The mother of a man who died in mysterious circumstances after partying with singer Pete Doherty has accused the Metropolitan Police of a “cover-up” over the case.
For the last decade Sheila Blanco has been battling to find out what happened to her son Mark, 30. Now she’s told Heat Street she believes officers have deliberately concealed the truth to protect a police informant.
Mark was found dying in a street in east London in the early hours of Sunday December 3, 2006. He passed away in hospital the next day as a result of serious head injuries.
Displaying a shocking callousness, Doherty stepped over Mark’s body that night and skipped off with his girlfriend to a party.
He’s continued to insult Mark’s memory ever since.
This week Doherty, the ex-boyfriend of model Kate Moss, performed at the Bataclan, Paris, in a series of concerts in memory of last year’s tragic shooting victims.
— NME (@NME) November 17, 2016
Yet he has shown no such compassion or remorse for Mark.
Within six months of his death, Doherty returned to the scene to make a video promoting his song, ‘The Lost Art of Murder’. He later even claimed that Mark must have jumped from a first floor balcony into the street where he lay dying as “an artistic statement”.
After spending more than £100,000 and thousands of hours on a private investigation into the tragedy, Mrs Blanco said CCTV footage proves in her view that there was foul play after someone deliberately dropped Mark’s 6ft 4in body off a balcony of the block of flats where the party was held and into the street.
She said this probably happened while he was unconscious.
Despite two police investigations and a coroner’s inquest – plus all the work that she and her legal team together with forensics experts have devoted to the case – exactly what happened to Mark and who was responsible for his death has never been resolved officially.
Speaking at her house in Guildford, Surrey, the piano and English teacher, now in her late 60s, shared with Heat Street some of the many files she has compiled on the case charting every single legal and medical development.
Showing extraordinary courage, she warned: “The cover-up started on day one. Nobody believed me to begin with, but I never intend to give up.”
Tragically, she revealed that she has not yet erected a headstone on her son’s grave – nor will she until she has got to the truth.
Ahead of the 10th anniversary of Mark's death we still have so many questions unanswered and so many frustrations… https://t.co/6X8z4GQaCY
— JusticeForMark (@JusticeForMark) November 6, 2016
She said: “I have not had the time or energy to sit down and grieve for Mark as I have had to channel all my energy and wits into initially conducting the investigation myself and subsequently driving the campaign to raise awareness and funds. I visit Mark’s grave often; it is a simple grave of grasses, rosemary and lavender, reminiscent of his father’s garden in Spain. I will not put a headstone on it until I receive answers from the police to my questions.”
The undisputed facts are that Mark, a Cambridge University graduate, went out with friends on the night of Saturday December 2. CCTV footage confirms that shortly after midnight he then went alone to Paul Roundhill’s flat in Fieldgate Mansions, Whitechapel.
He and Roundhill, who had a conviction for Class A drug possession and was on probation at the time of Mark’s death, were acquaintances with a shared interest in books and plays.
Roundhill has been described as Pete Doherty’s literary agent. He was also a drug dealer and his flat was a notorious den for hard drugs users, including well-known musicians and models. At the time, Doherty had a well-publicised drug problem.
Apart from Mark, there were only six other people at the party that night. Three men – Roundhill, Doherty and Doherty’s minder, Johnny “Headlock” Jeannevol; and three young women – Kate Russell-Pavier, Annabel Healdsmith and Naomi Stirk.
About 10 minutes after arriving Mark, who had been drinking and was in high spirits, left abruptly. He had not taken any drugs. He had apparently made a nuisance of himself by haranguing Doherty and was physically forced off the premises by Roundhill and “Headlock”.
A security camera from the block of flats shows that Mark returned to Roundhill’s two minutes later.
This was to prove a fatal decision.
Chillingly, exactly 57 seconds after re-entering the building, the footage then shows Mark dropping off the balcony, 14 ft above the pavement, head first.
In Mrs Blanco’s words, he appears to be nothing more than a “dead weight”, suggesting he may have been knocked out before being dropped.
When the other guests realised Mark was badly injured 12 minutes later, some tried to help him and an ambulance was called, but Doherty and Miss Russell-Pavier stepped over his body and ran off, followed by “Headlock”.
Today would have been Mark's 40th birthday; his death is something from which I shall never recover.
