Farm Fix

Sunday 07 May 2017

Fresh evidence suggesting that Essex police helped cover up “murder” of a man found crushed by a cement mixer was last week presented to the local crime commissioner’s office in an attempt to have the disturbing 14-year-old case reinvestigated.

Les Balkwell 33, was found in the early hours of 18 July 2002 with his head and shoulders wedged between the drum and chassis of a cement mixer on an Essex farm, linked to drugs and firearm offences. In October 2008 six years after Lee’s death, an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing through gross negligence on the farm. Simon Bromley, Lee’s employer, had told the inquest the death was a result of an accident when the cement mixer’s engine accidentally started during late night cleaning.

Bromley was subsequently cleared of “gross negligence manslaughter” but was convicted of health and safety breaches. Separately, in 2006 Bromley had been convicted of drugs and firearms charges and sentenced to six years.

Now, a new report prepared by a retired senior police scientist has highlighted unusual marks on Lee’s body which, it is claimed, are consistent with the use of a stun gun.

The former Metropolitan police forensic scientist with experience of more than 30,000 crime scenes, also said that photographs at the Upminster farm demonstrate that the scene had been staged. But his report makes no suggestion about who the killer may have been.

Leslie Balkwell, Lee’s father, also said that since his son’s death Essex police officers had privately come forward and alleged that there was a corrupt circle of cops in bed with three local crime families. Two officers said the farm had been under electronic surveillance for suspected drug trafficking on the night of Lee’s death.

In 2012, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), responding to complaints from Lee’s parents about the investigation, finally produced a 147-page report outlining a litany of errors. Yet one of the most extraordinary facts – that Lee’s clothes were destroyed 19 hours after his death and before any post mortem examination – did not seem to trouble the watchdog; and it rejected any suggestion of corruption.

The family remained unhappy and last October Essex Police finally settled a civil action admitting it had spectacularly bungled the investigation by losing vital evidence and closing down lines of inquiry, but denying any claims of corruption.

Now these failings have been re-examined by retired senior police scientist Mr Milne, who told Private Eye he considered the police failures were an “orchestrated derailment”. His report, which he presented with Lee’s father last week, concludes: “On the balance of probabilities, it is my opinion that the death of Lee Balkwell was the result of a deliberate act of murder or manslaughter and it is unlikely that the accident as described happened at all. Further, the deliberate lack of criminal investigation and apparent lack of competence by the Essex Police has too many failures of process and direction in this case to be a mere collection of coincidences and as such supports the view that the course of justice in this case has been perverted.”

Lee’s father has now been asked to prepare a formal statement about the police whistle- blowers to accompany the report.

Published February 2016 Private Eye

For further information please contact Les Balkwell on 07925 999607.

A Letter from Essex Police

Friday 21 April 2017

Essex police accept that the initial investigation was ineffective for the reasons set out by the IPCC and accordingly it failed to comply with the duty to investigate required by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whilst further investigations have been conducted to address those failings, Lee Balkwell's death remains classed by Essex police as an unresovlved homocide.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Kavanagh
Chief Constable
Dated 3 January 2017

For further information please contact Les Balkwell on 07925 999607

The Deputy Chief Constable

Thursday 20 April 2017

I have considered the IPCC’s report concerning its investigation of your complaints against a number of serving and retired Essex Police officers. It is clear that there were failings in the investigation into the death of your son and the response by Essex Police to the concerns you have raised over a long period of time, I shall ensure that Essex Police takes the necessary learning from the IPCC report and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for these failings.

As you are aware the investigation (Operation Nereus) led by temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Catling into your son’s death is continuing, I understand that you are in contact with the Operation Nereus team. I can assure you that this investigation is addressing each investigative action highlighted by the West Midlands review as being outstanding together with any other line of enquiry temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Catling considers necessary.

With regards to those officers who have findings against them and are still serving with Essex Police it is my intention to personally meet them for the purposes of a formal management debrief. This will include a discussion of the findings reached by the IPCC and the steps required to ensure the identified failings are not repeated. This course of action will be taken with the agreement of the IPCC

Yours sincerely

Derek Benson
Deputy Chief Constable
Dated 26 January 2012

Les Balkwell's Response

This is a litany of Lies by D Benson Deputy Chief Constable. As has now been admitted by another lying deceitful officer Lee Catling who now states that Kent’s enquiry was never a full re investigation nor was it independent which Mr Catlin has referred to as a ‘Comedy of Errors’.

