On 23rd August 2007, a vulnerable 15 year old girl stuffed some belongings in two carrier bags and left home. Police believe that within the following hours or days she was murdered.
Her body has never been found but police managed to obtain convictions against two men in relation to her death.
Paige’s story is just one element of a sad set of events that I will cover in this post.
Paige lived at home with her parents Frank Chivers and Sheila Houghton and her younger brother, Jack, in Longford Avenue, Bispham. With her family life reported as ‘dysfunctional’, Paige seemed to become unsettled and rebellious, and by the age of 13 she was expelled from school. With excess time on her hands, Paige began to frequent a flat in All Hallows Road that seemed to be the local hang-out area for young girls. The owner was introduced to her by Tiffany Bell, the ex girlfriend of Paige’s half-brother, Peter Houghton.
When Sheila became ill, both Paige and Jack were left to fend for themselves, with help forthcoming from family who’d pop in. In February 2007 Sheila passed away. The blow was massive to the family and life became even more chaotic. It’s reported that Frank began drinking and also began a relationship with another woman, offering no support to Paige and Jack as they struggled with their grief. Frank’s new partner, Lorraine Reeky, said Frank had intimated he blamed Paige for Sheila’s death. Frank was known to have a very quick temper and this became noticeable when he lashed out at Paige after finding out she had started taking amphetamines.
Paige’s life had began to spiral out of control with cannabis and alcohol becoming a huge part of her existence, as well as concerns about underage sexual behaviour. Still frequenting the All Hallows Road flat, Paige was seen outside in her underwear and obviously drunk on several occasions. Paige would often go missing for a few days but always return home. She had begun staying over at the flat.
All that aside, it seems that Paige was still trying to turn her life around and in May 2007 she contacted Connexions, a council-run support centre in Blackpool for 13 to 19-year-olds and was set to begin a new educational course.
13th AUGUST 2007
On 13th August 2007, the owner of the All Hallows Road flat telephoned police stating that he was concerned for the welfare of a girl he “just vaguely” knew after she had been thrown out of her home, although he did not know where she lived – which was a lie. He claimed he had sent her back home and was telephoning for police advice, but did not give his name. There was little advice forthcoming. In fact, the police were disinterested and this, the prosecution eventually claimed, was a tester as to whether she was on a radar.
It later transpired that the call was made from a telephone box right outside the police station.
On 23rd August 2007, a furious Frank had telephoned Jack remarking of Paige that he would “kill her” when he returned home after discovering she had taken money from his wallet, as she had also recently used his bank card without permission. When Jack relayed this to Paige, she threw her clothes into two carrier bags and left. Jack followed her down the road and Paige asked him to go with her but he refused. When Frank returned home, his daughter had gone. He later told police that despite their fights, they both loved each other very much.
Jack watched Paige walk away and was the last family member to see her alive. Not long after, two of his friends saw her at a bus stop heading to an appointment at Connexions for which she never arrived. She was with an older man…
THE GROOMING OF PAIGE
Robert Ewing was a 52-year old convicted paedophile whose flat at All Hallows Road had become the local gathering place for young teenage girls, where he allowed them to drink and take drugs.
Having been introduced to Ewing by her brother’s ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Bell, Paige’s vulnerability and dysfunctional domesticity was preyed upon by Ewing, who saw his opportunity and seized it.
Despite his protestations, Ewing had an “inappropriate sexual interest” in Paige and slowly groomed her. This was eventually proved when photographs of Paige were found on his phone, but his advances must have been unwanted as it is believed that during the summer of 2007, Paige threatened to report Ewing to the authorities.
WHAT POLICE BELIEVE HAPPENED
This must have triggered Ewing, knowing that any complaint to police about impropriety would land him back in jail. It’s believed that when Ewing made the phone call on 13th August, he was doing so to test the water. Telling the police of his concern for a “problem child” had been met with total disinterest and so it was at that point that Ewing had made his decision to kill Paige and cover his tracks. When she turned up at his home on 23rd August with her belongings, he seized his opportunity and killed her on that day or at some point over that Bank Holiday weekend.
On 26th August, three days after Jack watched his sister walk away, Frank reported his daughter missing, at which point Paige was almost certainly dead.
THE INVESTIGATION BLUNDERS
When Frank finally reported his daughter missing on 26th August, the police call handler managed to input her year of birth incorrectly on the computer system. Instead of 1992, her date of birth was entered as 1962, and to make matters worse, it was also logged that Paige had gone missing of her own accord and so the crucial early days of an investigation were lost when police were looking for a missing 45-year old woman and not a vulnerable 15-year old girl. Unsurprisingly, the search for Paige was futile and it wasn’t until 7th September that the error was realised and rectified.
It’s believed that this 12-day period enabled Ewing to cover his tracks… temporarily.
Tiffany Bell was arrested in January 2008 and questioned by police about Paige’s disappearance. She and Paige had known each other for five years and it was Tiffany who first introduced her to Ewing. She was released without charge, but lost custody of her child. Five months later she contacted police and stated that Dewhurst had said something about Paige’s disappearance. Bell couldn’t remember making that call.
Bell had also spent nights at Ewing’s flat.
