Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Police boost teenagers murder hunt

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Police are boosting their efforts to solve the murders of two teenagers years after their disappearances in the hope that witnesses might now be confident enough to come forward with information.

Charlene Downes, 14, disappeared in Blackpool on November 1 2003 and no trace has been found of her.

On the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, police have announced they will bolster the investigation with a dedicated senior investigating officer, Superintendent Andy Webster, assigned to her case full-time along with a team of specialist officers.

The team will also concurrently investigate the disappearance of another local teenager, Paige Chivers, 15, who vanished in August 2007. Her body has never been found either and police have not ruled out a link between both cases.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Rhodes said Lancashire Constabulary had never given up the search for either girl, but hoped the fresh investigation would jog people's memories.

"There is nothing evidentially that links these cases at present although we would never rule it out but as with Charlene, I would also ask people to remember Paige and, again, let us know if there's anything they have been keeping to themselves about what happened to her," he said.

Mr Rhodes said he was certain someone had information that would help solve both cases.

"We know that people are more confident in coming forward to report historic information nowadays and this may be the case here," he said.

"Charlene and Paige's friends, obviously just teenagers at the time they went missing, will now be grown up and may have their own children. I would hope they may be more confident now in coming forward and telling us what they may know.

"We appreciate that a considerable amount of time has passed since both Charlene and Paige went missing but we would still encourage anyone with information to come forward and speak to us as it could assist in our inquiries, and help bring the killer or killers to justice."

Lancashire police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw said he had seen many cases where information years later resulted in successful prosecutions.

Mr Grunshaw specifically mentioned the case of former BBC presenter Stuart Hall, who was jailed for child sexual abuse against 14 girls between 1967 and 1985.

"I hope, in the cases of both Charlene and Paige, there is someone out there who now feels comfortable enough to come forward and tell the police what they know," he said.

"Charlene and Paige's families have a right to know what happened to their children, and I would urge anyone who thinks they might know something - no matter how small - to take this opportunity and contact the police."

Prosecutors in the 2007 trial of takeaway owner Iyad Albattikhi, accused and later acquitted of Charlene's death, claimed her body was chopped up and had "gone into kebabs".

The court heard Charlene was one of a number of young white girls who gravitated to Blackpool's takeaways to have sex with older men.

Mr Albattikhi was formally cleared of Charlene's murder while co-defendant Mohammed Reveshi was acquitted of helping to dispose of her body.

Both of the accused were later reported to have received six-figure compensation sums for false imprisonment.

Paige had also been linked to sex exploitation in the area.

Over the years, police have made four arrests on suspicion of Paige's murder but all have been freed without charge.

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