Cement mixer death: Five arrested

Thurrock Gazette: Lee Balkwell Lee Balkwell

FIVE people have been arrested in connection with the death of Lee Balkwell, who was found dead under a cement mixer.

A number of arrests took place last week at Baldwin’s Farm, off Dennises Lane, South Ockendon, where his body was found on July 18, 2002.

Those arrested included Mr Balkwell’s employer, Simon Bromley, 43, from Baldwin’s Farm, on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice and perjury.

Others arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and perjury were Bromley’s father, David, 66, and his mother, Linda, 63, both of Baldwin’s Farm, a woman, 49, from South Ockendon, and a man, 38, from Southend.

The alleged offences are believed to concern evidence given at the inquest in 2008 into Mr Balkwell’s death.

A spokeswoman for the Essex and Kent serious crime squad said: “The arrests have been made by officers working under the direction of Det Chief Supt Lee Catling, who has been investigating the circumstances of Mr Balkwell’s death since August 2010.”

All those arrested were bailed until mid-January.

Simon Bromley was quizzed by police after the death, but he was not arrested at the time.

He has always maintained Mr Balkwell’s death was an accident, saying he and his employee were cleaning drying cement from inside the drum of the lorry-mounted mixer late into the night.

He said he got out and rotated the drum from the cab to reach more cement without knowing Mr Balkwell was climbing out of a small hatch.

The inquest in 2008 ruled he was killed as a result of gross negligence manslaughter.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Com- mission, released in January, which investigated about 90 complaints about Essex Police’s handling of the case from Mr Balkwell’s dad, Les Balkwell, was highly critical of the force’s initial investigation.

It said vital evidence had not been seized and statements had not been taken.

Les Balkwell spoke of his “shock and relief” after the first arrests last week in connection with his son’s death.

Mr Balkwell, 65, has campaigned tirelessly to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding his son’s death, and sold his house to cover legal costs along the way.

It was his series of complaints which exposed failings in the initial inquiry and forced the latest re-investigation.

He said: “When I heard, I just broke down. I couldn’t talk. It was the same for my family. We are not 100 per cent there, but it’s a big step.

“Until now, no one had been arrested, or even interviewed under caution, over Lee’s death, which is unbelievable.

“At least now they’re properly looking into it. It’s now a waiting game until all the facts come out .”

Mr Balkwell hopes a series of questions surrounding his son’s death will now be thoroughly explored by police.

These are: * Lee was trapped in the mixer up to his shoulders, but his body had injuries in other areas.

Les Balkwell said: “From post-mortem pictures you can see a wound near his kidney and a cut on his palm. These have not been explained.”

* Simon Bromley said he and Lee had worked inside the drum with a spade and pneumatic drill each, and a spotlight, before he got out to turn the drum. When police arrived, all the equipment was outside the vehicle. Mr Balkwell said: “If they were still working inside, the equipment would have been in there.”

* Police photographs of a connecting rod from the cab to the drum show it broken in two. Police and fire service evidence from the crime scene suggestsed the rod had been used to rotate the drum to remove the body.

Mr Balkwell, a former engineer, said: “We need an answer to when it was broken, as the evidence is it was working when they removed Lee.”

* Mr Balkwell is convinced pictures of the scene taken by police show his son’s belt missing, while others taken at a different time by the fire service show him wearing it.

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