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BARRYMORE BUNGLERS; Key evidence missing Blood stains ignored.

Byline: BY AIDAN McGURRAN

POLICE lost vital evidence that could have snared Stuart Lubbock's killers, a report revealed yesterday.

The investigation into his death at Michael Barrymore's mansion was bungled from the start, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said.

A pool thermometer and door handle that may have been used to assault the 31-year-old went missing before they could be examined.

Blood on boxer shorts, towels and a robe was not investigated promptly.

And witnesses were allowed to tidy up inside the house, even though it was a potential crime scene.

Officers visited Stuart's father Terry Lubbock, 64, on Monday to apologise before he was given a copy of the report yesterday.

He said: "I always said the first police investigation was laughable. Inspector Clouseau would have done a better job than stupid Essex police."

Mr Lubbock added: "It's a hollow apology because the perpetrators of my son's murder are still out there but the report is an important step in my fight for justice for Stuart."

IPCC chief David Petch said there was no evidence officers acted corruptly but accused them of "failure".

He said yesterday: "We may never know whether the thermometer and door handle were important, but not securing these items was a failure and leaves questions unanswered." Pictures taken by a crime scene photographer showed the five-inch thermometer lying on top of a jacuzzi near the swimming pool at the TV star's house.

But police did not list it among items they took as potential evidence. It has since disappeared.

Stuart suffered internal injuries suggesting he was sexually assaulted at the late-night party at Roydon, near Harlow, Essex in 2001.

Mr Lubbock insists his son was murdered. Barrymore and two men were arrested after the investigation was reopened in 2007 but were not charged after it was decided there was insufficient evidence.

Mr Lubbock, from Harlow, made 36 complaints about Essex Police to the IPCC. Six were upheld in the report.

It criticised the inquiry for being too lax and allowing people to wander around the potential crime scene.

It also said the investigation was suspended before "key forensic work" was done. Police were also too ready to believe suggestions that Stuart accidentally drowned, it said.

Mr Lubbock is deciding whether to sue the force for alleged negligence. Dressed in a Who Killed Stuart Lubbock T-shirt, he added: "The next victory I'm hoping for is to get people charged with the murder of my son and see them in court. It's not good enough for people to say that mistakes were made."

CAPTION(S):

KILLED Stuart Lubbock; DISGRACED Barrymore; CLUE-LESS Police photo shows pool thermometer before it went missing, and Terry yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 25, 2009
Words:446
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