THE mother of missing Blackpool schoolgirl Charlene Downes today admitted stabbing her husband with a knife.
Heartbroken Karen Downes lashed out at Robert in anger and frustration a week after the trial collapsed of two men accused of being behind Charlene's disappearance.
Karen said: "I'd had enough, of him, my life, of it all. Charlene is all I can think of. If we could only find answers, some peace, things might get easier. We desperately need a break and closure. No-one's helping us. Our family's in meltdown."
Mr Downes confirmed he was treated for minor injuries to the side of his body after the incident happened earlier this week.
He later gave a statement to police at the family home in Buchanan Street.
Mr Downes, a former soldier, said: "Karen went for me. It's a flesh wound. Police are not pressing charges – I wouldn't want them to. We can work this out. I love her to bits.
"But this is tearing us apart."
The Downes' have been inconsolable after two men were last week cleared in court - one of murder, the other of disposing of Charlene's body.
Charges, which hinged on covert police tape recordings, were dropped and both men found not guilty.
St George's High School pupil Charlene has not been seen since November 2003 when she kissed her mother goodbye at a bus stop in Blackpool.
Despite Lancashire Police's biggest ever missing person's inquiry Charlene, who was 14 when she disappeared, has never been found.
A tearful Mrs Downes said: "It's just so much to handle. We want answers. I want my daughter home. Someone out there knows the answers."
Mr Downes added: "You try living with this. I think Karen blames me for not being a better dad, or doing more to get justice for our daughter.
"But we love each other and, with help, can work this out."
The stabbing of Mr Downes, which is now being looked into by Blackpool Police's family protection unit, came as a top detectives offered to put an army of private investigators at the family's – and the police force's – disposal, free of charge, to help find Charlene.
Blackpool-based Eric Shelmerdine, past-president of the World Association of Detectives, and secretary of the Association of British Investigators, said: "This is still a missing person inquiry, yet Charlene hasn't got the profile of Madeleine McCann.
"The case is barely known outside Blackpool. We have 400 investigators who can be the family's eyes and ears across the country and overseas.
Our work involves getting close to communities at ground level. Someone out there knows something."
The news was greeted with joy by Mr and Mrs Downes.
"Bless this man for his kind offer of help when everything seems so lost," said Charlene's mother.
The Association of British Investigators, which will discuss the case at its annual meeting today , is offering to post details of Charlene's disappearance on its website and set up a dedicated e-mail address.
Blackpool Police have referred the association's offer to investigators now heading the inquiry at Lancashire police headquarters.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now reviewing Blackpool Police's handling of the murder probe after allegations by one of the cleared men's lawyers that it was riddled with "incompetence, manipulation and lies".