Blackburn Citizen 11/6/7
A MURDER trial jury has heard how police installed secret recording equipment at the home of a man accused of helping to dispose of a schoolgirl's body. Charlene Downes, 14, from Blackpool, disappeared in November 2003 and Blackburn man Iyad Albattikhi, 30, the boss of Funny Boyz takeaway, Dickson Road, in the resort at the time, denies murder.
Mohammed Reveshi, 55, is accused of assisting an offender. Preston Crown Court was told that as well as at his home, a Fiat people carrier vehicle owned by Raveshi was also bugged. The covert recording devices picked up conversations between the defendants and others between late February and late March 2005. The devices were placed in the Hornby Road flat in Blackpool and vehicle belonging to Reveshi. Detective Sergeant Jan Beasant told the court how police used a total of 52 digital audio tapes during the covert surveillance. Twenty-four hour round-the-clock surveillance took place at a room in Blackpool police station. Det Sgt Beasant had sole responsibility for the recordings and later went through all of the tapes to ascertain the nature of the conversations.
The officer said the conversations were mixed. Some included talk about business premises, but there was quite a lot in relation to the police inquiry. Passages from the tapes are to be played to the jury, over a system at court.
The court has been told that Albattikh was said to have lived in Blackburn at the time Charlene disappeared and commuted to Blackpool to run the takeaway.
Blackpool Gazette 2/7/7
A CHIP shop owner told a murder trial he was "gobsmacked" after hearing a missing Blackpool teenager had been murdered. A clearly distressed Michael Kearns took to the witness stand at the murder trial of Charlene Downes and told the jury of his "total shock" at being told a fellow takeaway owner had allegedly killed the youngster.
The 14-year-old disappeared from her home on Buchanan Street in Blackpool in November 2003 and has never been seen since. Mr Kearns owned the Moby Dick takeaway, next to Funny Boyz, which was owned by Iyad Albattikhi – the accused. Albattikhi, 29, of Dickson Road, denies killing the teenager while Mohammed Reveshi, 50, denies disposing of her body.
Mr Kearns told the court he was told of the murder by another witness, David Cassidy, who had earlier told the jury he was told of the killing by Albattikhi's brother, Tariq. Under cross examination from prosecution barrister Tim Holroyde QC, Mr Kearns said: "Mr Cassidy came into my shop one night and told me there was something he had to tell me that was really serious. He said Tariq broke down and that his brother had murdered a girl and had chopped her up in the kitchen. I could tell by Mr Cassidy's body language he was deadly serious. I was totally gobsmacked. It took me back. I can't actually recall what I said to him. I asked him the question where it had happened and Mr Cassidy said he did not know."
The witness, who has lived in Blackpool for 20 years, said he knew Iyad Albattikhi – who was known to him as Eddie – and a few members of staff at Funny Boyz. John Bromley-Davenport QC, defending for Reveshi, asked Mr Kearns if Mr Cassidy told him that Jordanian men had been using Charlene "for sexual purposes". Mr Kearns replied: "He did say that, yes."
Earlier, the court heard Mr Cassidy, a former work colleague of Albattikhi and Reveshi, denied he was trying to set up the two defendants by telling a "pack of lies". Mr Holroyde asked Mr Cassidy if he had it in for either of the defendants.
Mr Cassidy replied: "I don't have it in for Eddie. I did not tell lies to the jury or to the police."
Miss Downes was last seen by her mother Karen on the night of November 1, 2003, who kissed her and said goodbye. Despite a massive police investigation her body has never been found. The prosecution alleges Jordanian-born Albattikhi had a sexual relationship with the teenager and murdered her before Iranian-born Reveshi disposed of her body.
Daily Mail 31/5/7
A mother ran from court today as she heard how her daughter was strangled before being chopped up.
Iyad Albattikhi, 29, known as Eddie, had sex with 14-year-old Charlene Downes, before killing her and joking her body had been put into the kebabs at his shop on Blackpool Promenade, Preston Crown Court has heard.
