Father wins probe into police investigation of Barrymore 'pool death'


Last updated at 18:02 01 March 2007

The father of a man found dead at Michael Barrymore's home was 'delighted' after an inquiry was launched into the way police investigated the case.

Stuart Lubbock, 31, died at a drug-fuelled party at the entertainer's Essex mansion in March 2001. Barrymore and other guests claimed the butcher drowned in an outdoor pool at the house, but Mr Lubbock's father Terry has always maintained his son was murdered after being subjected to a brutal homosexual rape.

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Tony Bennett, the Lubbock family solicitor, said he had complained about information Essex Police gave to a coroner and pathologist following Mr Lubbock's death.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced an inquiry into Essex Police's handling of the case, following repeated complaints by Terry Lubbock that the investigation was botched and vital opportunities to gather evidence were lost.

The news follows Essex Police's decision last December to carry out a fresh investigation into Stuart's death, which is ongoing.

Retired driver Terry, 61, said: "I feel we are closer than ever to finding out the truth about how my son died.

"I'm delighted that the IPCC are going to get involved. It is quite a monumental step in the attempts by myself and my legal team to get justice for Stuart.

"My son was murdered, I have no doubt about that, and I will not rest until someone is finally charged over his death."

The IPCC said the terms of reference for its inquiry had yet to be established. But IPCC Commissioner Mehmuda Mian Pritchard said the probe would be carried out by another police force "under our full direction and control".

Father-of-two Stuart, who had never met Barrymore before the night he died, was invited back to the gay TV star's £2million home in Roydon, Essex, together with several other revellers from a local nightclub where Barrymore had been drinking.

Three hours after he arrived at the house, he was dead.

A post-mortem examination discovered internal injuries to his rectum indicative of "a serious sexual assault" and three pathologists suggested strangulation or smothering as a possible cause of death.

But police treated the death as a simple case of accidental drowning until the post-mortem results were known, meaning the house was not treated as a potential crime scene and evidence may have been lost.

The house was eventually searched five months later but nothing was found.

Barrymore's then boyfriend, drag artist Jonathan Kenney, and dustman Justin Merritt were arrested several weeks after Stuart's death on suspicion of murder, but were later released without charge. Barrymore was cautioned for drugs offences.

An inquest into Mr Lubbock's death recorded an open verdict, with the cause of death listed as "unascertainable" after the coroner said none of the party guests had given a satisfactory explanation of what happened.

Terry Lubbock and his solicitor Tony Bennett have written a book about Stuart's death, to be published later this month, in which they suggest that Stuart was never in the pool at Barrymore's house.

They believe he was murdered and then either dipped in the water to make his death look like drowning, or water was thrown over his body by the poolside.

Mr Bennett said: "We are delighted that the IPCC is to investigate and we will help in any way we can. All Mr Lubbock has ever wanted is the truth about what happened to his son."

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said officers were aware of the IPCC decision and would co-operate fully.

She said the force did not wish to discuss the allegations made by the Lubbock family while the investigation was pending.

Barrymore, 54, who recently took the lead role in a national tour of Scrooge The Musical, was understood to be in New Zealand yesterday and was unavailable for comment.

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