A schoolgirl was murdered by a fast food shop owner who joked that she had been "chopped up" and put into kebabs, a court was told yesterday.
The prosecution alleged at Preston Crown Court that Charlene Downes, 14, was killed by Iyad Albattikhi, 29, owner of a food shop in Blackpool, who had sex with her.
Charlene was one of a number of young girls who visited an alleyway in the town to have sex with older men who worked in the fast food shops, Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting, told the jury.
Charlene, from Blackpool, was "well and happy", the court heard, but had a "chaotic" home life. Expelled from school, she spent her time hanging around shops on the Blackpool Promenade. She was last seen on the evening of Saturday Nov 1 2003. After kissing her mother goodbye she left alone - and vanished, Mr Holroyde said.
A missing persons inquiry began but police later launched a murder investigation after receiving information that Charlene had been "killed and chopped up", the court heard.
No trace of Charlene's body has ever been found.
Mr Holroyde told the jury that a witness had heard Albattikhi and others talking about her.
"These people were talking about sex with white girls, and there was mention of having sex with Charlene," he said.
"Albattikhi laughed and said she was very small - the plainest possible indication that he was lying to the police when he said he did not know her. He and others present then laughingly said that Charlene had gone into the kebabs."
Albattikhi, a Jordanian immigrant, is charged with murder. His business partner and landlord, Mohammed Reveshi, 50, is accused of helping dispose of the body.
Both deny the charges and have told police they did not know Charlene.
Albattikhi and Reveshi were joint owners of the food shop, the court heard, which Albattikhi ran.
Charlene became a "familiar figure" hanging around the shops where she would sometimes get free food.
Mr Holroyde said: "In addition she was one of a number of adolescent white girls who sometimes went at night to the alleyway behind the restaurants. She and others went there to meet much older men from the restaurants, and it seems perfectly clear that there was at times some sexual activity."
Albattikhi took advantage of one of those vulnerable girls - Charlene Downes, the jury was told.
Mr Holroyde added: "It is the prosecution case that the background to the murder of Charlene Downes and the disposal of her body is some sexual activity between her and one or both of the defendants.
"Sexual activity between these adult men and a 14-year-old girl would be a crime which could be expected to have serious consequences for them."
After Charlene's disappearance, both the accused were questioned and told police they did not know her, the court heard.
In 2004, Albattikhi had a dispute with his brother, Tariq, who told a witness, David Cassidy, that he knew what had happened to Charlene - "she had been killed and chopped up and there had been a lot of blood", the court heard.
Mr Cassidy was allegedly later offered a £20,000 interest-free loan from Reveshi.
Police searched the flats of both accused men but found nothing. Detectives then bugged the premises and Reveshi's car, and Mr Holroyde told the jury some of the recordings were "revealing".
The trial continues.
The 51-year-old man being questioned over the murder of Charlene Downes was first quizzed by police in the year she went missing, it was revealed today.
Charlene left her home in Blackpool aged 14 in November 2003 and the teenager's disappearance prompted the force's longest and most expensive investigation.
Detectives moved yesterday to arrest Nigel Lloyd, a former cafe owner from Blackpool, and today it emerged that he was first questioned 14 years ago.
Nigel Lloyd (left), 51, of Blackpool, Lancashire, is being questioned on suspicion of the murder of teenager Charlene Downes (right)
No trace of Charlene has ever been found, but claims have been made that her body was chopped up and went 'into kebabs' at a takeaway in the seaside resort.
Last month her parents, Karen and Robert, vowed to sue police after learning crucial CCTV footage of her last movements was in archives for 12 years.
Last year a cold case team revisited the investigation and discovered CCTV footage of Charlene walking with her sister Rebecca on the day she vanished.
It was finally released on the 13th anniversary of her disappearance in November and again for a fresh appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch Live Roadshow.
A few weeks ago, her mother said if it had been shown closer to the time she vanished it could have led to vital evidence from witnesses.
She said: 'It is unbelievable that they have had that footage all those years and never used it. It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to the memory of my dead daughter.
'Maybe If the CCTV was shown at the time I could have got justice years ago and put Charlene to rest but now my pain continues. I am absolutely disgusted.
'Every day is still a living hell. And instead of helping me the police add to it as they never tell me anything and seem determined to keep me in the dark.'
Mrs Downes said she is taking civil action against Lancashire Constabulary and is seeking damages and a public apology over their handling of the investigation.
Police released CCTV of Charlene (circled) walking in the town for a BBC Crimewatch appeal
On November 1, 2003 at around 3.35pm Charlene was seen on CCTV crossing the road in the town centre.
At 7.15pm, her mother gave Charlene a kiss after bumping into her and her daughter said she was going to the arcade but would not be late. She met her friend and they walked towards the Carousel bar on North Pier.
Karen Downes (pictured) vowed to sue police after learning CCTV of her daughter's last movements was sat in archives for 12 years
At 9.03pm Charlene is allegedly spotted on CCTV outside a Blackpool bar with a woman wearing a black coat.
On November 2, Charlene's family reported her as missing when she failed to come home.
But it was not until 2006 that police advised Charlene's family that she was murdered and that the case was no longer a missing person enquiry.
In 2007, Funny Boyz kebab worker Ilyad Albattikhi was acquitted of Charlene's murder and his co-defendant Mohammed Reveshi was acquitted of helping dispose of her body.
But a planned retrial in 2008 was dropped due to lack of evidence and the forensic blunders. The two men were paid almost £250,000 each in compensation.
Covert recordings in which someone was apparently heard to say Charlene's body had 'gone into kebabs' were later found to be flawed due to their handling.
The quality of the covert recordings was criticised during the trial by defence barristers as 'poor' with confidence 'low' in the accuracy of the transcriptions.
Funny Boyz kebab shop (pictured) worker Ilyad Albattikhi was acquitted of Charlene's murder
An Independent Police Complaints Commission review found the investigating team were guilty of a strategic and tactical failure in the management of the material.
Two officers later faced disciplinary proceedings over the case, but they sued the force claiming they were scapegoated for their bosses' failings.
In 2011, officers investigating Charlene's appearance discovered that at least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex at takeaways in Blackpool.
Like the infamous Rochdale child abuse scandal, it is feared they were groomed in exchange for food, alcohol and cigarettes.
They believe Charlene could have been involved. In 2014, a Crimewatch appeal was issued and police revealed a £100,000 reward for information.
On June 27 last year, police investigating Charlene's murder arrested two men on suspicion of historical sex offences - although unconnected with Charlene.
Officers from Lancashire Constabulary have taken more than 4,800 witness statements and followed 10,500 lines of inquiry but the case remains unsolved.