News and events

Psychology lecturer assists missing person investigation

A psychology lecturer from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has assisted a 10-year-old police investigation of a missing Lancashire teenager.

Using the EvoFIT system Dr Faye Skelton worked with Dr Charlie Frowd from the University of Winchester to age a photo of Charlene Downes.

Charlene disappeared in November 2003 and despite a 10 year investigation and numerous appeals from her family the Blackpool teenager has never been found. However, Lancashire Police maintain that they have never given up hope of finding out what happened to the teenager.

This month Assistant Chief Constable Andy Rhodes has vowed to renew the force’s commitment to solving the case by creating a dedicated team headed up by Senior Investigating Officer, Superintendent Andy Webster.

ACC Andy Rhodes, said: “This 10th anniversary of Charlene’s disappearance gives us a good opportunity for a new appeal for information to try to jog people’s memories about what happened to Charlene and who is responsible. This will be a difficult time for her family and friends and our thoughts are with them, as they always have been”


In response to this, the Blackpool Gazette asked Dr Skelton to produce an image of what Charlene might look like now, using a photo from around the time of her disappearance.

She said: “Knowing that EvoFIT could be used in this way, and of course wanting to help out in such a tragic case, I contacted Charlie Frowd at the University of Winchester and he agreed to produce the image.

“The process involves mapping key points on the face to determine its shape, with points determining the size and shape of the features, and also the distances between the features. All faces imported into EvoFIT are mapped in this way, and by having faces across a broad range of ages it is possible to extract the information regarding how faces generally change as they age.

“These changes can be expressed with mathematical formulas. It is then possible to use these formulas in order to age faces, which is done very simply using a sliding scale while the image is visible.”

Dr Skelton has since been informed that Charlene’s mother is delighted with the image (pictured above).

Police are hopeful that this anniversary will encourage people to come forward with any information about what happened to Charlene.

ACC Rhodes added: “While we have never given up our search for information about what happened to Charlene, we are reviewing all aspects of the investigation again in the hope that we can uncover some new leads or revisit some old ones again.

“There will be people who know what happened to Charlene. She was just 14 years old when she went missing and was murdered, her body has never been found and I would appeal to anyone who has any information to come forward. It’s not too late to make a difference.”