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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
Open verdict at pool death inquest
Michael Barrymore leaves the inquest on Thursday
Mr Lubbock was found in Michael Barrymore's pool
A coroner has recorded an open verdict on the death of a man whose body was found face down in television star Michael Barrymore's swimming pool.

Father-of-two Stuart Lubbock, 31, of Harlow, Essex, died after a party at Mr Barrymore's Roydon home on 31 March last year.

Essex and Thurrock coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said a five-day inquest had been unable to say for definite what caused his death.

She said three out of the four pathologists who gave evidence at the inquest could not say that he had definitely drowned in the pool.


After a period of time people could have come together and discussed their stories - but I couldn't possibly speculate on that

Detective Chief Superintendent Ian McNeill

He also had a significant level of alcohol and drugs in his system and serious anal injuries.

Mr Lubbock's fellow partygoers had been unable to explain how the "previously fit" 31-year-old came to be in the pool, said the coroner.

An open verdict means insufficient evidence was found to record a verdict such as misadventure or accident, but does not rule out future police investigations or court hearings.

Police 'frustrated'

After the verdict police said they were very "frustrated" with the lack of evidence from witnesses.

They said the criminal investigation had been suspended, as the cause of death had been "unascertainable" and there was no witness evidence.

Det Supt McNeill
Detective Chief Superintendent Ian McNeill

Both Justin Merritt and Jonathan Kenney had been arrested on suspicion of murder but later were released without charge.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ian McNeill, of Essex Police, said: "The investigation has been very problematic. We have not had a coherent and consistent account from those who were at the party."

He attributed this to drink, drugs and "because of their own view of life", but added that loyalties and friendships may change.

"I hope people over time will consider their position."

Asked whether a wall of silence had been created to prevent police discovering what happened, Mr McNeill said witnesses had been initially "controlled" in their statements.


There has been no evidence at all this week that he played any role or has any responsibility for the death of Stuart Lubbock

David Corker, Mr Barrymore's solicitor

"After a period of time people could have come together and discussed their stories," he said. "But I couldn't possibly speculate on that."

Mr Lubbock's family said they accepted and understood the verdict, although they were disappointed.

In a statement read by solicitor Peter Richards they said they drew comfort from the fact the police file had not been closed.

Stuart Lubbock
The cause of Mr Lubbock's death has not been established
Mr Barrymore was not in court to hear the verdict but afterwards his solicitor, David Corker, said the inquest had been thorough and the issues explored in great detail by experts.

He added: "At the end of the day, I'm speaking only on behalf of Michael Barrymore. It's completely fair to say that there has been no evidence at all this week that he played any role or has any responsibility for the death of Stuart Lubbock.

"Not a single witness, be they expert witness, party guest or any other, has said that Mr Barrymore played any part in how he met his death in the swimming pool that night."

In response to allegations that Mr Barrymore rubbed cocaine on Mr Lubbock's gums - which the entertainer refused to comment on during evidence - Mr Corker said: "This [inquest] was about cause of death. It was not about drug taking."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangita Myska
"Stuart Lubbock's family left court today deeply dismayed"
Chief Superintendent Ian McNeil, Essex Police
"There are questions unanswered"

Click here to go to Essex
See also:

13 Sep 02 | Entertainment
13 Sep 02 | England
12 Sep 02 | England
12 Sep 02 | England
11 Sep 02 | England
10 Sep 02 | England
09 Sep 02 | England
20 Nov 01 | Entertainment
30 Oct 01 | Entertainment
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