Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Cement mixer death remains exhumed

Essex Police said they had not taken the decision to exhume Mr Balkwell's body lightly

The body of a man found dead in a cement mixer a decade ago has been exhumed as part of a new investigation into his death.

Lorry driver Lee Balkwell, 33, was found dead at a farm in South Ockendon, Essex, on July 18, 2002. His head and shoulders were lodged in a cement mixer.

At the time, Essex Police said after an investigation that the death was accidental, but last year the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which intervened after a series of complaints by Mr Balkwell's father Les, found the inquiry was "seriously flawed".

As well as the IPCC probe, West Midlands Police were asked to investigate how Mr Balkwell died, making more than 90 recommendations for further action.

Three men and two women were arrested in connection with the death in November as part of a new inquiry by the Essex and Kent serious crime directorate. They remain on police bail.

Mr Balkwell's body was exhumed at Upminster Cemetery, where it was buried in September 2002. Cemetery personnel were in place to carry out initial excavation work of his grave, followed by specialist police officers trained in the forensic recovery of bodies.

Mr Balkwell's body has been taken to an unnamed hospital by private ambulance, where a full forensic post-mortem examination will be carried out by a Home Office pathologist. Afterwards, it will be returned for a private burial attended only by Mr Balkwell's family and next of kin.

Senior investigation officer Detective Inspector Janine Farrell said: "This investigation is committed to searching for the truth about what happened to Lee Balkwell in July 2002 and we have not made the decision to conduct this exhumation lightly.

"This event has obviously caused Lee Balkwell's next of kin and family further considerable distress and this whole process is being managed to minimise any further anguish as much as possible. But we remain open to all hypotheses regarding Lee's death and if anyone has any information regarding the death of Lee Balkwell, no matter how trivial they consider it, even after all this time, they should contact my team on 01634 884033."

She added that the five people arrested in November remain on police bail, and the case remains "very much an active criminal inquiry" and police "remain open to all hypotheses regarding Lee's death".

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