A MUM has told of her devastation after the death of her son – 18 years after her schoolgirl daughter is feared to have been murdered and served up in a kebab.
Robert Downes, 30, died of a heroin overdose in December, almost two decades after his 14-year-old sister Charlene vanished in Blackpool, Lancashire.
Cops believe Charlene was killed by men who had been sexually abusing her. The teen's body was never found, and prosecutors have alleged it was minced into kebabs and her bones crushed into tile grouting.
No one has ever been convicted of Charlene's death.
Mum Karen has now spoken of her grief at an inquest for Robert.
"Robert was never the same after what happened to Charlene. We never got justice," she said.
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My son died 18 years after my daughter, 14, vanished &was served as kebabs
"It had a massive impact on all of us. He was a lovely, bubbly lad.
"He was kind. Anybody would tell you he would do anything for anybody."
Robert was the father of four "beautiful" children, she said.
"He was gorgeous, he was funny, he used to make people laugh with his dry sense of humour," she said.
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"He was doing so well. That's why I was so shocked.
"All I can ask myself is why – why did this happen?"
During the inquest, which was held at Blackpool Town Hall, a coroner heard Robert was found dead in a pool of his own blood by his dad on December 4 last year.
Father Robert Snr, 60, and Karen, 57, who live in Coventry, West Midlands, did not call 999 for around three hours, it was heard.
Robert Snr told the hearing: "We didn't know what to do. We knew he was dead but we didn't want to believe it.
"But we knew he was gone. He was stiff. I just didn't want him taken away from me, but I knew they would have to. I just wanted him with me."
Mum-of-four Karen told the court she had no idea her son had been using heroin again. He quit in 2019 after being sent to prison.
"As far as we were aware, he was clean," she said.
"He seemed absolutely fine."
Robert's girlfriend Enya Cardwell said: "He had issues with heroin in the past, but since he left prison he had really made an effort to be a better person. He went to the gym and got a job.
"As far as I'm aware, he had not taken any heroin for three years."
Handing down a conclusion of death by misadventure, coroner Alan Wilson said: "We are dealing with someone who has had a history of drug use, but recently has been avoiding heroin.
Robert was never the same after what happened to Charlene. We never got justice
"We don't know why he decided to use heroin on this occasion, and maybe having made that decision, he used the heroin in a similar quantity to what he used to, and hasn't taken into account that he has lost tolerance and might be more vulnerable to the toxic effects."
Robert Snr said after the inquest that his son's death felt like he'd "been stabbed with a blunt knife".
He said: "There are no words. It's around you every day. When that's your reality, it hits home.
"Twice now we have been put down. All we have got to do now is bounce back, but how can you?"
Robert's sister Rebecca, 45, said: "He has left a massive hole in everyone's hearts.
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"He's with my sister and with my nana now.
"As long as he's at peace, then that's what matters."
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