Charlene’s mum in agony as son is jailed

Robert Downes, 21, the younger brother of missing schoolgirl Charlene Downes
Robert Downes, 21, the younger brother of missing schoolgirl Charlene Downes
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A young man struggling to come to terms with the tragic loss of his sister has been jailed over an attack with an iron bar.

Robert Downes, whose teenage sister Charlene vanished aged 14 without trace almost 10 years ago, landed himself back in trouble for throwing the weapon outside the home of his former partner, hitting a woman.

His lawyer told Preston Crown Court how his problems all flowed from his inability to cope with the tragedy concerning his sister.

Downes, 22, of George Street, Blackpool had pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful wounding. He was given 12 months for the offence, with another 12 months for breaching an earlier suspended sentence.

Downes had earlier been in a relationship with another woman, but they had separated at the time. On the date of the offence in June she had seen him in Cleveleys and the defendant was said to have been aggressive and shouting at her.

That evening she was at her home in Cleveleys when she saw Downes nearby. The back gate was opened and the victim, who was outside, felt blows to her face. It turned out that a metal bar had been thrown. She had a cut below her right eye.

Lloyd Morgan, defending, said Downes wanted to apologise for the offence. He hoped there would be a reconciliation with his partner.

He said: “He has an ability to cope with the loss of his sister. It is an ability to cope with what happened years ago.

“He was drunk at the time of the offence, but he had been making good progress with supervision and alcohol treatment on his suspended sentence, treading a straight line”.

Judge Michael Byrne said in passing sentence that court orders had not acted as a restraint upon Downes’ behaviour in the past.

Today his mum Karen who now faces the 10th anniversary of Charlene’s disappearance without another of her children, spoke of her heartbreak.

She said: “I do not condone violence especially against women but not against anyone. Robert should not have done it. He is very sorry for what he has done.

“His head is all screwed up over what happened to his sister. He was 12 at the time and it is like he never had a normal teenage life. I am not making excuses because what he did was wrong, but I can fully understand why he was so angry.

“It is going to be terrible for the family when Charlene’s anniversary comes up. It will be like I have lost two children.”