DEATH OF LEE BALKWELL
FATHER SAYS POLICE COVERED UP INVESTIGATION
DAD SET TO TAKE POLICE TO COURT OVER SON'S DEATH
Baildon and Southend Echo (Paper Edition) 20 January 2015
THE father of a man found dead under a cement mixer claims senior Essex Police officers covered up the investigation.
Les Balkwell, dad of Lee Balkwell, 33, who died at Baldwins Farm, in Dennises Lane, South Ockendon, in July 2002, made the claims at the High Court.
Mr Balkwell, 68, has won the right to sue Essex Police for up to £50,000 for “failings” during the investigation, which he says breached his human rights.
At the hearing, Mr Balkwell listed a series of alleged discrepancies about information he was given by senior offices after being “tipped off” by undercover officers that he had been lied to during the investigation.
Mr Balkwell said: “I got information from undercover operatives whose lives are now in danger. I am not exaggerating.
"So how come I did not come to you before? Well the most common thing they said about providing any evidence was ‘this is an ongoing enquiry’.
"But as one came to an end, another one took over.
"I am not responsible for any delay. All I am responsible for is being the father of a boy whose death was covered up.”
Mr Balkwell claimed he had been told all officers at the scene, including firefighters and paramedics were interviewed, but later discovered none of them were.
He also pointed to how he was refused access to Lee’s mobile phone records with police never applying for them from the network.
He also asked for a copy of the forensic crime scene report, but was first told it had not been completed, only later to be told he couldn’t see it.
A later interview between Det Insp Richard Argles, the then crime scene manager, now retired, and an investigative reporter, revealed that he had not conducted a crime scene report.
Mr Balkwell also claims that senior investigating officer, Supt Graeme Bull, now retired, did not meet with him for six months after the death and later gave misleading details about this when Mr Balkwell complained.
He also accuses lead police officers of not going to the scene of his son’s death.
The judge, Master Roger Eastman, said: “Mr Balkwell has argued, to my mind convincingly, that he had good grounds to
suspect that he was not necessarily being given accurate information over the years as to the way in which the matter was investigated and dealt with.”
Simon Bromley, 45, who owned the Baldwins Farm firm, was drilling out dried cement from the mixer with Lee.
He was arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter in November 2012 following two damning Independent Police Complaints reports, but cleared of the offence at Chelmsford Crown Court last October.
He was found guilty of the lesser charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of his employee and is yet to be sentenced.
Sophie Mortimer, barrister, representing the force, disputed Mr Balkwell’s claims.
She said: “We don’t accept any implied allegations against Essex Police officers of corruption or that anything was done
“We have not yet filed a defence because Mr Balkwell intimated he will make further allegations against Essex Police.
“My understanding is they will be claims of direct corruption by Essex Police officers being involved with the Bromleys in covering up the death.”
The hearing was adjourned until the spring.