For further information please contact Les Balkwell on 07925 999607

Police who 'botched' John Palmer murder probe accused of 'cement mixer death cover up'

Thursday 27 August 2015

THE police force at the centre of the botched probe into the murder of Brink's Matt kingpin John Palmer is facing more embarrassment over an unrelated case after it was accused by a grieving dad of "a covering up" concerning his son's death at another gangster's home".

Essex Police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after being forced to admit Palmer, 64, nicknamed Goldfinger due to his alleged involvement in the 1983 Brink's-Mat gold bullion heist, died from gunshot wounds.

The admission came six days after his death at his home in Brentwood, Essex, was wrongly recorded as natural causes.

Separately, Essex Police is facing "corruption" allegations concerning an unrelated case, involving the death of Lee Balkwell, 33, on land owned by the family of convicted drug and gun runner Simon Bromley, 45, seven miles away from Brentwood in South Ockendon.

Lee Balkwell from Rainham, Essex, was found dead wedged between the drum and chassis of a cement mixer in the dead of night at an industrial area next to his employer concrete supplier Bromley's home.

Although he was found dead at 1am on July 18 2002, Bromley was never arrested until November 2012 on suspicion of manslaughter.

He was charged with manslaughter and a health a safety offence.

Last October Bromley was acquitted of manslaughter, but found guilty of breaching health and safety laws in relation to the death.

He had earlier admitted cannabis cultivation at his home, after a sophisticated set up was discovered in his bungalow when police arrested him, and was jailed for three years last October for that offence, but still awaits sentence for the health and safety matter.

Lee Balkwell's father, Les Balkwell, 68, has lodged a civil claim at the High Court for £50,000 damages claiming 41 allegations of "failings and corruption" by the force during its investigations into his son's death.

A trial date has yet to be fixed for the civil action, so the allegations have yet to be tested in court.

Essex Police said in a defence statement it had accepted a number of failings during its initial investigation of the death, and had apologised to Mr Balkwell, but it vehemently denies his allegations of "corruption and unlawful behaviour" by any of its current or former officers.

Despite the jury's verdict in the criminal case, Les Balkwell told the High Court he wished the criminal case could be re-opened and he would like to bring a private prosecution in the criminal courts.

The grieving dad from Hornchurch, Essex, who is representing himself, outlined to the court in a series of allegations that:

*Undercover Essex Police officers told him "investigating officers knew from the beginning the death was not accidental but treat it as one."

*A senior officer, ordered the destruction of Lee's clothing less than 24 hours after he was removed from the mixer

*The force initially lied about not obtaining his son's mobile phone records which were disclosed 10 years later

*There was no proper scenes of crime forensic investigation or crime report, two entries from an incident report were removed and the scene was not protected from contamination

*He claims Essex coroner’s officer Derrick Bines met him at a motorway service station beforehand, "to find out what he knew" and later had to be "removed from the case".

*One detective "doctored CCTV recordings" of the scene, then retired from the force and refused to answer any questions a day after being contacted by the IPCC.

Mr Balkwell told the judge: "For 13 years we have been trying to get to the truth so my family can get some clarity and every step of the way the police have stopped us.

"The fact of the matter is these people know what happened that morning and why they let every Tom, Dick and Harry go on the crime scene."

Bromley's arrest ten years after the death followed a damning IPCC report in 2012.

The report was produced after a three-year investigation by the IPCC into several complaints from Les Balkwell about police handling of the case.

It slammed the initial investigation into his son's death, saying vital evidence and several lines of inquiry were lost forever, the probe ruled out foul play too early, before recommending an independent force re-investigate the case.

Instead, Essex Police got officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate to continue with the inquiry.

Bromley, who was jailed for eight years in 2006 for his role in a major drug and gun supply ring, has always insisted it was a tragic accident and denies any foul play.

At his criminal trial over Lee Balkwell's death, the jury accepted his account that he and Lee were drilling dried cement from the inside of the drum of the mixer late into the night, when the engine accidentally started, and that he then found him trapped under the drum and called 999.

The High Court civil case brought by Les Balkwell was adjourned pending a full pre-trial review in preparation for trial.

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