because you eat drink and be merry. There is a dark side to this carnival. People die rather a lot in Blackpool. Bloomfield Ward has the lowest life expectancy in the United Kingdom.. Crime levels are the eighth highest in the UK and the highest outside London. Addiction and smoking account for many of the deaths. A young person in Blackpool is eight times more likely to commit suicide than the national average. Lives are lived in sadness and despair.
I am walking along Central Drive and an Indian woman in a sari is nearly run over by a cyclist on the pavement: “You Paki Bitch.” He shouts. In Blackpool there are problems. And there are people who have been failed by every institution. The very poorest most chaotic people are the ones who are in competition with immigrants for housing and jobs. Poverty equals crime, despair, drink and drugs.
BLACKPOOL: THE TRIBES
Grayson Perry says that British Society consists of tribes. Addicts socialise with addicts, prostitutes socialise with prostitutes, vicars socialise with vicars. We have a view about the world which is really the view of ourselves and people like us. If you walk round Blackpool on a busy day you will walk past paedophiles, murderers, addicts, drug dealers. You will walk past children who are being abused. A family were recently arrested for keeping their son in a locked shed in the garden. You will pass children who do not eat regularly. If you have walked through Blackpool in the past few years it is likely that you will have passed Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers and their relatives and the men convicted for Paige’s murder and the men charged with Charlene’s murder.
Tribes have many functions, they make themselves feel good by disparaging other tribes, they provide company and mutual support, they enhance personal identity, they are a forum to discuss problems involving the tribe. Attribution of blame is one function. When a member of the BNP bombed a gay pub in London the Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin said that he found the conduct of the mourners distasteful. Retrospective justification?
It isn’t all dark in Blackpool, I know a man who used to be a postmen who goes to Uganda on a tiny pension to provide education. When he is in Blackpool he helps provide food for homeless people. A hairdresser cuts their hair if they want. Week after week this man cuts hair for homeless people.
So I love Blackpool but there are things so dark they cling. Darkest of these dark things is the fate of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers. If there is a redemptive side… well stop right there… there isn’t. It is said that suffering makes you a better person but I think it makes you a worse person. I do not think that Charlene and Paige were different to anybody except that they were poor. Bruce Springsteen sang in Atlantic City:
“Down here it’s just winners and losers
And you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of that line.” .
Blackpool may be the paedophile capital of Britain. A convicted paedophile would find life difficult in Burnley or Rochdale. Paedophiles or suspected paedophiles are attacked and killed in England. Possibly one or two percent of the male population are true paedophiles: they are aroused primarily or only by children. Many of them realise that this is wrong and need help. There is no treatment available for non-offending paedophiles. The demonisation of paedophiles has made it nearly impossible for non-offending paedophiles to seek help even though this reduces the offending rate. The concensus is that paedophilia is not a choice or a preference and that it is already established at birth. Convicted paedophiles come to Blackpool because they can find housing and safety in the anonymous crowd. It is likely that they are less closely supervised. After Charlene Downes’ disappearance it was found that about 60 young girls as young as eleven hung around “honey pots”, the take-aways around the town centre and Dickson Road where they could be offered drugs and alcohol in return for sex. These take-aways are staffed by Asians. “Asian” is a broad-term: Jesus was an Asian.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PAIGE CHIVERS
This is Paige Chivers.
And this is Paige Chivers aged fifteen on a poster printed when she was still believed to be missing.
The older Paige looks troubled. Something has happened. In that beautiful face there is wariness, mistrust. We project interpretations. Blackpool is a small town and my friend talked to Paige at a bus-stop a couple of weeks before she disappeared. She says that Paige was a bit scary, wanted to show her scars on her neck.
Paige Chivers had much to be troubled about. She was excluded from school. She was drinking and taking drugs mainly amphetamines, she was promiscuous. Her mother had died. Her father was a drinker, a heroin user, and he blamed Paige for her mother’s death. Paige’s father Frank was violent, he hit Paige for taking drugs, somewhat ignoring the fact that he took drugs himself. She went to the same take-aways as Charlene Downes. Bereavement, drug problems, friction with her father, exclusion from school. Paige was an isolated and troubled child.
