A High Court hearing has heard that police investigating Michael Barrymore over the death of Stuart Lubbock believed the TV presenter and comedian could have committed rape and murder in the space of around five minutes.
Mr Lubbock, a father of two, was found unconscious in the TV star’s pool after a house party in March 2001.
He died at the scene and was found to have Class A drugs in his system and severe injuries consistent with sexual assault.
Mr Barrymore, who was arrested unlawfully in 2007 and never charged, has always denied any wrongdoing.
The 65-year-old Strike It Lucky star is now suing Essex Police after suffering “devastating damage to his career”.
Mr Tomlinson told Mr Justice Stuart-Smith that Mr Barrymore remained convinced that Mr Lubbock’s injuries were not caused at his home but he did not know what happened.
He added: “This arrest was made without any proper evidential foundation. However, the fact that it had happened, and the worldwide publicity it received, destroyed the claimant’s career.”
In court, Mr Barrymore’s QC, Hugh Tomlinson, criticised the evidence that the officer leading the investigation used to justify the arrest.
On the subject of timings, Mr Tomlinson attacked the investigation’s ‘windows of opportunity’ analysis which highlighted a period of around five minutes when Mr Barrymore was alone on the night of Mr Lubbock’s death.
“So, in that five minutes, or more or less, Mr Barrymore approached Mr Lubbock for sex, then raped or seriously assaulted him, then killed him?” he asked the court.
He went on: “The ‘windows of opportunity’ analysis is built on shaky foundations, isn’t it?”
Gareth Wilson, the officer who ordered the arrest, insisted on multiple occasions that there was “an opportunity shortly before [Mr Lubbock] is dead that Mr Barrymore is able to carry out the offences”.
When asked for his theory of what happened, Mr Wilson said: “My working hypothesis of what happened on that evening is that Mr Barrymore left the bedroom [where he was with two friends] and, in that time, Mr Lubbock was raped and murdered.”
Essex Police agrees that the arrest in 2007 was unlawful on a technicality.
The force admits that a procedural error meant the arresting officer sent to bring the comedian in was not given enough grounds for suspicion as he had not been a part of the investigation.
However, the force is arguing in court that its case against Barrymore in connection with the death at his home in 2001 was strong enough for an arrest.
It only wants to pay him ‘nominal damages’ of £1 instead of ‘substantial damages’ that could amount to £2.5m.
Mr Wilson was also asked in court how Mr Barrymore could have conceivably carried out the attack in such a short space of time without any change in appearance or behaviour.
The officer said: “It’s absolutely possible.”
Mr Barrymore’s legal team has spent the first two days of the hearing attempting to pick apart the evidence that officers built their arrest on.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Stuart-Smith offered his own criticism of one piece of evidence in particular, saying on Monday that it was “double double hearsay”.
When pressed on several occasions that there was no direct evidence suggesting Mr Barrymore was guilty, Mr Wilson agreed, but repeatedly came back to his justification for the arrest, saying: “We did a thorough investigation into the movements of the people at that house.
“We have the ‘windows of opportunity’ document that indicates that Mr Barrymore and two others had the opportunity to do it.
“We had pathologists giving evidence to suspect that a criminal act has taken place.
“Yes, we have some hearsay evidence. But when combined, it does build a picture and that’s how I looked at it; as a combined picture.”