Today David Cassidy, a former friend of the accused, told Preston Crown Court how the defendant's brother confessed to him about the murder - and that the youngster had been throttled to death. Mr Cassidy, 40, who ran an amusement arcade in the town, told the jury Tariq Albattikhi had rowed with his brother and, upset and in tears, told him about how the schoolgirl had been killed. "He was crying," Mr Cassidy said. "He said there was a lot of blood. I was only getting a bit of the conversation through the tears. "He told me that she was strangled." At this point Charlene's mother, Karen Downes, sitting in the public gallery, gasped and fled the court in tears.
Charlene, from Buchanan Street in Blackpool, disappeared on November 1, 2003, after kissing her mother goodbye to go off with friends. Expelled from school, she spent most of her time hanging around the shops on the Prom, where Albattikhi owned and ran Funny Boyz kebab shop. A missing persons inquiry began after she vanished but police later launched a murder investigation after information "leaked out".
No trace of Charlene's body has ever been found. Albattikhi, a Jordanian immigrant, is charged with murder and his co-accused, his business partner and landlord, Mohammed Reveshi, 50, originally from Iran, is accused of helping to dispose of the body.
Both deny the charges and have told police they never knew Charlene. Ian Goldrein QC, defending Albattikhi suggested Mr Cassidy was telling the court a "pack of lies" and suggested the conversation never took place. He said the witness had a long criminal record for dishonesty stretching back to the age of 17 - and could not be relied upon to tell the truth. Mr Goldrein asked the witness why he waited months after the conversation with Tariq before he told police. Mr Cassidy said, "Because I did not know if what was being said to me that night was true. I had to determine whether it was hearsay or gossip." The trial continues.
Blackpool Gazette 31/5/7
A TAKEAWAY owner accused of murdering Blackpool teenager Charlene Downes gave food away to girls who "had pretty faces and short skirts." Witnesses say Iyad Albattikhi knew Charlene who disappeared in November 2003. Despite a massive police search the 14-year-old from Buchanan Street has never been seen or heard of since.
Witness Kimberley Stratfull told a jury at Preston Crown Court Albattikhi - who owned the Funny Boyz takeaway on Dickson Road and was known by the name "Eddie" - used to give away free food to "anyone he took a fancy to". Under cross examination from prosecution barrister Tim Holroyde QC, Miss Stratfull, who worked at Funny Boyz, said: "Charlene used to get free food from the shop. "Eddie used to give free food to girls who had pretty faces and short skirts. He used to do it all the time to girls he liked the look of."
Albattihki, 29, is accused of murder, while co-defendent, Mohammed Reveshi, 50, is charged with disposing of Charelene's body. Earlier in the trial, a witness said she saw Charlene and another girl, Dawn Turner, get into a number of different cars outside takeaways.
Miss Turner told the court she considered Charlene to be her best friend and often went to visit takeaway workers at an alleyway at the rear of Talbot Road. She said: "We went there between 5pm and 7pm quite a few times. "We used to get free food from the people who worked there. We also used to hang around the arcades too." But when prompted by defence barrister, Ian Goldrein QC, about a statement she made in November 2003, she admitted she vaguely remembered saying Charlene used "to snog some of the takeaway owners" and gave them sexual favours in return for free food.
Miss Turner also told the jury she and Miss Downes were friendly with a number of Asian men in the area, one of who was Albattikhi.
Witness Cheryl Sutcliffe, who used to work at Funny Boyz, told the court that she remembered seeing Charlene in the takeaway, but never saw her speaking to Albattikhi.
Kirsty Fletcher, who worked at Heat takeaway, on Church Street in Blackpool, told the court Albattikhi was present at a conversation where people were laughing at what had allegedly happened to Miss Downes. She said: "They were making a joke about her (Charlene). There were nasty comments about her and something about kebab meat.
"Eddie made lots of sexual comments about her saying she was small and kinky and little. "They were talking about having sex with white girls." Tim Holroyde QC, prosecuting, asked Miss Fletcher who was present at this conversation, which took place in the office above the Heat take-away. She replied: "Yes, Eddie was there."
The prosecution alleges Albattikhi of Dickson Road befriended Charlene before killing her on the night, or days after, her disappearance. Reveshi of Hornby Road, Blackpool, is alleged to have disposed of her body. Both men deny the allegations.
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