It is the case that has haunted Blackpool for a decade – now police have offered £100,000 in a bid to find out what happened to Charlene Downes.
The resort teenager has not been seen since she disappeared in November 2003 – aged just 14. Her body has never been found.
Now leading detectives are offering the six figure reward for information which helps to finally solve the mystery of what happened to the Blackpool schoolgirl.
Det Supt Andy Webster, the man leading the inquiry, said: “This is a life-changing sum of money and we believe someone out there knows what happened to Charlene and we hope this will prompt them to come forward.”
He said he was appealing to Charlene’s friends and those who knew her.
The reward was offered via BBC TV’s Crimewatch show last night.
The programme also included CCTV footage, made public for the first time in yesterday’s Gazette, which shows a woman walking with a young girl who police believe may be Charlene.
Two town centre door staff reported seeing Charlene between 9.15pm and 10.15pm on the night she disappeared.
The footage was taken outside the former Station Pub, now Ma Kellys, at 9.03pm on November 1, 2003.
Police are now appealing for information about the older woman’s identity.
Det Supt Webster said he hoped the six figure reward, which would be paid from the Proceeds of Crime Fund, which is made up of money and assets seized from criminal activity, would help bring new information to light.
“Charlene’s friends, obviously just teenagers at the time, will now be grown up and may have their own children,” he said.
“As parents themselves, I would hope they come forward and tell us what they know.
“Second, I appeal directly to those who know or may have heard what happened to Charlene in 2003.
“They may have been present when she was murdered or may simply have intimate details as to how she was killed and what then happened to her body.
“For whatever reasons, they may have chosen not to speak out previously, but as we seek to lift the lid on what happened, their information is
vital to take the case forward.”
Police have long believed Charlene was groomed for sex before being murdered.
In 2008, a judge ordered a Blackpool businessman to be cleared of Charlene’s murder, after “grave doubts” were raised around evidence during his second trial.
Anyone with information is urged to call Lancashire Police on 101.