Monday 19 March 2018

Mother: 'Doherty knows how my son died at party'

Terri Judd

More than four years after her son plummeted to his death from a balcony following a row with singer Pete Doherty and his friends, Sheila Blanco will hear this week whether her long fight for justice has been successful.

Mark Blanco, a 30-year-old actor, had been ejected from a party after asking the former Libertines frontman to come and watch him on stage. Minutes later, having returned, he was found dying from head injuries beneath the first-floor balcony. At his inquest, coroner Dr Andrew Reid recorded an open verdict, ruling out suicide and describing suggestions of an accident as "purely speculation".

He called for a review of the Metropolitan Police investigation and on Thursday Mrs Blanco will meet lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service to hear whether there is to be a case against those she believes were responsible for her son's death.

For Mrs Blanco, a music lecturer, it has been a long battle to get justice for her "naïve and trusting" son, a Cambridge graduate.

"It has been terrible. With time it gets worse. I know what happened, Mark's friends know what happened, anyone who was there knows, but the police, for some reason, don't want to see it. I don't know whether it is incompetence or corruption or both," she said yesterday. She is convinced her son was unlawfully killed. Mr Doherty, his literary agent Paul Roundhill and his minder Johnny "Headlock" Jeannevol all deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Blanco, who was staging Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, turned up at a party at Mr Roundhill's east London flat in December 2006 in a "hyper" state and implored Doherty to come and see the play.

The inquest heard Mr Roundhill set light to his hat, dragged him to the door and punched him three times "ineffectually". Two minutes later, having returned to the party, Mr Blanco pitched from the balcony, but it was not for another 10 minutes that a female partygoer found him fatally wounded outside and raised the alarm. CCTV images showed Mr Doherty passing the body and rushing away from the scene. The coroner heard that Mr Jeannevol had confessed to pushing Mr Blanco to his death, but retracted that statement.

The original Scotland Yard investigation concluded there were no suspicious circumstances after a home office pathologist said Mr Blanco died hitting his head on the pavement, but found no injuries consistent with assault. However, Richard Wassersug, a professor of anatomy and an expert in such cases, concluded that it was extremely unlikely that he had jumped deliberately, adding: "The two most likely explanations are that he was backed into the railings and pushed over, or that he was not conscious and was dropped over the railing". His evidence was included in a dossier passed by the family to the police last July.

Yesterday Mrs Blanco said she hoped the CPS would tell her on Thursday that prosecutions would result from the second investigation, but vowed to fight on whatever their decision, potentially opting for a private prosecution. "I certainly am not going to leave it. I think it is an absolute travesty not just for Mark but for anybody. It is a human rights issue and the fact that some people get away with murder, which literally it is," she said.

Michael Wolkind QC, for the Blancos, said: "The second investigation started with some promise, but there may have been some tendency to protect the earlier investigation. It feels like celebrity privilege and always has [done]."

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