Gareth Dewhurst, 46, of Duncan Road, Bispham, was a friend of Ewing and had started a relationship with a woman named Mary Washer in April 2008. During a few conversations he had mentioned Paige to Mary claiming that Paige and another girl would ‘prostitute themselves.’
During a late-night drink and cannabis-smoking session, Mary overheard a conversation between Dewhurst and her 16-year old son, Michael, in which he said he had taken a call from a friend called ‘Bob’ and gone to his flat in All Hallows Road. There he found Paige dead and that Ewing had forced him to have sex with Paige before also confessing that he helped to dispose of Paige’s body using his car, but refused to divulge where her body was taken, stating “I can’t tell you that, it’s too dangerous.”
Dewhurst explained how he and ‘Bob’ had put Paige’s body in the boot of his car. He was frightened that he was going to get arrested, or that Bob would kill him and so he wanted to set his car on fire to destroy any evidence. Mary and Michael gave statements to the police soon after.
FINALLY PIECING TOGETHER THE EVIDENCE
In January 2008, Ewing was arrested and questioned but denied any involvement in her disappearance or sexual contact with Paige beforehand. When asked why he allowed Paige into his home, he said that he used to let everyone in.
In May 2008, Dewhurst strangely turned up at Bispham Police Station asking to speak with a detective as he believed he was suspected of killing Paige. Claiming he had only met Paige three or four times before her disappearance, he denied any involvement. In an even more bizarre twist, that same month Dewhurst went to Blackpool Police Station and gave a witness statement.
Police used covert listening equipment in Dewhurst’s car and Ewing’s flat at different periods over three years in order to obtain evidence. Eventually spots of blood matching Paige’s DNA were discovered at Ewing’s flat. Ewing claimed this had come from a cut on Paige’s arm, but forensic specialists were able to prove that the blood pattern was not consistent with a single cut.
It was also noted that a piece of carpet had been replaced. Ewing claimed that this was done after a cat had urinated on the previous one.
When Dewhurst learned that Mary and Michael had provided evidence to the police, a campaign of intimidation ensued. Abusive letters (with Dewhurst’s fingerprints on the envelope), threats of violence, attempting to attack Michael with a rusty machete and breaking their windows were all part of his campaign. Ewing also gave false information to Crimestoppers about the family.
Their deviance knowing no bounds and with a show of absolutely no remorse, they also laid a number of false trails for the investigation. Ewing even went so far as to blame two other people of Paige’s murder – one being a severely ill man in the hope he would die and bring the murder investigation to a close.
HOW CAN IT BE MURDER WITHOUT A BODY?
Police undertook an extensive ‘proof of life’ investigation and failed to find any evidence that Paige was still alive. She was also due to inherit a significant sum of money from her mother when she turned 18, but this was never claimed.
And so, eight years after she first disappeared, Ewing and Dewhurst appeared at Preston Crown Court charged with her murder/accessory to murder.
At the end of the trial the judge, Mr Justice Baker, said:
“In the absence of any explanation from you, the full circumstances of precisely what happened to Paige Chivers may never be known.
“It may be of some significance that during the course of subsequent cover audio recordings you were heard to say ‘If anyone starts I don’t mess around. A quick hammer over the f***ing head. Then they will be sorry.”
Both Ewing and Dewhurst were members of the British National Party (BNP) – an extreme right-wing group.
During his evidence, Michael described Dewhurst as “completely weird” and said he had a fascination with the Nazis and was a member of the BNP.
Ewing also attended a far-right rally for Paige and Charlene Downes whilst knowing full well he was to blame for Paige’s death,
AND IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH…
Ewing contacted the Daily Mail ‘newspaper’ and attempted to sell his story as to how he solved the mystery of her demise.
But finally, eight years after her disappearance and still with no body found, both Ewing and Dewhurst were found guilty.
Ewing, having had a previous conviction in 1995 of abusing a 13-year old girl, was sentenced to life imprisonment with the judge recommending he served a minimum of 32 years. At 60-years old, hopefully young girls will be safe from his clutches forevermore.
As to Dewhurst, he was jailed for eight years.
THE STORY DIDN’T END THERE…
On 11th August 2013 Paige’s father, Frank Chivers, was found at his home in Layton with a head injury. He never regained conciousness and died from a bleed on the brain. He was just 49-years old.
Sean Conlon, 44, of no fixed abode was found guilty of the murder of Frank and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Lorraine Reeky claimed that Frank had a total breakdown following Paige’s disappearance and became violent towards her and her young daughter.
When police searched Ewing’s flat in connection to Paige’s disappearance, they discovered a dossier which Ewing had entitled ‘The Life and Death of Frank Chivers – Blackpool’s Hardest Man’ and contained articles relating to Frank’s death. Although an odd find, police maintain that Frank’s death was completely unrelated to the Paige investigation.
The story of Paige’s demise isn’t too dissimilar to that of 14-year old Charlene Downes, also of Blackpool, who disappeared near the town’s North Pier in 2003 and has never been seen since. People strongly suspect that Charlene was groomed and sexually exploited before being murdered and many in the media refer to her as “the kebab girl” following stories of her being groomed by a gang that ran a kebab shop, who then murdered and served her to customers.
Nobody knows the truth, but what I do know is that information exists in relation to her case that paint a completely different picture and opens a murkier, far bigger picture. (You can find further details about them in the link attached to her name.)