MICHAEL Barrymore was one of the best loved entertainers in Britain when a dad-of-two drowned in his swimming pool.
Now, 20 years later, a new arrest has been made in connection with the death of Stuart Lubbock – giving hope to his grieving family that they may finally find answers.
Lubbock was just 31 years old when he was found face down in the swimming pool at Barrymore's home on March 31, 2001.
Cops have desperately tried to solve the mysterious case ever since, but as yet no one has been convicted or even charged with Lubbock's killing.
Now Essex Police revealed they've arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with Lubbock's indecent assault and murder.
News of the promising development comes just days after Lubbock's terminally ill dad, Terry, announced he'd hired a high-flying lawyer to help crack the case once and for all.
"It's been 20 years," 76-year-old said this morning.
"It's nearly killed me."
When word got out about Lubbock's death, questions were immediately raised – how had a meat factory worker come ended up dead in the swimming pool of one of the UK's most famous celebrities?
Lubbock met Barrymore earlier on the evening of his death at a Harlow nightclub.
The Strike It Lucky host then invited Lubbock and six others back to his Essex mansion where they enjoyed an all-night party.
Within hours of arriving at the luxury home, Lubbock was found face down in the swimming pool, according to witnesses.
Paramedics were called and they battled in vain to resuscitate him at the scene and at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
After his death, it was established that Lubbock had a cocktail of drugs in his system on the night including cocaine and ecstasy, as well as booze.
He was also found to have sustained severe internal injuries, suggesting that he'd been sexually assaulted.
Arrests and appeals
Ever since that night, investigators have been working tireslessly to establish exactly how Lubbock died.
Justin Merritt and drag queen Jonathan Kenney, who were both also at the party, were arrested along with Barrymore in 2001 on suspicion of murder.
But the trio weren't charged with Lubbock's killing and were released.
The case was further complicated a year later when an inquest a year later recorded an open verdict as to Lubbock's cause of death.
Barrymore and two others were arrested again in 2007, this time on suspicion of sexual assault and murder.
Again no charges were brought and all of those arrested maintained their innocence.
Barrymore's lawyer Henri Brandman said the presenter “always protested his innocence" after he was investigated.
The entertainer even sued Essex Police, claiming his wrongful arrest cost him £2.5million in lost earnings as his career fell apart in the fallout from Lubbock's death.
But he eventually dropped the case in 2019 after it was determined he would only receive "nominal" damages.
Last year, the force offered a £20,000 reward as they relaunched their appeal for information about Lubbock's death.
The new appeal coincided with a Channel 4 documentary about the case called Barrymore: The Body In The Pool.
"Let me be clear — I believe Stuart Lubbock was murdered," DCI Stephen Jennings said in the programme.
"And we will catch whoever did it."
Barrymore slammed the documentary as "vile and vicious", and said he wanted a new investigation into Lubbock's death by a new police force.
'Fight for justice until my last breath'
Today's arrest is the first major breakthrough since the documentary aired.
It might finally lead to answers for Lubbock's dad, Terry, who has "just months left to live" because of terminal prostate cancer.
Terry recently revealed he'd hired lawyer Alexander Payne – who was involved in the probe into the crash which killed Princess Diana.
He hoped that together they could use "new evidence" to win permission to apply to the High Court for a new inquest into son Stuart's death.
"I want justice for my son before I go," Terry told The Mirror.
"We’ve got a big-gun barrister working on this. We are getting close."
I will continue to fight for justice until my last breath
Terry, who lives in a care home less than three miles from Barrymore's former Roydon home where Stuart died, also spoke out this morning.
"There is just so much going on in my head," Terry said in the wake of the arrest.
"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."
He added: “I’ve always said I will continue to fight for justice until my last breath and that’s what I’m doing still.
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