THE family of missing presumed dead schoolgirl Charlene Downes will hold a memorial service to mark her birthday on Sunday.
Karen and Robert Downes say the poignant day, when Charlene should be celebrating her 23rd birthday, will give them the opportunity to pay tribute to their daughter, who went missing nearly nine years ago.
Mrs Downes, 46, of Boothley Road, North Shore, said: “It will be an outdoor service with everyone who knew and loved Charlene welcome. There will be around 50 of us.
“We thought it would be nice to have a service to lay her memory to rest.
“She would have been celebrating her 23rd birthday. She would be living her life, enjoying herself and spending time with her friends. She would have had a job and she might have had a baby by now.
“It’s going to be a sad day on Sunday thinking of all the things she could have done.”
The memorial service will be held from 11am tomorrow in the rose garden at Carleton Crematorium, where the teen’s memorial bench has been moved to recently from Stanley Park.
It is hoped a plaque will be unveiled during the ceremony.
Mrs Downes said: “Charlene loved roses so it is fitting the service will be there. We are going to sing some hymns and her dad and I will read some tributes about her life.
“Some of our friends are also going to do some readings.
“A plaque with Charlene’s name is being made and hopefully will be in time to be unveiled on Sunday.”
Charlene, a pupil at St Georges High School, Blackpool, was 14 when she disappeared in November 2003.
Despite Lancashire Police holding their biggest missing person’s inquiry, she has never been found.
Two men were arrested and charged with murdering the teenager and disposing of her body.
In 2007, a jury at Preston Crown Court failed to reach a verdict.
A re-trial was ordered but the case collapsed after prosecutors withdrew the charges and the judge ordered not guilty verdicts be returned on both men.
The police say the inquiry into Charlene’s disappearance remains a live investigation and they will follow up any leads they receive.