There were stable elements in Paige Chivers’ life. She had a close friend Tiffany Bell. They would take drugs and chat. And there was Bob Ewing. A kindly uncle he let the girls use his flat and drink and take drugs and talk about their lives.
23 August 2007 Paige packed her belongings into two carrier-bags. Her father Frank had told her on the phone that he would kill her after money was missing from Frank’s wallet. You will recall that Frank was a heroin user, probably an addict. Frank had lost his wife, blamed Paige and had addiction and drink problems. He was like many people in Blackpool, occasionally getting in trouble for offences involving drink, drugs and violence.
Paige was seen at a bus-stop with an older man. The following day she was seen at Bob Ewing’s flat at tea-time. And then nothing.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BNP AND THE EDL
We last saw the BNP in a moment of triumph. The BNP had two Euro-MPs. True to BNP tradition one of them resigned and formed a faction aimed at getting rid of Nick Griffin. Nick Griffin resigned and was replaced by Adam Walker pending an election.
The English Defence League had been led by Tommy Robinson. He was imprisoned for fraud involving mortgages.
More pragmatic followers moved to UKIP. The votes and membership of the Far Right evaporated. Those who remained were the kind of supporter that Nick Griffin wanted to eliminate. A Far Right circus: ideologically driven, bitter, angry and few. The increasing loopiness of the rump BNP found voice in criticisms of Nick Griffin: that he was tolerant, liberal and a Zionist. Nick Griffin had been upstaged by UKIP.
Nick Griffin had a following in Blackpool and he visited the town probably hoping to launch a new leadership bid. The BNP’s moment was past. Nick Griffin had taken the party to the verge of a breakthrough, then it had rejected him. Given events he may wish that he had never heard of Blackpool.
Paige often went missing for days and it was days before Frank reported her missing to the Police. The Police switchboard made a mistake and reported Paige’s date of birth as 1962.
This error delayed a search. Paige’s disappearance was reported three days after she was missing and the error was not corrected until twelve days later. It took time to realise that this was not an ordinary runaway teenager. There were no sightings and no evidence of activity. Paige Chivers did not claim an inheritance left to her by her mother. There was no evidence that Paige was working or claiming benefits or using the health service. By February 2012 the search was a murder enquiry. The last sighting of Paige was at Bob Ewing’s flat at tea time on the day after she left home. The day before she had been seen with an older man at a bus-stop.
The Police had reason to be suspicious of Bob Ewing. He had been imprisoned for a year in 1995 for gross indecency involving a thirteen year old. He had almost certainly been questioned in regard to the disappearance of Charlene Downes. He was the person last seen with Paige Chivers. It is likely that the hesitancy of investigators regarding Bob Ewing is connected to nervousness following the acquittal of Iyad and Mohammed.
If Paige had been killed where was the body? The investigators probably never doubted Robert Ewing’s involvement. They noted his close relationship with Gareth Dewhurst. Gareth Dewhurst and Robert Ewing had met through their involvement in the BNP in Blackpool. They had helped in the BNP’s campaign by handing out leaflets. In the small world of Blackpool BNP they almost certainly met Charlene’s mother and father. They described themselves as “Neo-Nazis.” A friend of mine met Gareth years ago at a drinking session. He shouted: “Sluts” through the window of the Ladies Toilets and ran off. He was called “Rusty” because of his red hair. He is very often described as “weird.”
They were questioned without success. The investigators planted microphones in Bob Ewing’s home. At this time Bob and Gareth were aware of the techniques used in the Charlene Downes’ case and they referred to the possibility that their conversations were taped.
Gareth and Bob tried to intimidate witnesses and to lay false trails. Bob accused a man who had recently died of being the killer and he claimed that he had been heard a “confession” on the phone.
