December 9 2013 Latest news:
by Jane Ball, News Editor
Saturday, August 17, 2013
A post-mortem carried out on the exhumed body of a man who died in a cement mixer more than 10 years ago has not revealed signs of “torture”, detectives investigating the death found.
Father-of-one Lee Balkwell was crushed between the moving drum and chassis of the vehicle in Baldwins Farm, Dennises Lane, Upminster, in July 2002.
Essex Police closed their initial inquiry after 19 days, declaring the death a tragic accident, but Lee’s family have always maintained the 33-year-old died in suspicious circumstances.
Detectives from the Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate began a full criminal re-investigation two years ago, after the first was declared “seriously flawed” by watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
As part of that new inquiry, Lee’s body was disinterred from Upminster Cemetery in Corbets Tey Road on March 25 and a second two-hour examination of the well-preserved body was carried out by Home Office pathologist Dr Benjamin Swift the following morning.
Lee’s father, Les Balkwell, 66, believed his son’s body would carry “torture and defence wounds” including stab indents still evident in his bones, and ligature marks.
However, letters from assistant chief constable of the Essex and Kent team, Gary Beautridge, to Les – and seen by the Recorder – said there was no evidence of “violence”.
He wrote: “The preliminary findings of the post-mortem did not reveal any evidence of the marks of violence indicated by [Les] since [Lee] died.”
Police had indicated they would make the results public, but have refused as the investgation remains “live”.
Les said he had “serious concerns” about the way the autopsy was conducted and has lodged compaints to the IPCC.
The family now hope new evidence might be found on Lee’s mobile phone which was buried with him.
Essex Police did not retrieve records from the sim card during their initial investigation.
An inquest into Lee’s death in 2008 ruled he had been unlawfully killed as a result of gross negligence; manslaughter.
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “The decision to publicise the results of a post-mortem examination is one for the senior investigating officer. For operational reasons a decision has been taken not to publicise the results at this time.
“Mr Balkwell and Lee’s next of kin were verbally updated with the preliminary findings of the post-mortem examination shortly after it took place.”