Group march for Charlene

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A TRAGIC mother has praised a controversial pressure group who continue to fight for justice for her daughter.

The family of Charlene Downes – who has not been seen since she disappeared in 2003 – joined hundreds of members of Casuals United as they took to the town’s seafront on Saturday.

Nothing has been heard of Charlene since she disappeared aged 13, and the protest group – affiliated to the English Defence League – are calling for more police action on the case.

Charlene’s mother Karen told The Gazette: “We’re pleased this march happened. I hope Casuals United keep up the good work because they are doing a wonderful job.

“They are fighting for me and it’s wonderful.

“I’m overwhelmed with the support Charlene’s got, I’ve never known such support.

“They are such lovely people fighting for what they believe in.

“I will continue with the English Defence League to put pressure on the police and get justice for my daughter.”

The march was timed to coincide with Charlene’s 22nd birthday and took the protesters along the Promenade in South Shore.

Dozens of those marching waved placards bearing slogans in support of the Downes family.

And Joe Cardiff, from Casuals United, said the group would keep on returning to the resort until justice was done.

He added: “We’ve said to the police we’re going to keep coming back to Blackpool every few months until we get justice for Charlene.

“There’s no justice for the family.

“Their daughter has been murdered and they’ve got no justice. Next time we come we’re going to do a demo outside the CPS offices.”

There has been criticism of the way the police have handled the case.

In 2006, Iyad Albattikhi was charged with murdering Charlene and his business partner, Mohammed Raveshi, was charged with helping dispose of the body.

A jury was unable to reach a decision after the first trial in 2007 and a re-trial was halted last year because of problems with evidence. Both men were acquitted.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission later found part of the investigation was “handled poorly and unprofessionally”.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police, who cordoned off an area of the Promenade for the demo, confirmed the investigation into Charlene’s disappearance “remains ongoing”.