Michael Barrymore is entitled to more than £2.4m in damages from Essex police over the wrongful arrest which wrecked his career, the high court has been told.
The TV entertainer was arrested and detained in June 2007 on suspicion of the rape and murder of Stuart Lubbock, 31, who was found in the swimming pool at Barrymore’s Roydon home six years earlier.
Essex police have admitted the arrest was unlawful, as the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect the comedian and TV presenter was guilty.
But they argue that Barrymore could have been lawfully arrested by another officer, so he is entitled to only nominal damages.
The 65-year-old was in court in London on Monday to hear his counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, say that Barrymore had “great sympathy” for Lubbock’s family and had repeatedly made it clear he would do whatever he could to help them find out what happened.
“Although he was arrested, he was never charged with any offence and the Crown Prosecution Service subsequently made it crystal clear there was no basis for any charges,” Tomlinson said.
“Our case is that when speculation, rumour and conjecture are put to one side, it is clear there is no evidence against the claimant in relation to any offence concerning Mr Lubbock.”
Lubbock’s body was found in the pool after a party where drugs and alcohol were consumed. A post mortem revealed he had sustained serious anal injuries. An open verdict was recorded at the 2002 inquest into his death.
In May 2007, a forensic pathologist instructed by Essex constabulary said he did not consider there to be “any possible benign or accidental explanation” for the nature and extent of Lubbock’s injuries.
Tomlinson said there was “no evidence whatever” of rape and the cause of death could not be ascertained. He told the court his client had been keen to cooperate with the investigation so his arrest six years after the event was unnecessary.
“This arrest was made without any proper evidential foundation,” he said.
“However, the fact that it had happened, and the worldwide publicity it received, destroyed the claimant’s career.”
John Beggs QC, for Essex police, told the court DC Susan Jenkins, the officer who had intended to carry out the arrest, was delayed in traffic en route. As a result another officer, who was part of the surveillance team but had not been briefed on the detailed grounds for arrest, was instructed to perform it.
Notwithstanding the “technical unlawfulness” of the arrest, Barrymore could and would have been lawfully arrested by DC Jenkins, said Beggs.
He claimed there “clearly were” reasonable grounds for suspecting him of those offences and for believing it was necessary to arrest him, which were known to DC Jenkins and the senior investigating officer for the re-investigation, DS Gareth Wilson.
Beggs said Barrymore had suffered no loss as a result of the unlawful arrest because he would have been arrested in any event.
Giving evidence, Wilson, now chief constable of Suffolk police, said: “I do not think it was Essex police’s finest hour.” But he denied he was fixated on there having been a murder.
“I actually kept a very open mind about what might have happened and who may have been involved in it,” he said.
Barrymore is not due to give evidence during the five-day hearing, which is concerned with the issue of whether the damages should be substantial but will not fix a figure.
The hearing continues.