Charlene mum: ‘I need to move on with my life’

Karen Downes and Robert Downes at home
Karen Downes and Robert Downes at home
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The parents of missing Blackpool schoolgirl Charlene Downes are set to separate, a court was told.

Karen Downes, 49, of George Street, central Blackpool, has revealed plans to divorce her husband and move in with a professional piano player.

The news came as Mrs Downes successfully applied to magistrates in the resort to lift a restraining order forbidding Mark Bailey to contact her.

Mr Bailey, who is originally from New Zealand, started an online relationship with Mrs Downes after they grew close discussing what had happened to her daughter Charlene on a website dedicated to her memory.

Charlene (pictured right) was a pupil at St George’s High School when she went missing in November 2003, aged just 14. Despite Lancashire Police’s biggest ever missing person’s inquiry she has never been found.

Mr Bailey is said to have spent his life savings coming to the UK.

The courts imposed a restraining order after he pleaded guilty to assaulting Mrs Downes by pulling her hair in a car park.

Mrs Downes now plans to share her home with her husband Robert and new partner Mr Bailey, 27.

She said after the hearing at Blackpool Magistrates Court: “The rest of the world can say what they want. I want to live my own life and I know Charlene would want me to move on.

“I am going to divorce my husband and then Mark and I will find our own place.

“The children need to respect the fact my life cannot stay on hold forever.

“Mark is a fantastic piano player.

“I went to listen to him play at a venue but was told to leave because of the restraining order. Now that’s gone.

“I will never forget what happened to Charlene.

“She was a free spirit and I know she would not object to what I am doing. I love Mark and need to be with him.”

Lancashire Police objected to the application.

Pam Smith, prosecuting, told the hearing: “Mr Bailey came into this country to be with her but police have twice become involved in what appears to be an on-off relationship.

“He (Mr Bailey) has two convictions for assaulting her and police cannot see the removal of the order will be a good thing.”

Mrs Downes’s lawyer Gary McAnulty said: “My client says she has put Mr Bailey under stress and wants to give him another chance.

“She says he is a good man.”