Gareth who worked as a painter and decorator and as a handyman and as a caretaker at Blackpool and Fylde Naval College confessed to Michael Washer who was 15 or 16. Michael was the son of Gareth’s girlfriend at the time. Gareth smoked a great deal of marijuana. Eventually the son had told his mother who had told him to tell the Police. The lad did. When asked in court why he had not gone to the Police earlier he said with admirable concision: “It is not the done thing in our circles.” Michael said that Gareth repeated the story.
Frank Chivers, Paige’s father, was murdered in an unrelated incident. He was involved in argument over twenty-pounds. We recall that Paige left home in as a result of an argument over money.
The investigators and the suspects were playing cat and mouse. Both of the suspects tried to muddy the water by laying false trails, intimidating witnesses and being uncooperative. This state went on for eight years. The Police were cautious because of the failure of the case against Iyad Alkabatti and Mohammed Raveshi when the evidence obtained by microphone was inconclusive. Finally the investigators were able to charge Gareth and Bob. The evidence was totally circumstantial and the absence of a body made it difficult. There were small blood stains from Paige in the house, there was Gareth’s confession, there were tapes were the crime was mentioned and there were diary entries by Bob which refer to Paige.
In April 2015 the trial began at Preston Crown Court. Bob Ewing (60) was accused of murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Gareth Dewhurst (45) was accused of helping Bob Ewing conceal the body and having committed a sexual act with the body of Paige Chivers.
The last charge seems to come from a gothic fairy tale and recalls the story of Charlene being put into kebabs. It derives from Gareth’s confessions. Gareth had said that Bob Ewing had forced him to have sex with Paige’s body.
How do you go about forcing somebody to have sex with a corpse? Irrespective of whether it is true or not it demonstrates the kind of hold that Bob had over Gareth. Gareth: neo-Nazi, marijuana smoking, weird bully was not a deeply bad person. It is a happy thing for our peace of mind that Gareth was acquitted on this charge.
I will not dwell on the trial There was one piece of evidence that I found compelling.
Six days before Paige vanished Bob Ewing rang up the Police Switchboard and asked for advice about how he should deal with a fifteen year old “problem child” who turned up at his door. The conversation lasts for more than six minutes and is riveting because we see how Bob portrays himself. He is ingratiating, bumbling, perplexed, establishes rapport. He is the plain man in a puzzling world he scarcely understands. The result of the conversation is that Bob Ewing believes that if Paige turns up on his doorstep with a shopping bag full of clothes nothing much will happen.
The conversation can be heard on the Gazette website: .
So at that point six days before Paige’s disappearance Bob is considering what will happen if Paige comes to his house. I do not believe he was thinking that he would kill her. But he was prepared to kill her. This goes back to Bob’s year in prison in 1995 for “gross indecency” with a thirteen year old girl. Bob was determined he would not go to prison again.
What happened is unknown. My guess is that Paige, tough and streetwise, rebuffed Bob and said she would tell the Police. Bob’s previous conviction was not known to the Jury at the time of the trial but it does add a motive. And then Bob killed her with a hammer.
Then he rang up Gareth. And they put the body in the van and drove. Where? There’s a question. If Bob didn’t have a car the places he could look at would be limited. They may have thought of somewhere while in the van. You wouldn’t want to be seen taking a body out of a van so that would suggest night and isolation. And somewhere close by. But this is speculation for all we know they could have driven to Cornwall. Then Gareth destroyed the van.
Gareth and Bob denied the crime. They were found guilty. Bob was sentenced to thirty-three years and Gareth to eight. Gareth was acquitted of the the charge involving sex and the body of Paige Chivers.
