Death of Stuart Lubbock

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Stuart Lubbock (1 October 1969 – 31 March 2001) was a meat factory worker from Essex, England, who died under suspicious circumstances at the home of television personality Michael Barrymore.

Lubbock was pronounced dead at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow at 8:23 a.m., on 31 March 2001. Michael Barrymore and two others present – James Futers and Simon Shaw – reported finding Lubbock unconscious in the swimming pool of Barrymore's home in Roydon, Essex earlier that morning. He was wearing only boxer shorts. He was discovered by the pathologist at the hospital to have "serious" anal injuries, with traces of ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol in his blood.

Background[edit]

Lubbock, a wholesale butcher's supervisor from Harlow, Essex, had visited the home of Barrymore after meeting him in The Millennium nightclub. A party followed.

According to BBC News,[1] neighbours described the deceased as a "pleasant, sociable" man who lived with his father Terry and brother Kevin in a terraced house in Harlow. At the time of Lubbock's death, he had two daughters, aged four and one, who were being brought up by his former partner, Claire Wicks, whom he had left months earlier.

Inquest[edit]

A September 2002 inquest reached an open verdict: Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said, "None of these witnesses who were party guests for three hours have given to this court an explanation about how Stuart Lubbock, a previously fit 31-year old, should be found floating in a swimming pool at the premises with a significant level of alcohol and drugs in his system and have serious anal injuries."[2]

Essex Police failed to call a witness from Princess Alexandra Hospital, a member of the medical team who attempted resuscitation for an hour, and who was responsible for monitoring Lubbock's temperature with a rectal thermometer. The medical professional provided a sworn statement that there were no injuries to Lubbock's anus at the time of admission. This has been taken as evidence that the injuries were inflicted to Lubbock's unguarded body in the seven hours between being declared dead and the post mortem being carried out.[3]

Initial investigation dropped[edit]

Detective Chief Superintendent Ian McNeil said that as the cause of death had been "unascertainable" and there was no witness evidence, he had decided to suspend the criminal investigation. During the course of the police investigation, both Justin Merritt and Jonathan Kenney had been arrested on suspicion of murder by police but later were released without charge. Dr. Heath concluded that he had drowned accidentally. Three other pathologists who examined the body said that the marks on Lubbock's forehead suggested that he might have been asphyxiated. However, none claimed that this was the cause of death. It was admitted that these marks could have been caused by the extensive attempts to resuscitate Lubbock. It had been confirmed that Dr. Heath has volunteered to stop working for the police, having found faulty evidence of foul play in previous deaths where there was none.[4][5]

2006 developments[edit]

Private prosecution launched, later dismissed by judge[edit]

On 11 January 2006, Tony Bennett, the Lubbock family's solicitor, issued an application in the Harlow Magistrates Court for Michael Barrymore to be charged with six offences, relating to his actions on the morning Lubbock's death. Bennett & Co. attempted to serve the papers on Barrymore whilst he was appearing on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother UK, generating more headlines. This was later thrown out of court by a district judge who ruled that Barrymore had no case to answer.[6]

Police review case[edit]

On 1 February 2006, Essex Police reviewed the death of Stuart Lubbock.[7]

Inquest witness arrested, charges later dropped[edit]

On 10 May 2006, Kylie Merritt, a witness at the coroner's inquest, was arrested on suspicion of perjury. On 14 June 2006, the charges against Merritt were dropped. Merritt was a witness on the night of Lubbock's death. Merritt told the inquest, "I saw Mr. Parker (Barrymore's real name) put some cocaine on his finger and rub it on Mr. Lubbock's gums." She later admitted that she could not be certain that her allegation was true during a lie detector test conducted by tabloid newspaper the News of the World.[8]

Pathologist discredited[edit]

On 19 June 2006, Michael Heath, the pathologist at the autopsy of Lubbock, was called before a disciplinary tribunal at the Old Bailey. The following day, Dr. Heath's testimony was discredited. At the hearing, Charles Miskin QC for the Home Office said: "It is the belief of The Home Office that Dr. Heath has fallen short of the high standards required by the Secretary of State of forensic pathologists."[9]

Case re-opened[edit]

Lubbock's father Terry set up the Lubbock Trust to campaign for further investigation into the case and to generate as much publicity as possible. On 2 December 2006, police announced they were reopening the investigation into Lubbock's death.[10]

Investigation by Independent Police Complaints Commission[edit]

Following a dossier on the case presented to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (I.P.C.C.) by Terry Lubbock's lawyer Tony Bennett on 1 December 2006, the IPCC approved an investigation by an outside police force into over 30 separate allegations of incompetence and possible corruption by Essex Police. The allegations pertain to their initial £8 million investigation into Stuart Lubbock's death. In April 2007, the IPCC elevated this investigation, internally managed and run, and appointed former Hertfordshire Police Officer Adrian Tapp to head the investigation. In May 2007, the IPCC agreed with Bennett that a total of 38 separate complaints about Essex Police would be investigated.

