July 24 2014 Latest news:
EXCLUSIVE by Jane Ball, News editor
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The body of a man who died in a cement mixer more than 10 years ago is to be exhumed – in a dramatic new development in the police investigation.
Dad-of-one Lee Balkwell, 33, was found trapped in the mixer on an Upminster farm in the early hours of July 18, 2002. His body will be exhumed later this month.
The original Essex Police probe concluded that his death had been an industrial accident and closed the case after just 19 days.
But Lee’s dad Les Balkwell has long suspected foul play and has been pushing for the reinvestigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
The 66-year-old said: “It has been a great shock for my wife, my son, my daughter and me. The exhumation of Lee is not something any of the family wants. But it is something we believe is necessary to get the truth. Unfortunately, nearly 11 years have passed since Lee died, which means a lot of evidence will have been lost.”
An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report, released in January 2012 after four years, found the original probe “seriously flawed”.
It is now hoped “articles” buried with Lee may provide fresh clues.
The exhumation will take place at Upminster Cemetery. It follows re-examination by Home Office pathologist Dr Ben Swift of the original post-mortem reports by disgraced pathologist Dr Michael Heath.
West Midlands Police, which reviewed the earlier investigation on the IPCC’s orders, recommended exhumation more than three years ago. Essex Police kept the suggestion secret.
Les, of Abbs Cross Lane, Hornchurch, said: “I am angry. There have been years of missed opportunities to get to the truth of what happened to my son.”
A spokesman for Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “Officers intend to carry out an exhumation of the body of Lee Balkwell as part of the ongoing search for the truth regarding his death.
“The investigation team will remain in close contact with the next-of-kin and family of Lee Balkwell during the preparation and planning of this process.”
An inquest into Lee’s death in 2008 ruled he had been unlawfully killed as a result of gross negligence manslaughter.
Five people were arrested in connection with the current investigation last November. They were released on bail until April.