BARRYMORE FILES: Detective said 'no grounds to continue murder probe' 8 months after Stuart
THE original senior investigating officer on the death of Stuart Lubbock concluded there were "no grounds to continue a murder investigation" just eight months after he died and despite medical experts saying he may not have drowned. Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray also said there was "not enough evidence for an outcome of unlawful killing" nine months before the full inquest into the still unexplained death took place, which recorded an open verdict. Det Supt Ian McNeill and Mrs Beasley-Murray's views were recorded in the minutes of a meeting Essex Police held on December 11 2001 to "understand events more clearly and the cause of death." Stuart’s body was found next to the swimming pool at a home in Roydon, near Harlow, then occupied by TV personality Michael Barrymore (pictured above - ITV), real name Michael Parker, on March 31 2001. The 31-year-old had been attending a party at the property with seven other people, who were invited back from a nightclub, and Barrymore's lover Jonathan Kenney, 49. Despite attempts to save him, he later died in hospital.
RECORD: The minutes show DS McNeill's view eight months in to the probe (Essex Police)
A post-mortem examination found Stuart had suffered horrific anal injuries which experts believe were the result of a serious sexual assault, possibly with a blunt object, that happened prior to Stuart’s death.
In the aftermath of the discovery of Stuart’s body some individuals, including Barrymore, left the property while others, who hadn’t been at the party, arrived and key items of possible forensic interest also disappeared from the house. The 2001 meeting at the Harlow Major Investigation Room was attended by six police officers, including coroner's officer at the time PC Rick Jones, plus Mrs Beasley-Murray, her deputy Dr Malcolm Weir and five medical experts.
VERDICT: Caroline Beasley-Murray said there was not evidence of unlawful killing before the inquest (Coronersociety.org.uk)
The minutes obtained by Essex News and Investigations said the purpose of the meeting was also to "determine whether the process of Stuart's death could be attributed to any criminal or unlawful act(s) by any person(s)."
It was also to give a detective, who was about to review the case, "full appreciation of the medical evidence." Professor Chris Milroy, a forensic pathologist, was recorded as saying the cause of death was unascertained. He gave an example of a boy found in a pool, who was eventually found to have been smothered. He said: "We need to be careful with the diagnosis in this case. The anal injuries are a cause for concern. Other causes of death cannot be excluded." He said drowning was not the only possibility. Mr Milroy was recorded as saying the anal injuries were caused by an object being inserted. Dr Michael Health carried out the first post mortem examination on Stuart and concluded he died from drowning. He resigned as a Home Office pathologist in 2006 after a disciplinary panel found a series of errors in several of his previous findings. At the meeting Dr Heath said he believed the cause was drowning asphyxia and cardiac arrest by drugs.
KILLED: Stuart Lubbock's death remains unexplained (Essex Police)
However, Mr Milroy said asphyxia could be caused by smothering with a pillow as this "leaves no signs." But, Dr Heath argued Stuart would have reacted to that and there were no defence marks. Mr Milroy said he did not think Stuart had been strangled or gagged. Professor Jack Crane, a forensic pathologist, said as small petechial hemorrhages were present on Stuart's forehead," he could not rule out "the possibility he was asphyxiated and police should be aware of this distinct possibility." Bizarrely, Mr McNeill was recorded as saying he was "only interested whether criminal act(s) led to the death," suggesting if a sex assault had not caused the death he would not be prepared to investigate that. The group also strangely discussed the suggested outcome of the inquest before it took place in September 2002, should be to record an open verdict, before all the evidence had been heard.
NO GROUNDS: Ian McNeill moved to Northamptonshire Police as a more senior chief superintendent in March 2002 (LinkedIn)
Mr Weir suggested there were "several possible scenarios," but it was at this point that Mrs Beasley-Murray was recorded as saying the evidence for an "unlawful killing was not there." Mr Milroy said it should be an open verdict. Medics agreed that the injuries would have caused a lot of bleeding, but immersion in the pool would have caused this to clot. Mr Jones said if Stuart bled in the water "surely it would have been washed away by the vast amount of cold water." It was agreed by all present that the internal injuries could not have happened prior to Stuart being at the house and could no have been caused "innocently." It was also accepted that they had been caused before death. Yet, despite the acceptance that there had been a serious sexual assault and conflicting views over how he could have died, Mr McNeill said: "There were no grounds to continue a murder investigation."
CAMPAIGN: Terry Lubbock wants answers about his son's death (Jon Austin)
Mrs Beasley-Murray said she would need to see this in writing and Mr McNeill said he would submit an advice file to the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr McNeill closed the meeting saying it had helped Essex Police "move towards an end." He had opened the meeting claiming the police investigation had been as "thorough as possible, but there were still some unanswered questions." These remained unanswered at the end of the talk and in 2007 the then Independent Office for Police Conduct rapped Essex Police over many failings in the original investigation, including allowing Barrymore's manager at the time Mike Browne into the crime scene. Items that had been earlier photographed by police, including a door handle and a swimming pool thermometer, that could have caused the injuries, went missing and some items were not sent for forensic analysis. Essex Police is now reinvestigating the death as a rape, murder and cover up and a £40,000 reward has been put up for information that leads to a prosecution. New senior investigating officer DCI Stephen Jennings said: “For almost 19-years the rape and death of Stuart Lubbock has remained a mystery and his family, in particular his devoted father Terry, have longed for both answers and justice. “I and Essex Police are determined to do all we can to give Terry those answers and to bring someone to justice for what happened to Stuart. “That determination is evident from the fact that both Essex Police and the charity Crimestoppers are funding a reward of up to £20,000 in the hope that someone can give us the breakthrough that we need. “Nine people went to the party at Michael Barrymore’s house, but only one of them – Stuart – ended up being violently sexually assaulted and murdered. “We know not everyone at that party was responsible for what happened, but someone was. We also know that not everyone at that party may know what happened, but someone does. “We want the people who do have information to come forward and talk to us – 19 years is a long time, loyalties change and it is never too late to do the right thing." Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or use our anonymous online form on our website at Crimestoppers-uk.org.”