Robert Downes was found 'in a pool of blood' by his father, Robert Sr, at around 11.30pm on December 4, just a few hours after complaining of feeling unwell.
The 30-year-old, who lived on George Street, was a father of four, a steward at Blackpool FC’s Bloomfield Road stadium, and was looking forward to qualifying as a security guard for the club in the new year.
But his dreams were tragically cut short when he suddenly collapsed.
Dozens of people, some of them dressed in Blackpool FC shirts, gathered at a heartfelt ceremony at Carleton Crematorium today to pay their respects to him.
His heartbroken mum Karen Downes said: "He had a lovely send-off, but it was a difficult day. It wasn't easy.
"I would like to thank everybody who attended and gave Robert the send-off he deserved."
She added: "Robert was gorgeous, he was outrageous, he was funny and he was loud...He wasn't an angel, he had his flaws, I'm not going to give him a shining halo. But he was my boy and we loved him.
"Robert was the baby of the family, and my only boy. I already know what it's like to lose a child and it's not something you can ever get over."
The day before he died, Robert spent the night with the mum of his children, Enya Cardwell. He left her house the following morning, and went with his dad to his job at Blackpool FC.
However, shortly after he arrived there at 12.30pm he complained of feeling ill and left, returning to George Street at 6.30pm.
At around 11.30pm, Robert Sr returned home and went upstairs to check on his son, and found him unresponsive.
Paramedics were called, and Robert was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post-mortem was carried out following the young dad's sudden death but the results came back inconclusive, meaning his family must now wait for his inquest, which is scheduled to take place on July 5.
Karen said: "Now we are just playing the waiting game, to find out how he died, and it's driving us mad because we really want to know, with it being so sudden, and him being so young. All we want to know is why."
Enya said: "Robert was doing brilliantly, and it was a Robert I had never seen before. He was very focused. I'd never seen him so full of life. He was doing so well. He even talked about getting married.
"He was the loveliest lad you could ever meet. People misjudged him; they read things about him and made assumptions about him, but he had the biggest heart. He always wanted to make someone smile."
Investigation into Charlene's murder remains open 18 years on
Charlene Downes was 14-years-old when she disappeared from Blackpool town centre on November 1 2003.
She had spent the day with her friends on Blackpool Promenade, playing on fruit machines before heading to McDonald’s. Her last known actions are as follows:
3.45pm: Charlene and her sister Rebecca were caught on CCTV walking along Bank Hey Street towards Coral Island amusement arcade
6.45pm: Charlene and Rebecca walked up Church Street to meet their mum Karen, who was handing out leaflets in the area. Rebecca decided to go home, while Charlene called some friends in the phone box on Leopold Grove and arranged to meet up with them.
7.15pm: Charlene kissed her mum goodbye at a bus stop on Church Street before heading into Blackpool town centre.
9.30pm: Charlene and her friend went to the Carousel bar on North Pier
11pm: Charlene and her friend go back into town and part ways in the area of Talbot Road and Abingdon Road.
Police believe Charlene was murdered within hours of her last sighting, with suspicions arising that she had been a victim of child sex abuse at the hands of one or more men.
Two men faced trial for her murder in May 2007, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial was ordered, but prior to the start of this trial in April 2008, the prosecution identified a number of issues with the evidence, and no hearing took place.
Detective chief superintendent Andy Webster, leading the investigation into the teenager's disappearance, said: “We remain committed to finding Charlene’s killer and her body despite it being more than 15 years since she went missing. A £100,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer or recovery of her body.
“We will continue to not only focus on her disappearance and murder but also on the wider issue of child sexual exploitation in Blackpool, for which we have now secured a number of successful convictions.
“I would encourage anyone who knows anything about Charlene’s disappearance and death to come forward and speak to us. Similarly if you have been a victim of abuse, please speak to the police. We will listen to you, support you and bring offenders to justice.”
There is still a £100,000 reward on offer for information leading to the conviction of Charlene Downes’ murderer or the discovery of her body.
Anyone with information should call the incident room on 01253 607370, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or email [email protected]
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