Essex

Father fights for justice for son in cement mixer death probe

Les Balkwell has never accepted the claim that his son died in a tragic industrial accident.

Nearly 10 years on from the horrific death, Mr Balkwell remains as determined as ever to find answers.

Lee Balkwell, 33, was found in a mechanism under the drum of the concrete mixer lorry in July 2002. He had multiple injuries consistent with being crushed.

The retired haulage boss believes his son was murdered and has set about seeking to highlight failures in the police investigation that followed the death.

Now, following an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report, he has received confirmation the inquiry was "seriously flawed".

But without his perseverance, the failures might never have been exposed.

Rachel Cerfontyne, IPCC Commissioner, writing in a foreword to the report, said: "It is testament to [Mr Balkwell's] dedication that, finally, the full circumstances surrounding the death of Lee Balkwell are being examined."

'Something wrong'

Mr Balkwell and his wife, Jackie, 62, believe the truth has been covered up and made 130 complaints to the IPCC.

The IPCC rejected any suggestion of corruption but Mr Balkwell remains adamant that the full story behind his son's death is yet to emerge.

Image caption Les and Jackie Balkwell believe their son was murdered in 2002

"The strain and trauma it has caused is just unbelievable," he said.

"One of the reasons it has stretched out that long is because we haven't been told the truth."

Lee was last seen on CCTV footage at the farm just after midnight on 18 July 2002. Less than an hour later, paramedics were called after he suffered fatal injuries.

Mr Balkwell said the "strange" time of day Lee had been working and contradictory accounts of the death were two of the issues that provoked suspicion.

"That raised hairs on the back of my neck and I thought 'hello' there is something wrong here," he said.

Lee's employers Upminster Concrete Ltd deny any wrongdoing.

A health and safety investigation has been suspended pending the outcome of the ongoing police investigation.

Classic cars sold

Mr Balkwell said: "What people ought to realise is I am just a lorry driver, but it has taken over my life and this is what I have had to do - because I am fighting for justice for Lee."

The West Ham United football fan, who became a father five months before his death, was "very patient, very caring and would do anything for anybody," his father said.

"It might appear we are making him out to be a saint - he was just a lovely boy."

Image caption Lee was a West Ham United football fan

Mr Balkwell estimates he has spent at least £130,000 on his fight for justice - a sum consisting of loss of earnings, hiring experts to examine the case and travelling costs.

He sold two classic cars, his house and spent his life savings on his battle - but said he had no regrets.

"If I had to do it all again, I would," said Mr Balkwell, who now lives in a housing association property.

"We want a murder inquiry to be opened. That's what we've been fighting for, and will continue fighting for.

"We need to have justice because Lee isn't here. We were a tight-knit family - we still are, but now we are missing one."

The full investigation is on Inside Out, BBC1 on Monday 30 January at 19.30 GMT.

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