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Father of man found dead in cement mixer loses High Court challenge against Essex Police

The father of a man whose physique was found in a cement mixer has lost a High Court challenge against Essex Police over the investigation into his demise.

Lee Balkwell, a 33-year-old lorry driver, was found dead on 18 July 2002 on Baldwins Farm in South Ockendon, along with his head and shoulders wedged between the chassis and the drum of a cement mixer, inside which he had supposedly been working in the small hours of the morning.

His father, Les Balkwell, now in his mid 70s, has spent the final twenty years campaigning for a better investigation into his son’s demise, claiming he was murdered and accusing the police of corruption.

Essex Police closed their investigation after deciding that his demise was a “tragic accident,” earlier than an inquest in 2008 dominated he had been unlawfully killed.

In a probe launched after 130 complaints by Mr Balkwell, the police watchdog concluded in 2012 that the police investigation had been “seriously flawed”, however found no proof of corruption. The pressure apologised and paid compensation.

Earlier this year, Mr Balkwell introduced a High Court challenge against Essex Police over the pressure’s choices to shut and never reopen a probe, which he claimed had been “unlawful” and “irrational”.

The High Court was advised in February that Mr Balkwell claimed to have “intelligence” that his son had doubtlessly been “punished” over another person’s “drugs deal”, and had secured a pathologist’s report allegedly offering proof that his son was “likely dead before he was crushed”.

The pathologist stated there was “strong evidence of staging of the scene in an attempt to make … Lee’s death appear to be an accident”, his consultant Kirsty Brimelow QC was reported as telling the court docket.

Mr Balkwell had searched for the court docket to order a brand new impartial investigation into his son’s demise.

But in a ruling on Monday, Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Bennathan, dismissed Mr Balkwell’s challenge, saying they had been “in no doubt” that police choices over a recent investigation “had regard to the proper legal tests and to the material facts”.

Dame Victoria stated they believed it was “reasonable” for police to conclude that alleged new proof in the case was “insufficient” to require the investigation to be reopened, however famous that flaws in the unique investigation created “evidential difficulties” with “vital evidence” being lost.

Lawyers for Essex Police had argued that “no new intelligence” had been acquired since a Kent Police review, which ended in 2014, telling the court docket: “If there were a realistic prospect that further investigative steps would be productive, then the defendant would, enthusiastically, take those steps. Sadly, there is no such prospect.”

The pressure’s authorized consultant additionally pointed to the truth that an operation by Kent Police between 2012 and 2014 – codenamed Operation Nereus – had led to the prosecution of Balkwell’s employer, Simon Bromley.

Bromley was cleared in 2014 of illegal killing by gross negligence, however was convicted of failing to discharge his obligation as an employer underneath well being and security rules, and of rising hashish with an estimated road worth of £55,000.

Dame Victoria stated on Monday that Operation Nereus might be categorised as an “investigation”, with it involving a group of 9 officers finishing round 1,000 actions and producing almost 4,500 paperwork.

The court docket didn’t settle for it was “irrational” for the police to not reopen the investigation in mild of the pathologist’s report, she stated, highlighting that three others had produced “contrary” views to it.

The pathologist’s report “did not give rise to any lines of enquiry beyond those already explored at various stages, up to and including Operation Nereus”, Dame Victoria stated, including {that a} completely different report by personal investigators contained “commentary, supposition, theories and criticisms” that had been handled by the police operation.

Dame Victoria acknowledged that Mr Balkwell “suffered the loss of a beloved family member,” including: “His shock and sense of loss were significantly aggravated by the failure of the defendant to conduct a proper investigation in 2002.”

Additional reporting by PA

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