Police to 'never stop' over Barrymore pool death

Stuart Lubbock smiling
Stuart Lubbock was found in Michael Barrymore's pool in 2001

For more than 20 years, the death of 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock has been shrouded in mystery.

Mr Lubbock, a butcher from Harlow, was found in a pool at the home of the former TV presenter Michael Barrymore in Roydon, Essex in 2001. He later died in hospital.

Despite years of investigation and several arrests, no one has ever been charged in connection with the death.

A Channel 5 documentary, The Rise and Fall of Mr Saturday Night, will revisit the case as Essex Police renew a plea for information.

What happened - and where is the investigation now?

Michael Barrymore
Michael Barrymore was arrested in 2007 and was released without charge

Who is Michael Barrymore?

In the 1980s and 1990s, Barrymore – real name Michael Parker – was the king of British television. He had success fronting shows such as Strike It Lucky, My Kind Of People, and a self-titled variety show.

Barrymore, now 71, came out as gay in 1995 and left the home he shared with his wife.

His career took a downturn after viewing figures slumped, but he went on to present other programmes such as My Kind of Music and Kids Do the Funniest Things.

He had alcohol and drug addictions, and received treatment in rehab. He wrote a book about his experiences.

In 2001, the body of Stuart Lubbock was found floating in the swimming pool at his Roydon home.

What happened to Stuart Lubbock?

A close up shot of Stuart Lubbock's face
Mr Lubbock was described as a "pleasant, sociable" man

Mr Lubbock had been among a group of people who had gone back to Barrymore's house following a night out in nearby Harlow on 31 March 2001.

In the early hours of the morning, his body - clad in just his boxer shorts - was spotted in the pool by a partygoer.

Mr Lubbock died later at Harlow's Princess Alexandra Hospital.

A post mortem examination found he had suffered "horrific" injuries prior to his death and there was evidence of serious sexual assault, police said.

Alcohol, ecstasy and cocaine were found in his bloodstream.

Police initially believed he had drowned, but subsequent examinations of his body by pathologists found there was "no unequivocal evidence" that this was the case.

The police investigation

Aerial shot of Michael Barrymore's house in 2001.
Multiple people were arrested in connection with the death but were released without charge

Barrymore and two other men were arrested in 2007 on suspicion of sexual assault and murder but were later released without charge.

The TV presenter always denied involvement in the death.

Years later, the High Court ruled his arrest was unlawful because the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect Barrymore.

In 2009, the police watchdog published the findings of a review of the investigation into Mr Lubbock's death, concluding that officers missed crucial evidence and did not ensure vital forensic tests were completed until six years later.

Police made a new appeal for information 10 years after Mr Lubbock's death, but no further progress was made.

In a Channel 4 documentary aired in 2019, police admitted there had been "crime scene mistakes".

In 2021, a man was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault and murder but later released without charge due to “insufficient evidence”, Essex Police said at the time.

Mr Lubbock's father Terry campaigned tirelessly for justice until his death in 2021.

Legal action against police

Barrymore took legal action against Essex Police, and lodged a damages claim at the High Court for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.

Barrymore's lawyers said police had not had reasonable grounds for suspecting him of the rape or murder of Mr Lubbock, and the arrest was unlawful and "wholly disproportionate and unreasonable".

Court documents also said Barrymore "suffered loss and damage, namely distress, shock, anxiety and damage to his reputation".

He also claimed his career suffered because of the police handling of the case.

Court of Appeal judges concluded he would be entitled to only "nominal" damages.

In 2019 he dropped the claim. A police spokeswoman said the suit had been discontinued by agreement and it had made no payment to the entertainer.

Where is the investigation now?

Essex Police gave an update on the investigation in March 2021.
Essex Police said it is still investigating

Essex Police said they have never - and would never - stop searching for answers.

A spokesman said: “As we have continually stated over the last 20 years - we believe someone, or some people, at that party know what happened.

“It is important to re-state the fact that Essex Police has never given up on this case and that the force are motivated by the desire to deliver justice for Mr Lubbock and his family."

The spokesman said the case was an "extremely lengthy and complex investigation".

They added: “Essex Police has never shied away from the fact that, at the time of the original incident, the scene was not preserved or secured as quickly as it could have been to ensure the best forensic evidence was obtained.

"However, what remains certain is that Essex Police has never given up on finding out exactly what happened to Stuart, and we will continue to act on any new information to assist us in our pursuit of justice for him and for his family and friends.

"As we have said repeatedly over the last 20 years, nine people were at that party. We know that not everyone was responsible for what happened, but someone was.

"Now is the time to come forward, if you haven’t done so already, to set this matter to rest by providing us with any information you have.”

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