A POLICE chief refused to co-operate with a misconduct probe into officers who investigated an unexplained death of a man who was found dead between the drum and chassis of a cement mixer.

Former Det Chief Insp Terrence Haines retired a day after the Independent Police Complaints Commission contacted him about Lee Balkwell‘s untimely death.

Mr Haines, who headed Essex Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Directorate in 2008, refused to answer questions about his involvement in inquiries into the death.

If an officer retires, there is no law forcing them to co-operate with a commission investigation, so it is powerless to force them to answer questions.

However Lee’s dad Les Balkwell, 64, believes Mr Haines should have got involved. He said: “I want to know why a senior detective would not co-operate in an inquiry concerning an unexplained death?”

For three years, the commission has investigated 92 complaints from Mr Balkwell concerning alleged failings in the initial investigation and subsequent reviews of his son’s case.

A report on the findings is expected early this year. Mr Balkwell has been allowed to see it, and said a number of his complaints were upheld, but for legal reasons he cannot go into detail.

Lee was found dead at Baldwins Farm, Dennises Lane, South Ockendon, in July 2002.

Simon Bromley, 42, his employer said Lee was drilling out cement from inside the cement mixer on the night.

Mr Bromley told police that at about 1am he accidentally turned the drum on while Lee was climbing out of a hatch, leading to him being crushed.

The death was initially treated as suspicious, but detectives later concluded it was an industrial accident.

An inquest in 2008 found he was unlawfully killed.

Mr Haines, who received the Liam Brigginshaw Award in recognition of outstanding commitment to policing in October 2009, was one of 18 officers served “regulation nine” official notices by the commission, meaning they were under investigation.

This does not mean an officer is guilty of any wrongdoing. The force’s own professional standards department has thrown out similar complaints about Mr Haines in an internal investigation, sometimes carried out by police following unsolved cases or unexplained deaths.

Mr Haines, who was an investigator during a review from 2003 to 2006, received his notice in December 2008, but the commission did not formally approach him to respond until March 31, last year. He retired on April 1.

Five other officers – former Chief Supt Graeme Bull, former Detective Insp Ian Stevenson, former Chief Supt Keith Garnish, former Chief Constable Roger Baker and former Chief Supt Peter Coltman – also retired during the probe, but did co-operate.

A commission spokesman said: “Although six police officers retired during the course of our investigation, only one refused to co-operate. We are confident we have collated all the evidence necessary to answer Mr Balkwell’s complaints.”

The Echo wrote to Mr Haines via Essex Police, who confirmed forwarding it to him, asking him why he chose not to co-operate with the investigation. The Echo received no response.

An Essex Police spokesman said Mr Haines’ retirement had been planned and disputed it was anything to do with the commission’s investigation.

The current law means if police officers are found guilty of any misconduct they will face no disciplinary action as they are no longer serving officers.

The Kent and Essex Police serious crime directorate is still reviewing the death of Lee Balkwell. It began its probe following a 2009 interim report by the commission into the complaints. Mr Balkwell said: “I believe the truth about Lee’s death will eventually come out.”