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Questions over role in unexplained death
A GRIEVING dad whose son’s unexplained death was not properly investigated by police says he was also let down by health and safety chiefs.
Lee Balkwell was found dead wedged between the chassis and drum of a cement mixer he was allegedly cleaning out at Baldwins Farm in South Ockendon in July 2002.
In January an extensive Independent Police Complaints Commission report identified a series of blunders in the initial police investigation.
Now questions have been raised about the Health and Safety Executive’s role.
The Echo can reveal it sent just one officer, not experience at dealing with fatalities, to the scene.
There were also times when it was unclear whether it or police should have been leading the investigation, and it failed to keep relatives updated about its investigations.
It has emerged that the case was handed over to the executive by police at the end of 2004.
However, police later re-took control and continue to lead the probe, but the watchdog has no record of when this took place.
His father Les Balkwell said: “It is ludicrous the HSE never seemed to have any idea who had primacy in a fatal investigation.
At one point a senior investigator wrote a letter saying they had primacy and a few days later had to write back saying they didn’t.
But they are supposed to be the experts in this and should have taken over.” “Now they are hiding behind the fact there is an ongoing inquiry, it is like Hillsborough.
It was ten years ago now and they never seemed to be doing anything they were meant to.”
He said in 2004 there was a major all-day meeting held by the police and the HSE representative asked one question then left after 45 minutes.
He added: “They sent a very junior officer to the scene, who wasn’t really experience with a fatality. “They never once contacted me, they only every did in response to me contacting them, they never gave us any updates.”
The executive refused to comment on the confusion. A spokesman said: “The investigation into the death of Lee Balkwell is currently being led Kent and Essex Police with the Health and Safety Executive playing a supporting role in accordance with the work related death protocol. As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
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