Strangling claim in Charlene trial

A MISSING Blackpool teenager was "strangled" before her body was chopped up and disposed of, a murder trial was told.

Fourteen-year-old Charlene Downes, of Buchanan Street, has never been found since she disappeared in November 2003.

But a prosecution witness claims he was told Charlene was strangled by one of defendants.

Takeaway owner Iyad Albattikhi, 29, of Dickson Road, Blackpool, denies the murder of the teenager while Mohammed Reveshi, 50, of Hornby Road, denies disposing of her body.

David Cassidy, a former friend and work colleague of both defendants, told a jury at Preston Crown Court how Iyad's brother Tariq had confessed to him Charlene had been strangled before her body was cut up and disposed of.

Before the alleged confession, Mr Cassidy had gone to Funny Boyz takeaway on Dickson Road, to visit the Albattikhi brothers who both worked there.

Under cross-examination from Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting, Mr Cassidy said: "I saw Tariq outside Funny Boyz and he told me he knew what had happened to Charlene.

"He just kept saying the girl that had gone missing had been chopped-up. He was ranting and raving about it.

"Tariq was spluttering, I couldn't understand everything he was saying.

"He was ranting and raving after an argument with his brother.

"I was only getting a bit of the conversation through the tears. He told me she was strangled.

"I think he must have realised what he was saying and stopped short."

But defence barrister Ian Goldrein QC, for Albattikhi, accused Mr Cassidy of telling the jury "a pack of lies".

Mr Cassidy, 40, who ran an amusement arcade on Bond Street, South Shore plus a market stall in St Annes, also told the court that while he was playing pool with Tariq a few weeks after the alleged confession, Tariq received a phone call from Reveshi telling him police were due to search his flat on Hornby Road and he and his wife would have to leave.

John Bromley-Davenport QC, for Reveshi, said Mr Cassidy was lying about the conversation in the pub and it was just "gossip and tittle-tattle".

He added: "You are a facile liar and you are making it up as you go along."

Mr Cassidy replied: "I am not, I am telling the truth."

The police visited Mr Cassidy and took five statements from him before he was wired up as part of their investigation which included covert surveillance recordings.

Police referred to him as "the source", but was told not to raise the subject of Charlene's disappearance with Tariq and only let him bring it up in conversation.

Mr Goldrein claimed Mr Cassidy was hoping to get the two defendants implicated in the disappearance of Charlene so the businessman could "cream the profits from the opposition."

At the time of being wired up by the police in February 2005, Mr Cassidy was in negotiations to purchase the Burger Dome takeaway on Talbot Road.

He said: "I put it to you Mr Cassidy that you wanted some kind of financial input from the police to help you buy Burger Dome and that with Albattikhi and Reveshi out of the way, you could take their customers away from them.

"You are telling a pack of lies aren't you?"

Mr Cassidy replied: "No, I am not.

"I never wanted money from the police. I could afford my stake in Burger Dome anyway."

The court also heard Mr Cassidy was told by Tariq that Reveshi had sex with underage girls, some as young as 12-years-old.

Mr Bromley-Davenport QC, suggested Mr Cassidy was also telling lies about this. Mr Cassidy denied lying about the allegation.

Earlier, the court was told Mr Cassidy had been told to keep quiet over what he had heard about the death of Charlene.

In a conversation with Tariq, Mr Cassidy claimed he was told Charlene was threatening to go to the police telling them of her sexual relationship with Iyad Albattikhi.

Mr Cassidy also claimed when the police were searching Albattikhi's takeaway Funny Boyz on Dickson Road they were next door to where the body of Charlene was chopped-up.

nick.hyde@blackpoolgazette.co.uk

He added: “You are a facile liar and you are making it up as you go along.”

Mr Cassidy replied: “I am not, I am telling the truth.”

The police visited Mr Cassidy and took five statements from him before he was wired up as part of their investigation which included covert surveillance recordings.

Police referred to him as “the source”, but was told not to raise the subject of Charlene’s disappearance with Tariq and only let him bring it up in conversation.

Mr Goldrein claimed Mr Cassidy was hoping to get the two defendants implicated in the disappearance of Charlene so the businessman could “cream the profits from the opposition.”

At the time of being wired up by the police in February 2005, Mr Cassidy was in negotiations to purchase the Burger Dome takeaway on Talbot Road.

He said: “I put it to you Mr Cassidy that you wanted some kind of financial input from the police to help you buy Burger Dome and that with Albattikhi and Reveshi out of the way, you could take their customers away from them.

“You are telling a pack of lies aren’t you?”

Mr Cassidy replied: “No, I am not.

“I never wanted money from the police. I could afford my stake in Burger Dome anyway.”

The court also heard Mr Cassidy was told by Tariq that Reveshi had sex with underage girls, some as young as 12-years-old.

Mr Bromley-Davenport QC, suggested Mr Cassidy was also telling lies about this. Mr Cassidy denied lying about the allegation.

Earlier, the court was told Mr Cassidy had been told to keep quiet over what he had heard about the death of Charlene.

In a conversation with Tariq, Mr Cassidy claimed he was told Charlene was threatening to go to the police telling them of her sexual relationship with Iyad Albattikhi.

Mr Cassidy also claimed when the police were searching Albattikhi’s takeaway Funny Boyz on Dickson Road they were next door to where the body of Charlene was chopped-up.