Terry Lubbock died in 2021. His friend Harry Cichy said, “He’s died sad, because he’s died knowing people never knew the truth about what happened. But no one could have fought harder for their son. A new inquest was what really mattered to him. He had lost faith in the police. Sadly, he’s died not knowing whether there will be another inquest.”[11]

2007 arrests[edit]

On 14 June 2007, three men were arrested in connection with Lubbock's death. Michael Barrymore was one arrested on a charge of murder.[12] On 15 June, Barrymore was released without charge after being questioned.[13]

2015–17 civil action by Barrymore against Essex Police[edit]

In July 2015, Barrymore began the process of suing Essex Police over his arrest.[14] In October 2016, it was reported that High Court papers showed police had admitted that Barrymore was wrongfully arrested and detained.[15] This was because "the arresting officer, PC Cootes, was not fully aware of the grounds for arrest ... and not by reason of a lack of reasonable grounds to suspect the claimant."[16]

On 18 August 2017, the High Court in London ruled that Barrymore would be entitled to "more than nominal" damages against Essex Police after being wrongly arrested 10 years previously. The judge did not decide on the sum to be awarded, as his ruling dealt only with the preliminary issue of the level of damages to be awarded. Barrymore was not present for the decision but valued his claim at more than £2.4 million.[17] Essex Police released a statement on 1 July 2019 to announce that the claim for damages had been dropped, and that no payment had been made to Barrymore, following an appeal; the Court of Appeals judges determined instead that Barrymore was entitled only to “nominal” damages.[18]

2020–21 renewed appeal and arrest[edit]

On 4 February 2020, Essex Police offered a £20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. The cash reward, funded by Essex Police and the charity Crimestoppers, was in response to a new Channel 4 documentary on the incident, Barrymore: The Body in the Pool, that aired on 6 February 2020.[19]

On 17 March 2021, Essex Police confirmed that they had arrested a 50-year-old man from Cheshire in connection with the indecent assault and murder of Stuart Lubbock, as a result of the appeal. Police are preparing to submit a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.[20]

Lucy Morris of Essex Police stated, "Nine people were at that party. We know that not everyone was responsible for what happened but someone was. Now is the time to come forward, if you haven’t done so already, to set this matter to rest by providing us with any information you have." She emphasised Essex police had, "never given up on this case" and investigations were complex.[21][22][23]

Following Terry Lubbock's death Det Ch Insp Jennings said, "Terry's devotion to his son and to his pursuit of justice knew no bounds. He was an example to many of us in his relentless quest for truth and justice. Our investigation into Stuart's death will not end with Terry's - as long as the case remains open, we will do all we can to deliver justice for him and his family. To this end we urge anyone who has information about Stuart's death to please now, more than ever, do the right thing and come forward."[24]

Channel 4 documentary[edit]

In February 2020, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary, The Body in the Pool. During this programme, Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings said police secured the pool area, “Not to the standard we would expect,” including the removal of evidence from the scene, DCI Jennings maintained. Evidence notably included a door handle and the pool thermometer, which the police later believed were used to rape Lubbock; coroner Michael Heath corroborated. Jennings said, “I believe very much that Stuart Lubbock was raped and murdered that night. Someone that was there knows what happened.” Joe Sommerlad of The Independent wrote, “I was shown a photograph at the police headquarters and it shows on the wall of the Jacuzzi a pool thermometer that would have four cutting edges.” Heath says, “An object like this or even this object could have produced the injuries I identified on Stuart’s anus if this had been passed into the anal canal a number of times.”[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Barrymore police keep 'open mind'". Bbc.co.uk. 3 April 2001.
  2. ^ "Barrymore pool death inquest records open verdict". The Guardian. 13 September 2002. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Pathologist stands down after probe". Eastern Daily Press. 17 January 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  5. ^ Aspinall, Adam (28 March 2021). "Michael Barrymore pool death doctor under investigation over 'serious failings'". mirror. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Sunday Express, 11 June 2006
  8. ^ "22 June 2006, "Lubbock Anger At Perjury 'Let-Off'."". Lse.co.uk. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ "New Barrymore pool death inquiry". Bbc.co.uk. 3 December 2006.
  11. ^ Quinn, Ben (15 September 2021). "Father who fought legal battle over son's death in Barrymore pool dies aged 76". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Barrymore arrested over pool death", Matthew Weaver and Hugh Muir, Guardian Unlimited, 14 June 2007, accessed 14 June 2007.
  13. ^ "Barrymore released without charge", BBC NEWS, 15 June 2007.
  14. ^ "Michael Barrymore sues Essex Police over damaged career". BBC News. 7 July 2015.
  15. ^ Michael Barrymore cleared over Stuart Lubbock death, mirror.co.uk; accessed 27 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Michael Barrymore arrest officer 'not fully briefed'". BBC News. 9 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Michael Barrymore entitled to 'more than nominal' damages over wrongful arrest". HeraldScotland.
  18. ^ "Michael Barrymore drops police compensation claim". BBC News. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Michael Barrymore pool death: Police offer £20,000 reward for conviction". Bbc.co.uk. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Stuart Lubbock: Police prepare file over Barrymore party death". Bbc.co.uk. 4 May 2021.
  21. ^ Thompson, Tony (17 March 2021). "Arrest over 2001 murder at Michael Barrymore's home". Policeprofessional.com. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Stuart Lubbock: Murder arrest over death in Michael Barrymore pool". BBC News. 17 March 2021. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Man arrested over Stuart Lubbock death at Michael Barrymore's home". The Guardian. 17 March 2021.
  24. ^ Barrymore pool death: Stuart Lubbock's father Terry dies BBC
  25. ^ Stuart Lubbock: What happened to the man found dead in Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool? The Independent

External links[edit]