Two men arrested in sex abuse probe by Charlene detectives

Police and crime commmissioner Clive Grunshaw and Det Supt Andy Webster
Police and crime commmissioner Clive Grunshaw and Det Supt Andy Webster

Two men have been arrested in Blackpool on suspicion of a string of historical sexual offences – including taking and possessing indecent images of children.

A 50-year-old man from Blackpool has been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault and taking indecent images of a child.

Charlene Downes

Charlene Downes

A 39-year-old man from Blackpool has also been detained on suspicion of rape, serious sexual assault, indecent assault and possession of indecent images of a child.

Both are currently in custody

The arrests have been made by detectives investigating the disappearance and murder of Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes in Blackpool 2003.

A spokesman confirmed the two men have not been quizzed in connection to the Charlene case and are not thought to be connected to her disappearance .

The offences were allegedly committed in the early 2000s and relate to two girls aged 14 or 15 at the time.

The alleged offences came to light following one of the largest and longest-running inquiries in Lancashire Police history.

As well as probing the unsolved murder of Charlene, who was just 14-years-old when she was last seen in Blackpool on Saturday November 1 2003, the team of detectives has been tasked with investigating the wider issue of child sexual exploitation in Blackpool. So far the inquiry has generated more than 10,500 police actions or lines of inquiry and more than 4,800 witness statements.

And officers, buoyed by yesterday’s arrests, remain hopeful of catching Charlene’s killer, today issuing a fresh appeal for information.

Det Supt Andy Webster, senior investigating officer, said: “We remain committed to finding the killer or killers of Charlene and bringing them to justice and have a team dedicated solely to this investigation.

“As part of our inquiries we are also focusing on the wider issue of child sexual exploitation at around the time of Charlene’s disappearance and we have identified a number of people who could potentially be victims.

“Despite the passage of time, I would like to appeal directly both to those who may know or have heard what happened to Charlene, but also to anyone who may have been a victim of abuse to contact us.

“I firmly believe there are people who know what happened to Charlene but have not come forward.

“You may have been present when she was murdered or may simply have information about how she was killed and what happened to her body. For whatever reasons, you may have chosen not to speak out previously, but as we seek to lift the lid on what happened your information is vital to take the case forward.

“If your reluctance is due to fear of reprisals, I would still urge you to contact us.

“We will ensure that every measure is taken to ensure your safety but the first step requires you to speak to us. Also, if you are afraid you could incriminate yourself, let me assure you our objective is to find Charlene’s killer or killers.”
 Despite a lengthy and complex investigation, numerous media appeals and a £100,000 reward on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer or killers or the recovery of her body, nobody has ever been brought to justice.

The £100,000 reward for information – put up by Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner – remains in place.

Mr Grunshaw has vowed to bring Charlene’s killer to justice.

He said: “I have promised to do whatever I can to help Lancashire Police get justice for Charlene and her family. That is why I am offering a significant reward.

“Someone somewhere has information and I would urge them to do the right thing so Charlene’s family can finally get the answers they have been waiting 13 years for.

“We know Charlene was a victim of sexual abuse before she died and sadly hers was not an isolated case. More potential victims have been identified as a result of this wide-ranging investigation and police will continue to act on any new information that comes to light.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting log number 0345 of Monday, June 27 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers.org

Alternatively they can email charlenedownesinvestigation@lancashire.pnn.police.uk