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Lee Balkwell’s body exhumed from Upminster Cemetery and reburied after second post-mortem

PUBLISHED: 18:59 25 March 2013 | UPDATED: 14:26 26 March 2013

Lee's body has been re-buried

Lee's body has been re-buried

Archant

Specialist police officers yesterday exhumed the body of a man who died in a cement mixer in an Upminster farm more than ten years ago.

Forensics officers, cemetery workers and staff from the coroner's office work at Lee's grave. Picture: Paul Bennett.Forensics officers, cemetery workers and staff from the coroner's office work at Lee's grave. Picture: Paul Bennett.

Lee Balkwell, 33, was found crushed between the drum and chassis of the vehicle in Baldwin’s Farm, Dennises Lane, in July 2002.

The death was officially declared a tragic accident by Essex Police following a 19-day probe - later branded “seriously flawed” by watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Lee’s family, spearheaded by Lee’s dad, Les Balkwell, 66, have always suspected foul play and have been campaigning for a full criminal enquiry since 2003.

Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate began that investigation two years ago on the recommendation of West Midlands Police, which reviewed the earlier investigation on the IPCC’s orders

Lee's body was found crushed in cement mixer more than a decade agoLee's body was found crushed in cement mixer more than a decade ago

Leading the exhumation was Det Insp Janine Farrell, of the directorate, who said officers were “open to all hypotheses regarding Lee’s death.”

Forensics teams examined and preserved the grave while Lee’s body was taken by private ambulance from Upminster Cemetery, in Ockendon Road, to an undisclosed hospital at around 10pm on Monday.

There, Home Office pathologist, Dr Benjamin Swift, carried out the second post-mortem on the dad-of-one.

The original autopsy was carried out by the now-disgraced pathologist Dr Michael Heath.

Happier times: Lee, left, with dad, Les, and younger brother Les Jnr.Happier times: Lee, left, with dad, Les, and younger brother Les Jnr.

Les said: “We believe Heath missed many things in his original report; we think there could be signs of torture, defence wounds on Lee’s hands, and maybe stab wounds which could be evident on his bones.”

Lee’s body was re-interred at 7am today and involved a private ceremony with family and next-of-kin.

Det Insp Farrell said: “A specialist team [carried] out the exhumation, supported by highly experienced crime scenes investigators, with able assistance from cemetery staff.

“We will now await the full post-mortem report and will then be assessing the results to see how they can help inform the next steps in our investigation.”

Police vans and a private ambulance at Upminster Cemetery. Picture: Essex PolicePolice vans and a private ambulance at Upminster Cemetery. Picture: Essex Police

Five people have been arrested and released on bail as part of the investigation.

“This is very much an active criminal enquiry and with that in mind, and proceedings active, I cannot comment in detail on the investigation,” said Det Insp Farrell. “If anyone has any information regarding the death of Lee Balkwell, no matter how trivial they consider it, even after all this time, they sould contact my team on 01634 884033.

“This is a confidential line, where people can leave a message for my officers who will get back to them in due course.”

West Midlands Police recommended exhumation more than three years ago but Essex Police kept the suggestion secret.

Les has campaigned for years for a full criminal re-investigation into the death of son Lee.Les has campaigned for years for a full criminal re-investigation into the death of son Lee.

An inquest into Lee’s death in 2008 ruled he had been unlawfully killed as a result of gross negligence; manslaughter.


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