Charlene Downes’ brother who was chopped into kebabs died of an overdose

Robert and Charlene Downes

Robert Downes, 30, was found dead of a heroin overdose last December (Image: SWNS)

A father-of-four whose sister was believed to have been murdered and “chopped up into kebabs” died of a heroin overdose, an inquest has found.

Robert Downes, 30, was found dead by his parents just weeks before Christmas.

According to his devastated mother, he never “got over” the disappearance of his teenage sister Charlene from Blackpool on November 1, 2003 and that his family “never found justice for her”.

Almost 20 years later, Lancashire Constabulary is still no closer to solving her murder.

Charlene’s disappearance was initially treated as a runaway teenager, but it soon became clear that something far more sinister had happened.

Police believe the 14-year-old was killed by men who sexually abused her, but her body has never been found.

Robert and Rebecca Downes

Robert with his older sister Rebecca (Image: SWNS)

Charlene Downes

Charlene Downes disappeared on the night of November 1, 2003 (Image: SWNS)

Prosecutors claimed the schoolgirl was cut up and shredded into kebabs and her bones crushed into tile joints at a 2007 murder trial, but the charges were dropped because the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Robert’s mother Karen said he was never the same after Charlene’s disappearance.

“It has had a huge impact on all of us. He was a lovely, lively boy,’ she said.

‘He was nice. Anyone would tell you they would do anything for anyone.”

Karen had no idea her son had used heroin. Robert had apparently stopped using the drug after being sent to prison in 2019.

She added: “He had four beautiful children to live for, three of his own and one that he adopted as his own.

Robert's father Robert Sr, sister Rebecca and mother Karen in court

Robert’s father Robert Sr, sister Rebecca and mother Karen outside court (Picture: SWNS)

“He was beautiful, he was funny, he made people laugh with his wry sense of humor.

“He did so well. That’s why I was so shocked. I can only wonder why – why, why did this happen?’

The inquest at Blackpool Town Hall found Robert was found dead in a pool of his own blood on December 4.

His father, Robert Sr., and his mother panicked and didn’t call the ambulance until about three hours later.

Robert’s friend Enya Cardwell told the court: “He has had problems with heroin in the past, but since leaving prison he has really tried to be a better person, he has been going to the gym and getting a job.

“As far as I know, he hasn’t used heroin in three years.”

Coroner Alan Wilson handed down the conclusion of death by accident, saying: “We are dealing with someone who has a history of using drugs but has recently avoided heroin.

“We don’t know why he chose to use heroin on that occasion, and perhaps after making that decision he used the heroin in a similar amount to what he used to do, not taking into account that he lost tolerance and power to be more susceptible to the toxic ones effects.’

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Justin Scacco

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