Detectives investigating the murder of missing schoolgirl Charlene Downes say new leads have emerged since they launched a fresh appeal for information.
Police have had more than 50 calls in the two weeks since announcing a £100,000 reward in a bid to crack the 11-year-old case.
Det Supt Andy Webster, who is leading the hunt to find her, said the calls included new details that did not come up in the inquiry after Charlene, from Buchanan Street, went missing on November 1, 2003, aged just 14. It comes after The Gazette revealed a never-before-seen photo that police believe may show Charlene – with a woman they are keen to trace – on the night she disappeared.
Det Supt Webster said: “We have some new information, we have had some new names put forward that haven’t featured previously in the investigation. We have had a number of names for the woman who we are seeking to identify.
“This is probably the biggest inquiry the force has ever undertaken. It has been a real positive inquiry, but the bottom line is we are still appealing for information and the reward of £100,000 is still there.”
The reward, being offered by the Police and Crime Commissioner, was announced on BBC’s Crimewatch.
“We have had a few of Charlene’s friends come forward who are starting to tell us what was going on at the time,” Det Supt Webster added.
“We know Charlene was being sexually exploited, and I suspect some of her friends and associates were too.”
Following Charlene’s disappearance, two men were charged in connection with her murder. A jury was unable to reach a verdict and a retrial was ordered. Before the retrial took place, the case was thrown out by a judge following concerns over the evidence and both men were acquitted.
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