New arrests by Charlene case police

Charlene Downes
Charlene Downes

A major investigation into the murder of a Blackpool schoolgirl has uncovered a string of historical child sex abuse allegations.

Detectives looking into the murder of schoolgirl Charlene Downes have made six new arrests linked to a 15-year-old girl who was allegedly repeatedly raped by multiple men between 2003 and 2004.

Although the cases are not directly linked, the arrests have come to light as officers continue to expose the scale of wider child sexual abuse in the resort around the time of Charlene’s disappearance in 2003.

Det Supt Andy Webster vowed to investigate thoroughly every new case thrown up by the investigation, adding: “Our priority is to find out what happened to Charlene.

“Our remit has always stayed narrow.

“We still believe she was murdered in 2003 and the answers lie in Blackpool, close to where she was last seen, in Abingdon Street.”

Charlene was just 14-years-old when she was last seen at around 10.03pm on Saturday November 1, 2003.

Despite a £100,000 reward on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer or the recovery of her body, nobody has ever been brought to justice.

Yesterday officers arrested a 38-year-old man from HMP Preston in relation to historical child sex exploitation offences, which are not directly related to Charlene’s disappearance.

Five others aged 33, 36, 37, 42 and 45 from Blackburn were arrested last week, also on suspicion of historical rapes –alleged to have taken place in 2003 and 2004 against a girl who was 15-years-old at the time.

The 37-year-old man was released without charge while the others have been released under investigation.

In a separate enquiry Michael Allen McKenzie, 68, of Keswick Road, Blackpool, has been charged with the rape and two indecent assaults involving a 14-year-old girl in Blackpool in May 2003.

He has been bailed to appear before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on August 21.

DetSupt Webster revealed how the allegations had been uncovered as part of the ongoing Charlene Downes investigation.

He said: “We have been trying to speak with Charlene’s associates, people who were of the same age, with the same connections. As a result of that a number of further allegations have come to light.

“We are still hoping we can discover the truth of what happened to Charlene.

“But the victims of the cases we are uncovering as the inquiry widens can be equally assured we will do everything we can to ensure the people responsible are brought to justice.”

Det Supt Webster today made a fresh call for anybody who might have information on Charlene’s disappearance to come forward.

He said: “People involved may have been 14, 15 or 16 at the time. They may well now be parents themselves.

“Anything they might have could help us get to the truth.

“If you call 101 and say it is in relation to Charlene Downes information will be passed to us.”