Barrymore pool death - police investigation criticised

ESSEX Police's investigation into the death of a man at the home of television entertainer Michael Barrymore was flawed, it has been revealed today.

James Hore

ESSEX Police's investigation into the death of a man at the home of television entertainer Michael Barrymore was flawed, it has been revealed today.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the force's inquiry following the death of Stuart Lubbock has been published.

The 31-year-old died in March 2001 after attending a party at Barrymore's then home in Roydon in Essex and it emerged later he had suffered severe internal injuries.

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The IPCC investigation examined 36 complaints and allegations from the dead man's father, Terry Lubbock, who lives in Harlow.

Six of his 36 complaints have been upheld as the IPCC investigation found the scene was not effectively preserved; unauthorised people were allowed to stay at the scene; blood found on boxer shorts was not promptly investigated, blood found on towels and robe was not promptly investigated.

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The IPCC also concluded the investigation was suspended prematurely and it has also emerged two pieces of evidence, which could have been crucial, went missing.

A swimming pool thermometer which appeared in photographs of the scene, and a detached door handle, were never seized by police or forensically tested.

As a result it was not possible for the police to establish whether or not the implements were used to cause Mr Lubbock's injuries.

However, allegations that the police were incompetent or corrupt were rejected.

David Petch, the IPCC commissioner, said: “There are absolutely no grounds to support allegations that officers acted corruptly.

“The view that the entire investigation was incompetent is not borne out by the bulk of the evidence.

“But undoubtedly there were failings in some aspects of the investigation.

“The security around the scene in the first few hours should have been more rigorous.

“As a consequence there are lingering fears that, because the integrity of the scene was not properly preserved, important evidence may have been lost. Potential witnesses should have been removed from the house and grounds at the earliest opportunity.”

Mr Petch said people had been allowed to stay and tidy up in the house.

“Forensic examinations of some items found at the scene were not carried out as promptly as they should have been - although this was remedied.

“In our view the decision in December 2001 to suspend the investigation was premature - at that time some key forensic work had not been completed and some enquiries were still outstanding.

“We will probably never know whether the missing thermometer and door handle were evidentially important, but not securing these items was a failure and leaves questions unanswered.

“All of these shortcomings must be frustrating and distressing for Mr Lubbock, who has worked tirelessly to find out what happened to his son,” he said.

Speaking afterwards, the Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Police, Andy Bliss said: “The IPCC report highlights a number of shortcomings with the initial police investigation into Stuart Lubbock's death in 2001 and for these we apologise unreservedly to Stuart Lubbock's family and friends.

“I have visited Terry Lubbock to deliver a personal apology on behalf of Essex Police and will also be speaking to other members of his family. We again offer our sincere sympathies to Stuart's friends and family for their loss.

“The IPCC considered the investigation “generally competent and well considered”.

“The report does identify concerns relating to specific elements of the investigation and these are regretted.

“We accept the IPCC's findings and recommendations. Over the last eight years, Essex Police has taken a number of steps to improve investigations into suspicious deaths.

“Since this investigation, Essex Police has introduced specific training for dealing with suspicious deaths and we continually seek to improve this.

“We remain determined to find out what happened to Stuart back in March 2001. A new investigation began in 2006 and this remains ongoing. We will continue to keep his family informed of any developments.

“Essex Police is convinced that somebody knows exactly what happened to Stuart, but so far they have not shared this information with us.

“One or more of the people at the house that night must know what went on. The passage of time makes it no easier for Stuart's family who deserve to know what happened to him. The investigation remains open and we will pursue all leads given to us.

“It is not too late to come forward with information and we would urge anybody who has information about the events surrounding Stuart's death to contact us.”

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