NEWS – “without comment”
Posted by: Ian (D. Withers)
Cold case expert launches new investigation into disappearance of tragic schoolgirl Charlene Downes
The 14-year-old’s disappearance uncovered a child sexual exploitation scandal in the town, and the unsolved case may get a new lead soon
By Jamie Lopez – Senior Reporter & Kit Vickery
26 JUL 2022
An award-winning private investigator who specialises in cold case murders is set to re-examine the tragic case of missing Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes.
The 14-year-old schoolgirl went missing almost 19 years ago, with a high-profile search attracting nationwide attention as detectives visited Oldham, Denton, and even Wolverhampton to try and locate the missing girl in a case which uncovered a child sexual exploitation scandal in Blackpool that still hangs over the seaside town today. By her early teens, Charlene had endured a troubled background and become the victim of abuse before being lured into carrying out sex acts for food in Blackpool back alleys.
Tragically, Charlene is presumed dead, but no body has ever been found and no one has been brought to justice for her disappearance. A botched police investigation saw two men charged in association with her murder, only for the trial, which alleged the schoolgirl had been “cut up and made into kebabs” to collapse amid concerns over evidence. A £100,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the conviction of Charlene’s killer.
READ MORE: What really happened to Charlene Downes? The Blackpool schoolgirl who vanished without trace
The bid for justice might finally come to an end, as Jen Jarvie, a private investigator and policing lecturer at York St. Jen has agreed to re-examine Charlene’s case, according to LancsLive.
Her work examining the 1990 killing of Darlington care worker Ann Heron was featured in a Channel 5 documentary and led to fresh evidence being uncovered – leading people to hope a similar outcome could follow from her analysis of Charlene’s case.
Jen, who was recently named investigator of the year by the Association of British Investigators (ABI), was impressed with the amount of hard evidence made available by members of the public interested in the case like Ronay Crompton.
Ronay runs a Facebook group dedicated to seeking justice for Charlene, and has worked with Lancashire Constabulary to try and pass on potential evidence and help victims of child sexual exploitation come forward.
Although not from the town, she became interested in the case after watching a documentary and has devoted a lot of time and effort into finding out what happened.
She spoke with Jen about getting involved and hopes that the PI can be someone interested parties and potential grooming victims would feel comfortable talking to. Eventually,
Ronay would like to see an independent investigation launched into child sexual exploitation in the Blackpool.
Ronay said: “We’ve got to be realistic here. We can’t expect her to roll in after 20 years and solve it. What we are hoping for is new leads or details for the police to investigate.
What we’re also hoping is that because Jen is a woman, there might be other victims who are willing to come forward to speak with her.”
Explaining how she got involved, Ronay said: “I was just on YouTube one night when I saw a suggested video with Charlene’s face and watched the first part and didn’t know much about it even though I’d been to Blackpool.
About three episodes in, I rang my partner in Ireland because I was so outraged. I looked to see if there was a Facebook group and there was nothing except far right ones but I’m not far right and I want nothing to do with them.”
Speaking to LancsLive, Jen said she has been contacted by members of the public about multiple cases but rarely with as much evidence and information made available.
Although there are no promises of answers, she believes she can bring the case forward. She said: “I spoke with Ronay and she’d taken it as far as she could.
She’s not an expert but from what I’ve seen she’s done a phenomenal job. Now it needs someone to take it forward.
“When I spoke to Ronay, she said we’ve got the police statements, we’ve got the fact she’s working with the police. That’s a whole different ball game –
I have actual substance to look through.” Jen believes there were a lot of issues at the start of the case in November 2003, but the fact that Lancashire Constabulary have admitted mistakes and is “trying to make it right” is a good sign for the future of the investigation.
She said she will look at the case from scratch, meaning no-one is ruled in or out of involvement and that she would welcome any family, friends or interested parties to get in touch. Jen added: “I agreed to have a look at it and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Look at it with fresh eyes as if it happened yesterday, not taking anything for granted.
“Hopefully a fresh pair of eyes can unearth something that the police hadn’t considered or have naturally overlooked.
That’s not a criticism, they’re only human. Perhaps we’ll get someone coming forward, this is something I get quite a lot. Some people don’t like to talk to the police.”
There is no timeline associated with Jen’s work and instead she says she will continue to be involved until she’s taken her work as far as she can and exhausted avenue.
But she hopes Ronay’s good relationship with the police and the information available means there is a prospect of a positive outcome.
She added: “I’ve offered to look at it. There’s never any guarantees, anyone who says ‘I’ll definitely solve it’ is pulling the wool but I like to think with my background, my qualifications, the fact I’m looking at it with timelines, statements and an open mind, hopefully that might unearth something, might question something that’s been considered fact or someone might come forward.
“The goal is to give her a voice. There’s a lot of element to this, the grooming, the child sexual exploitation. Social demographics aside, it’s not about any of that, it’s to find out what happened, to bring her home for a funeral.”