Murder row sister admits to assault

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THE sister of missing Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes has been cleared of racially abusing the brother of a man found not guilty of murdering Charlene.

At the opening of her trial a jury heard how Emma Downes had slapped Tariq Albattikhi across the face and was accused of aiming a racist slur at him.

But the hearing was stopped when the prosecution decided to accept her plea to the less serious offence of common assault on the first day of the trial.

Downes, 24, of Buchanan Street in central Blackpool, had always denied any racial element to the abuse and violence she had directed at Mr Albattikhi at Club Sanuk on the Promenade on December 8.

But before the trail she told the prosecution she accepted she had assaulted her victim.

Charlene Downes disappeared in November 2003, aged 14.

Preston Crown Court was told how the victim's brother, Iyad Albattikhi, had been accused of her murder but was later found not guilty.

In the Crown's opening address yesterday, the jury was told there had been a history between the two families.

David Traynor, prosecuting, said Tariq Albattikhi and a male friend were both in the club, but had not been drinking.

They went upstairs where they were immediately approached by the defendant.

The prosecution then said Downes approached Mr Albattikhi and slapped him across the face before trying to slap him a second time.

Mr Albattikhi grabbed her hand and told her "it's got nothing to do with me."

She then allegedly racially abused him.

The defendant was arrested on January 14.

In police interview she accepted being involved in an incident, but gave a different picture of what had happened.

Downes claimed there was a heated discussion between the pair, which ended in her pushing Mr Albattikhi away.

She then claimed he spat in her face and she slapped him as a result.

Downes accepted she had been abusive, but firmly denied any racial abuse, added the prosecution.

The defendant was bailed to be sentenced on October 1.