— JusticeForMark (@JusticeForMark) March 4, 2016
Mrs Blanco said: “From the beginning, everything about the way this case was handled wasn’t right. The police didn’t properly cordon off the scene. They said the flat wasn’t being treated as a crime scene and was non-suspicious. Personal items of Mark’s including a lens from his glasses weren’t collected from the scene. I later found the lens lying in a gutter where his body had been found. There were no forensic checks on his clothes. Mark Dunn, the investigating officer, also tried to claim within hours of the event that Mark had committed suicide, something which the coroner later said was totally untrue. It was all wrong.”
Worse still, the six guests who between them could have shed light on what happened to Mark were interviewed by police haphazardly over the next nine days, meaning officers lost a crucial opportunity to collect fresh witness statements.
Records show Doherty wasn’t interviewed until December 7 and “Headlock” wasn’t spoken to by officers until December 12.
Extraordinarily, Mrs Blanco revealed: “I was told by police as Mark lay in hospital that they didn’t have sufficient resources to spend on investigating Mark’s case because they had just spent so much money investigating the case of Alexander Litvinenko (the Russian spy poisoned in London who died in November 2006).”
Then on Christmas Day 2006 – just three weeks after the incident – “Headlock” confessed to killing Mark.
He walked into a London police station and told officers he was responsible. But hours later he retracted his statement.
The case was effectively closed.
Headlock’s confession, and the fact that Mark had been punched by Roundhill as he was ordered out of the flat, only came to light at the coroner’s inquest into his death in 2007.
These details were excluded from the police report.
Coroner Andrew Reid ordered police to re-open their inquiry, saying Mark’s death was unnatural but definitely not suicide. He recorded an Open Verdict.
The second police investigation began in 2008.
But after years stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire, Mrs Blanco was told in 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service had concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with either murder or manslaughter.
The inquiry into Mark Blanco’s death had ground to a halt.
Mrs Blanco said: “It is difficult to keep going, but as time passes I find it easier in a way, because I refuse to give up. The police haven’t even been looking for crime, quite honestly. Why not?”
She said she has always tried to protect Mark’s sister, Emma, who is five years younger, from the tragedy so that her life is not overshadowed by it. Their father, from whom she is divorced, lives in Spain.
New hope came in 2012 when the BBC’s Newsnight programme commissioned a UK-based video forensics expert, John Kennedy, and a US-based video forensics expert, Grant Fredericks, to review the CCTV tapes.
Fredericks concluded that “the images strongly suggest that one person is leaning far over the balcony as Blanco’s body is moving outward and downward from the balcony railing.”
The police have viewed the tapes, but they do not consider them conclusive enough to move the case forward, leaving it in limbo.
Book your tickets now for 10th Anniversary of Mark's Death 27/11/16 https://t.co/1P2EtBHVde
— JusticeForMark (@JusticeForMark) September 1, 2016
On November 27 Mark’s family is holding a concert in Westminster Cathedral Hall in central London to celebrate his life and reflect on their 10-year fight for justice.
But, showing gross insensitivity, Doherty recently declared that he is to release a new album on December 2 – almost 10 years to the day since Mark’s death.
Mrs Blanco was unaware of this until we told her, but with characteristic grit she dismissed it.
She said: “It’s not about how I feel about Pete Doherty, it’s how the police feel about Pete Doherty. It’s their connection with him that has influenced the case a lot – that and the fact that his drug supplier, Paul Roundhill, I’m pretty much certain is or was a police informant. A lot of people told me he was at the time of Mark’s death, and I think that would have a great bearing on the case. Neighbours [of Roundhill] told me. I think the drugs squad are very much in this and that’s the connection.”
Mrs Blanco said she thinks the three women at the party know exactly what happened but are frightened to talk. She said one of them had received death threats.
She said: “In the end, the six people present that night must know the truth. Three of them were women and I doubt they’d have been strong enough to move Mark, who was a tall man. That leaves the CCTV footage, which strongly suggests Mark was dumped off the balcony, and the three men.
“How is it that the police are unable to find out what happened? After Hillsborough and other recent police cover-up stories, I am deeply suspicious about why the police seem to have gone out of their way not to investigate this case properly. I do call this a cover-up. I will not give up until I have found out what happened and who was responsible. Mark’s zest for life, his fierce intellect and side-splitting wit are still very much with me in the house he grew up in. In my dreams he says: ‘Mummy, don’t worry, I know you are doing your best.’ ”
The Met had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication. Their coment will be added to this article when it is provided.
For details of the concert for Mark Blanco on November 27 please visit: