Upminster & Hornchurch MP: police ‘reluctant to co-operate’ in Balkwell death investigation

THE father of a young man found dead in a cement-mixing lorry has demanded answers after an MP claimed police officers are “reluctant to co-operate” in an investigation into his death.

In a letter seen by the Recorder, Upminster and Hornchurch MP Angela Watkinson made the comments about Essex Police following a probe into the force’s investigation of the death of Lee Balkwell, 33.

Father-of-one Lee, of Elm Park, was found dead in the mechanics of a cement-mixing lorry on Baldwins Farm, Dennises Lane, Upminster, on July 18, 2002.

The mysterious case had been handled by Essex Police with Lee’s father Les maintaining his son was murdered, despite an inquest in 2008 finding he died of unlawful killing by gross negligence.

Last week the case took a dramatic new twist with MP Watkinson revealing some officers were reluctant to co-operate in an investigation headed by Kent and Essex Police.

MP Watkinson did not wish to comment further on her letter.

In a significant move, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last September recommended an external force – Kent Police - be brought in to re-investigate Lee’s death.

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Essex Police had snubbed the important recommendation, instead conceding only to let another force review their initial investigation.

Now it appears they’re reluctant to even co-operate in this investigation.

Angry Les told the Recorder: “The police are there to help solve crimes, not hinder them. Which is exactly what Essex Police is doing in their reluctance to co-operate.”

He added: “We have been assured that if Kent Police find any unlawful behaviour by Essex Police officers it will be investigated in the strongest terms. So my question is, why would any honest police officer be reluctant to co-operate in this investigation?

“As a result, we’ll be taking this up with the minister for crime prevention (and former Hornchurch MP) James Brokenshire through our MP Angela Watkinson.”

Les said: “Why isn’t Essex Police ordering its officers to co-operate with its own investigation?”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “There is currently an investigation being conducted by the IPCC regarding complaints about the case and as such it would be inappropriate to comment while that continues.

“Officers are working through 91 recommendations made by West Midlands Police following the review of the investigation. This work is ongoing by staff from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.”