The father who died of a broken heart: Even ravaged by cancer, Terry Lubbock still fought for justice for the son who died in Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool. Now he has slipped away after a 20-year crusade, writes BETH HALE
Slightly built and latterly rendered frailer still by the ravages of cancer, Terry Lubbock still fought for justice for his son with the determination of a giant.
Neither 20 years, a catalogue of health problems, nor a series of crushing disappointments at the hands of the justice system could dent 76-year-old Terry’s cast iron determination to one day face his son’s killer in court.
But Mr Lubbock died yesterday without ever seeing justice for his son. Last month, after another arrest came to nothing, he admitted that he would ‘die of a broken heart’.
Terry Lubbock, whose 31-year-old son Stuart was found dead in entertainer Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool 20 years ago
Stuart was just 31 when he was found dead in entertainer Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool, following a late night drug-fuelled party.
The death was at first assumed to be an accident – officers failed to secure the crime scene – before a post-mortem revealed he had suffered severe internal injuries, indicating he had suffered serious sexual assault.
Those early blunders haunted Terry, just as they haunted the subsequent police inquiries.
Up until his last days, at the care home in Essex where he had lived since suffering a series of strokes ten years ago, Terry was using social media to thank new witnesses who had come forward and to declare that all he wanted was ‘justice for Stuart – nothing more’.
Hopes had been buoyed in March when police arrested a man in his 50s from the north of England on suspicion of indecent assault and murder.
‘My only regret is that whatever happens I will never have the day in court to face my son’s killer,’ said Terry, hoping against hope that this time charges would follow, but knowing that his own time was limited after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
But the man was released without charge in August. Alongside a photograph of himself, bedridden and gaunt, Terry posted on Twitter: ‘Someone knows who killed Stuart Lubbock. I will die of a broken heart.’
As he himself said, Terry knew he had done his best for his son, but that does not lessen the pain that he died without seeing anyone brought to justice.
Last night Harry Cichy, Terry’s friend and publicist, told the Mail: ‘The likes of Terry Lubbock don’t come along very often. He was a small man, but inside he was a tremendous character who shot from the hip and had the heart of a lion. He woke up every morning thinking about how he could get justice for his son. Every morning, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, his whole focus was to try and get those guilty in the court.
‘It consumed him but he was the ultimate father really.’
Harry is in no doubt that Stuart’s death and the ensuing battle for justice contributed to Terry’s many years of declining health.
‘When Stuart died, everything else stopped,’ says Harry. ‘When he became focused on what happened to Stuart he lost all his friends, he was on his own, all he wanted to do was get to the truth of his son’s death.’
In 2001, Stuart was a divorced father of two and a supervisor at a meat factory in Harlow, Essex. He was a charmer, close to his brother Kevin, with whom he went to the town’s Millennium nightclub that fateful night in March.
TV comedian Michael Barrymore arrives at Harlow Police station August 15, 2001, to establish if he is to be charged in connection with a death of a man. Stewart Lubbock
When Kevin couldn’t find his brother at the end of the evening, he assumed he had gone home with a woman. In fact he had met Michael Barrymore, a celebrity earning £2million a year fronting shows such as Strike It Lucky.
Barrymore was with his then partner Jonathan Kenney, and they made the decision to continue the party at home, with a small group of people they had met in the club, including Stuart.
He would, his family later said, have jumped at the chance to have a celebrity tale to tell. Afterwards, there were varying accounts of what happened at Barrymore’s Roydon mansion. It was clear, however, that there were drugs, drinks, guests in the pool and in the Jacuzzi. At some point in the early hours, Stuart’s body was found floating in the swimming pool.
Barrymore fled before police arrived (there was a delay in them being called). He later apologised, saying he had ‘panicked’. He has always denied any knowledge of what happened.
He, Kenney and partygoer Justin Merritt, a local dustman, were arrested in 2007 but later released without charge.
Barrymore subsequently sued Essex Police, claiming his wrongful arrest had cost him about £2.5million in lost earnings, but Court of Appeal judges concluded he should receive nominal damages.
With only nine people present at the house that night, answers might have seemed easy to find.
Indeed, Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings, who took over the case in 2018, said as much in a Channel 4 documentary last year.
‘I believe very much that Stuart Lubbock was raped and murdered that night. Somebody at that party knows what happened,’ he said.
When police first arrived at the house, the death was initially assumed to be an accident.
By the time a post-mortem showed the extent of Stuart’s horrific internal injuries (alcohol, ecstasy and cocaine were also found in his bloodstream), that first error could not be corrected.
Much to the dismay of Stuart’s father, a coroner recorded an open verdict, failing to confirm the cause of death. But Terry’s determination was undiminished.
He would later say that he had led ‘two completely separate lives’. The first ended the day Stuart was pulled dead from Barrymore’s pool – the second consumed every waking moment until his death.
In 2005 he suffered a near-fatal stroke, but his campaign did not falter. He was, says Harry, a ‘thorn in the side’ of police and instrumental in the opening of an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry, which in 2009 upheld six of his 36 complaints.
Shockingly, it found two implements photographed by police at the scene – a 12in pool thermometer and a door handle – were never found or accounted for.
Police at comedian Michael Barrymore’s house at Roydon in Essex after a body was found in the swimming pool
The 20th anniversary of Stuart’s death coincided with a breakthrough. ‘Significant new information’ was said to be behind the arrest earlier this year. That no charges were brought was a crashing blow. DCI Jennings insisted the investigation was not closed, adding there was ‘huge personal disappointment’ among his team.
And what of Barrymore?
His career collapsed and he was last seen on TV on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. Now a recovering alcoholic who lives in west London, a planned appearance on Dancing On Ice last year never happened after he broke his wrist.
Yesterday he said: ‘I’m saddened to hear of Terry’s death. Essex Police must carry on to seek justice for the Lubbock family which I will continue to fully support.’ DCI Jennings also told of his ‘heavy heart’ at the news, adding: ‘Terry’s devotion to his son and to his pursuit of justice knew no bounds. To this end we urge anyone who has information about Stuart’s death to please now, more than ever, do the right thing and come forward.’
Tragically, Stuart’s mother Dorothy Hand, who got divorced from Terry back in 1984, also died without answers three years ago.
Harry, who says he saw Terry cry just once – while watching a preview of last year’s documentary – told the Mail that his legacy was far from complete.
Three years ago, then-attorney general Jeremy Wright refused to give the father the go-ahead to make an application to the High Court for a second inquest. But paperwork to appeal this decision was submitted by a top QC to the Attorney General on Terry’s behalf shortly before his death.
Poignantly, Terry said recently: ‘I’ve always said I will continue to fight for justice until my last breath. I’ve only got weeks to live but I won’t give up on Stuart until I die.’
That time has come. But as Harry proudly says of his friend: ‘He never stopped, even on his deathbed. That’s the tenacity of the man.’
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