By The Telegraph, 5/24/2007
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”.
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