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'Justice for Lee Balkwell': Hornchurch father launches High Court appeal after pathologist says son's death scene looks 'staged'

PUBLISHED: 12:05 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:23 07 August 2019

Lee Balkwell, who died in July 2002, at Denises farm, Upminster. Picture: Les Balkwell

Lee Balkwell, who died in July 2002, at Denises farm, Upminster. Picture: Les Balkwell

Archant

Seventeen years after the death of his son, a Hornchurch father was not surprised to hear a leading pathologist say that the scene "looks staged".

Lee Balkwell, 33, was found crushed in the mechanisms of a cement mixer at Baldwins Farm in Dennises Lane, Upminster, on July 18, 2002.

Essex Police deemed the death to have been an industrial accident but Lee's father, Les Balkwell, and a team of former detectives from the TM Eye agency believe the evidence points to murder.

A top pathologist, who worked on the cases of Princess Diana and Stephen Lawrence, told the BBC that he thinks the scene of Lee's deaths "looks staged".

Professor Richard Shepherd is writing a report which might form part of a judicial review bid by Mr Balkwell.

Speaking on the BBC, professor Shepherd added that the scene looked "far too neat, far too organised".

Les told the Recorder: "Hearing a top pathologist saying that the scene was staged and that there is a lack of blood at the scene, goes a long way to proving this was foul play and not an accident.

Les Balkwell said that a judicial review might be his last chance to find justice for his son Lee Balkwell. Picture: ArchantLes Balkwell said that a judicial review might be his last chance to find justice for his son Lee Balkwell. Picture: Archant

"I as his father, having 30 years experience in the industry, know it wasn't an accident."

An inquest into Lee's death found he had been unlawfully killed through gross negligence in 2008.

Eight years later, the Balkwell family was awarded £40,000 in damages in 2016 after Essex Police accepted liability for a series of flaws in the investigation of Lee's death.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report also concluded that eight senior officers made 26 errors during the investigation.

The 72-year-old added: "I have fought for 17 years to bring justice to those responsible.

"This has taken a terrible toll on the physical and mental health of me and my family.

A photograph of the crime scene taken by London Fire Brigade - two hours after Lee was discovered. Picture: LFBA photograph of the crime scene taken by London Fire Brigade - two hours after Lee was discovered. Picture: LFB

"I feel that time is running out."

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Mr Balkwell has now launched a crowdfunding appeal to mount a legal challenge and persuade the High Court to overturn Essex Police's decision to close the case.

"Every route we've taken so far in court, we've won," said Mr Balkwell.

"I feel that we have got one major hurdle to get over, we've got to get it into open court.

"[Essex Police] clearly wants the case to go away; for me to give up, but I won't and need your help for a full homicide investigation to take place.

Les Balkwell's son died in a cement mixer in 2002. Les has campaigned for justice ever since. Picture: Paul BennettLes Balkwell's son died in a cement mixer in 2002. Les has campaigned for justice ever since. Picture: Paul Bennett

"I need justice for Lee."

In 2018 Essex Police formally closed their investigation despite the IPCC recommending an independent homicide investigation in 2008 and again when they published their report in 2012.

A spokeswoman from Essex Police said: "In light of the new legal proceedings calling for a judicial review we will not be commenting on the case at this time."

Les is hoping to raise £25,000 to pursue a case of judicial review.

The funds will go towards paying for a legal team, associated legal fees and any further investigative work and expert evidence.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, who represents the family with Alex Gask, said: "Essex Police eventually accepted that it failed to comply with its duty to investigate Lee's death and issued an apology for the anguish that it has caused the Balkwell family.

Les Balkwell speaking at a press conference with legal rep Tony Bennett. Picture: John Hercock.Les Balkwell speaking at a press conference with legal rep Tony Bennett. Picture: John Hercock.

"It would be a true reflection of its apology if Essex Police were to refer this case to another force for investigation."

David McKelvey, a former Scotland Yard detective who runs the TM Eye investigation agency, has been working with the Balkwell family since 2016.

He added: "My team of highly experienced retired homicide detectives are convinced that Lee's death was not an industrial accident but clearly staged.

"To suggest otherwise is perverse and raises questions about the motives of those involved in the initial investigation.

"It is deeply disappointing that Essex and their sister force Kent have ignored new credible evidence and refused us access to exhibits and evidence that would allow us to get to the truth."

To support Les's crowdfunding campaign visit his crowdfunding page.

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