A man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Charlene Downes, the Blackpool teenager who disappeared 14 years ago. Lancashire Police said a 51-year-old man, who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene's disappearance, has been arrested on suspicion of the girl's murder and is currently in police custody.
Charlene was 14 when she was last seen on 1 November, 2003, after walking into Blackpool town centre, but her body has never been found. Detectives believe Charlene was one of a number of girls who may have seen groomed and sexually assaulted in the town at the time before she was murdered.
Ever since her disappearance, far-right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) have staged several demonstrations and rallies in Blackpool against the alleged paedophile grooming gangs in the town and the lack of justice for Charlene.
The investigation into the girl's murder is one of the largest and longest running in Lancashire Police's history. Despite numerous media appeals and a £100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of her killer or killers or the recovery of Charlene's body, no one has ever been brought to justice.
Charlene's mother threatened to take legal action against the police for mishandling the case after they released CCTV footage of the last day she was alive in November 2016, 13 years after she went missing.
She said at the time: "They had [the CCTV] for 13 years. It shows Charlene in the town that afternoon in the same clothes she disappeared in. If they'd have shown it before... who knows?"
In 2007, takeaway workers Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Reveshi were acquitted of murdering the teenager and disposing of her body after a jury failed to reach a verdict. A subsequent retrial collapsed after the judge raised concerns about evidence which was offered.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation found police errors in gathering evidence had contributed to the collapse of the retrial, resulting in several officers being disciplined and one being forced to resign in 2011.
A Lancashire Police spokesperson said: "A man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes.
"The man, aged 51, who lived in Blackpool at the time of Charlene's disappearance, is currently in custody. Charlene was just 14 years old when she was last seen in Blackpool on Saturday 1 November 2003. A £100,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer or killers.
"The investigation is one of the largest and longest running in the history of Lancashire Constabulary."
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers.org they can email: email@example.com