GARETH AND BOB
Bob was the mastermind. Gareth may have been overwhelmed by Bob. If Gareth had not met Bob he might have led a blame-free life with his marijuana and his Nazi fantasies. Maybe he met somebody who transformed those fantasies into realities.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
Bob and Gareth will probably appeal. My guess is that the appeal will fail. Then they will fall out. Bob and Gareth will blame one another. Gareth feels the burden of guilt more than Bob. Gareth’s stoned confession was an attempt to alleviate guilt. There is a possibility that Gareth will confess. It will make no difference to Bob. Even Bob may feel guilt. In an odd piece of the recorded surveillance of his home he says to himself: “You don’t mess with me. Quick hammer over the head then they will be sorry.”
Most people relive guilt and want to unburden themselves.
Suppose that Paige rebuffed Bob and threatened to go to the Police. The chances are that she wouldn’t do that anyway. But if she did what is the most serious charge? A fifteen year old girl loses her life because she is a remote possible threat. You cannot help but wonder what it is like to be Bob Ewing. It would be interesting to be Bob Ewing for a short time but it would be very unpleasant to be Bob Ewing. And is it that surprising that a Neo-Nazi lacks empathy?
Does the Paige Chivers disappearance cast any light on the Charlene Downes disappearance? Possibly. The suspects are:
Regardless of the acquittal of Iyad and Mohammed the staff of take-aways form one group of suspects. From all points of view it is puzzling that Charlene drops from view at 11.00 pm. This would be a busy time on the streets and in take-ways.
A SINGLE PAEDOPHILE
Charlene had many contacts with older white men. Because Charlene was young looking she may have appealed especially to paedophiles. And she had a number of contacts.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: BOB EWING
The BNP pointed out similarities between the disappearance of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers. Two girls disappear. They are similar in age. They have troubled backgrounds The victims are of an age that interests Bob Ewing. And we know that he has experience socialising with girls of that age. Bob tried to confuse the Paige investigation with false leads. If Bob were guilty his work for the BNP to throw suspicion on Iyad and Mohammed could be a way of promoting a false lead. His contact with the BNP gave him insight into investigation techniques. When Bob rang up the Police Switchboard about Paige he was gathering intelligence.
When he killed Paige, Bob Ewing had a plan. The absence of a body stalled the enquiry. Could this be because he had done it before? Disappeared a body?
Consider the points that Bob has in common with the Downes family: his age is similar to that of Robert Downes. They both have military experience. They are both BNP supporters, Bob Ewing is a convicted paedophile as were many visitors to the Downes’ household.
Could there have been contact between Charlene and Bob Ewing?
The similarity may be coincidental. It is possible that Ewing learned from the disappearance of Charlene Downes, that the absence of a body makes a murder conviction difficult.
While the BNP were campaigning about: “Muslim Paedophile Killers” one of their supporters was a paedophile and would become a killer. Actually there was another paedophile: Michael Kinnear was a BNP supporter living in Fairfield Avenue, North Shore. When a thirteen year old girl went missing from her foster-home the Police asked questioned him and he denied seeing her. Six days later she was discovered at his home. He was imprisoned for 33 months and on release moved to Morecambe where at present (august 2015) he is awaiting sentencing for taking and distributing sexual images of a seven year old girl.
Are the BNP appropriate people to be campaigning against paedophiles? I emailed the BNP with this question but have not received a reply. They used to have campaign to execute paedophiles. A paedophile might think that being a member of the BNP offered camouflage… like being a Priest…
The fact that some people in the BNP are paedophiles and murderers does not mean that all people in the BNP are paedophiles. People in all major parties are paedophiles and people in the Liberal Party have allegedly taken part in a conspiracy to kill.
Consider John Rabe.
John Rabe saved 250000 Chinese people during the Japanese invasion of China by establishing Safe Zones in Nanking. After the war he was unemployed and he and his family had to search the woodlands for food. When the people in Nanking heard they sent money.
John Rabe was a Nazi. I am not defending Nazis I am saying that this world is utterly strange.
In this world anything does happen.
I have just heard that a 51 year old man has been arrested in Preston who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene’s disappearance. I long to see justice done for her family and because Charlene is part of us and her fate is something we share and the hope is that justice prevails.