Missing girl’s sister ‘racked with guilt’ after being last to see her alive

Rebecca Downes and ­her little sister Charlene were always inseparable.

So whenever she looks in the mirror now she is haunted by the resemblance as she sees the 14-year-old, missing since November 1, 2003, staring back at her.

The case is unsolved but Charlene was at one stage feared murdered and her body chopped up.

Rebecca, one of the last people to see her, ­remains racked with guilt for not making her come home with her that night.

And she worries the case will be shelved unless new ­information emerges.

Rebecca said: “When I look in the mirror I see her face. It scares me sometimes. We have the same eyes, nose and mouth.

“People mistook me for Charlene. After she disappeared, police came up to me saying ‘Come with us.’ They thought I was Charlene.


“We looked alike and were ­inseparable, did everything ­together. I’ve lived with so much guilt. So many shoulda, woulda, couldas.” Because she disappeared without a trace, Rebecca believes Charlene could still come home.

The 32-year-old, from Blackpool, Lancs, said: “Someone knows what happened to Charlene. I hope they come forward.”

Remembering their last day ­together, Rebecca said: “I was 16 at the time. I should have dragged her home that night. It was just a normal Saturday. She was happy.

“We had been out all day, had lunch in McDonald’s and talked about boys and music. I was doing my GCSEs and had to be home by 7pm.

"I asked Charlene to come but she insisted on meeting her friends. She was adamant. I didn’t know who she was meeting.”

Kebab shop ­owners Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Reveshi were charged, the first with murder and the second with disposal of a body.

Secret recordings led police to theorise her remains had been chopped up and used for kebabs.

But both men were cleared. Witnesses and the police’s recorded evidence were deemed unreliable.

Albattikhi and Reveshi later got six-figure compensation payouts.


Still, Rebecca can’t forget the ­police’s gruesome theory.

She said: “Hearing that she might have been made into kebab meat was horrendous. It makes me feel sick thinking about it. I find it hard to walk by kebab shops now.”

A 51-year-old man was arrested in 2017 but released after questioning and the probe remains active.

Rebecca said: “I still feel Charlene around. She’s my angel.

“But I’ve got to hold on to a bit of hope that one day she’ll walk through the door.”

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