24/02/2009

Lubbock Police 'Lost Evidence', Report Finds

Police investigating the death of a man who was found dead in Michael barrymore's swimming pool, lost crucial pieces of evicence, an official report has found.

Stuart Lubbock, 31, of Harlow, Essex, died in March 2001 after attending a party at Mr Barrymore's former home in Roydon, Essex.

Post mortem results showed Mr Lubbock had suffered severe internal injuries which indicated sexual assault. His bloodstream contained ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol.

A coroner recorded an open verdict into his death, a year after his death.

In June 2007, 56-year-old Barrymore - who was in London at the time - and two other men were arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and murder. They were released without charge.

The IPCC inquiry noted two pieces of evidence - a pool thermometer and a door handle - were not seized.

Also, the report found police failed to "promptly investigate" blood left on the victim's boxer shorts, towels and a robe.

Six of the 36 complaints made by Terry Lubbock were upheld by the IPCC.

The IPCC report read: "The evidential importance of the thermometer and/or door handle is a matter for speculation.

"However, the failure of police to recover these items prevented the senior investigating officer from establishing whether or not the implements were used to cause the injuries to Stuart Lubbock."

The report revealed that the two pieces of evidence which were not seized by police and subsequently went missing could have been crucial to the case.

The swimming pool thermometer appears in photographs of the scene but, along with the detached door handle, was never forensically tested.

However, it has not been possible for the police to establish whether or not the implements were used to cause Mr Lubbock's injuries, the IPCC said.

IPCC Commissioner David Petch said: "There are absolutely no grounds to support allegations that officers acted corruptly.

"The view that the entire investigation was incompetent is not borne out by the bulk of the evidence.

"But undoubtedly there were failings in some aspects of the investigation.

"As a consequence there are lingering fears that, because the integrity of the scene was not properly preserved, important evidence may have been lost."

He added: "In our view the decision in December 2001 to suspend the investigation was premature - at that time some key forensic work had not been completed and some inquiries were still outstanding.

"We will probably never know whether the missing thermometer and door handle were evidentially important, but not securing these items was a failure and leaves questions unanswered.

"All of these shortcomings must be frustrating and distressing for Mr Lubbock

(JM/BMcC)

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