POLICE are to launch an inquiry after the Charlene Downes murder trial sensationally collapsed.
One man was yesterday cleared of her alleged murder and another of the disposal of the Blackpool schoolgirl's body.
Defence barristers quickly accused Blackpool police's investigation of being riddled with "incompetence, manipulation and lies".
And Charlene's heartbroken mother today demanded answers after charges against businessman Mohammed Reveshi and another man were dropped.
Karen Downes said: "Why did they (the police) put us through this? Why didn't they make sure they had enough evidence before taking this to court?"
Loss of 'key plank' led to collapse of police case
We'll never give up our fight for justice
The case against Mr Reveshi, 50, of Hornby Road, who was charged with disposing of Charlene's body, and the other man, who was accused of murdering the 14-year-old, collapsed because concerns were raised over the evidence of a key prosecution witness.
John Bromley-Davenport, defending Mr Reveshi, said: "We have uncovered within the Blackpool Police force an astonishing catalogue of incompetence, failure to disclose, manipulation and lies, some of which were uttered on oath during the trial last year.
"If the jury at that trial had swallowed the lies and been duped by the manipulation then a grave miscarriage of justice would have occurred."
Prosecutors withdrew the charges against the two men and the judge ordered not guilty verdicts be returned on both.
Mr Reveshi said he would be seeking compensation for the two-and-a-half years he had spent in prison awaiting trial.
He said: "It's been a nightmare. This was shameful behaviour by the police.
"I'm very relieved because there was never any basis for this whole thing. This was an imaginary case.
"How can something like this happen when I've never been in trouble with the police before?
"I've never met this girl (Charlene). I don't know the family, but I hope that she is alive somewhere."
Fourteen-year-old Charlene has not been seen since she kissed her mother Karen goodbye at a bus stop in central Blackpool in November 2003.
Despite Lancashire Police's biggest ever missing person's investigation she has never been found.
Charlene's parents, who said they would never give up their hunt for the truth behind what happened to their daughter were distraught by yesterday's events in court.
Mrs Downes said: "I don't want to blame them (the police) as they have been very good to us, but there was always going to be a problem with the lack of forensic evidence and not having found her body.
"Now I'm being told some of the evidence was flawed. We've been through two years of hell with this trial and are left back where we started."
Dad Robert added: "There are a lot of questions I want answering.
"The police have given us a lot of moral support and I know the officers were distraught, but something has gone wrong and we need to know why."
Police chiefs refused to comment on the defence team's allegations, but said an inquiry would be held into the investigation.
Det Supt Kevin Toole said the investigation remained open, although a review of the case was needed.
He said: "We want to find out the truth about what happened to Charlene Downes.
"We had to accept we didn't have sufficient evidence to secure convictions in this case.
"We have listened to a lot of legal argument and discussions in court, but it shouldn't be forgotten the main issue here is Charlene Downes.
"In some respects we are back to square one.
"There will now be some quiet reflection before carefully considering everything that has happened today and in recent weeks.
"Only when we have looked at all that material can we start to consider the future of the case, but I believe there are some parts of the investigation which could still be relevant."
Mr Reveshi and the other man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been due for a retrial at the end of the month.
A jury failed to reach a decision at the two men's first trial in May last year.