Detectives investigating the suspected serious sexual assault and murder of a man at the home of entertainer Michael Barrymore in 2001 have made an arrest.
Essex Police said a 50-year-old man, whose name was not released, was arrested in Cheshire on suspicion of the murder and indecent assault of 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock.
The arrest occurred after “significant new information came to light” following a new appeal, a Channel 4 documentary last year and a £40,000 reward, said Detective Superintendent Lucy Morris.
Dad-of-two Mr Lubbock was found unconscious in an outdoor swimming pool at 68-year-old Barrymore’s £2million mansion in Roydon, Essex, on March 31, 2001, after being seriously sexually assaulted.
Butcher Mr Lubbock, who had been attending a party with eight other people, was taken to hospital, where he later died, said police.
Barrymore, born Michael Parker and now living in London, was arrested on suspicion of serious sexual assault and murder in June 2007. He was told in September that year he would not face charges.
Speaking outside Essex Police headquarters in Chelmsford, Detective Superintendent Morris said: “The arrest comes after significant new information came to light following our renewed appeal for information and offer of an enhanced reward, which coincided with a major TV documentary broadcast in February 2020.
“This information has led to us making an arrest and over the coming days we will be contacting all those who were present at the party at the time as well as others who may have information.
“We believe someone or some people at that party know what happened.”
She added: “We have never given up on finding out exactly what happened to Stuart, and we will not stop in our pursuit of justice.
“Nine people were at that party – we know that not everyone was responsible for what happened, but someone was.”
And in a renewed appeal for further information, she added: “Now is the time to come forward.”
Mr Lubbock’s father Terry, 76, who has terminal prostate cancer, said following the arrest: “There is just so much going on in my head. I can’t get my head around it.
“Of course I’m happy. Of course this is good news.
“But it’s been 20 years. This has nearly killed me.”
The arrest comes just days after Terry Lubbock said he had hopes that a witness with information might soon “crack”, as he pushed for a second inquest to be held.
Michael Barrymore get emotional in 2020 as he talks about Stuart Lubbock’s death
The grieving dad said some people who were at the party must be living under “terrible” pressure.
He said he hoped that the pressure might soon tell and persuade someone with information to come forward.
Harry Clichy, a friend of the Lubbock family, said: “I’m pleased. Of course this is progress. We can only hope it leads to justice for Stuart after all these years.”
He told the Mirror: “If there’s anybody else out there who hasn’t come forward with information we would appeal for them to do so.
“Terry has been through 20 years of hell.
“He’s delighted at the arrest but he knows this is only the start because he wants to see a charge and a conviction.”
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.
A new probe into Stuart Lubbock’s death was launched last year to coincide with the Channel 4 documentary Barrymore: The Body In The Pool.
Then 49, Barrymore had spent the evening at the Millennium nightclub in Harlow before inviting locals back to the mansion in the early hours of March 31, 2001.
The Strike It Lucky host left the house after Mr Lubbock was found, and he later told a September 2002 inquest that he “felt sick” and “panicked and ran off” after seeing the body.
Barrymore was criticised for leaving his home soon after Mr Lubbock was found floating face down in the outside pool.
The former television presenter, who was a household name, has always denied involvement in the death.
He was also criticised for failing to answer questions at the inquest in 2002.
The 2002 inquest found that Mr Lubbock had cocaine and ecstasy in his system, and had drunk the equivalent of nine pints of beer the night he died. An open verdict was recorded.
In 2019, Barrymore spoke about Mr Lubbock’s death, telling Piers Morgan’s ITV show Life Stories that he “couldn’t be more sorry” for his behaviour that night.
The one-time Royal Variety Performance host insisted he is “100 per cent innocent”.
He said in a video posted on Twitter last year: “I have had nothing to do with this whatsoever and yet I keep getting bashed and bullied by the media.”
Barrymore, who no longer lives in the mansion, sued Essex Police and claimed it was a wrongful arrest that had cost him about £2.5million in lost earnings, but Court of Appeal judges concluded in December 2018 he would be entitled to only “nominal” damages.
His career as a TV presenter came to an end after Mr Lubbock’s death, though he enjoyed a brief return to the spotlight during a stint on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.
A police spokesperson said on Wednesday: “Detectives have today, Wednesday 17 March, arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the indecent assault and murder of Stuart Lubbock.
“The man, who was arrested in Cheshire, remains in custody where he continues to be questioned.
“Stuart was found unconscious in the swimming pool of a property in Roydon on March 31 2001.
“Despite attempts to save him he later died in hospital.
“The 31-year-old had been attending a party at the house with eight other people.
“A post-mortem examination found Stuart had suffered horrific anal injuries which are believed to be the result of a serious sexual assault prior to his death.”