Sheila and Mark Blanco (justiceformark.com)
The mother of a Cambridge graduate who died after falling from a balcony at a flat where singer Pete Doherty and his friends were partying believes forensic examination of CCTV images will prove her son was murdered - and may reveal who was responsible.
Mark Blanco died from his injuries in December 2006 after plunging to his death from the first-floor at a flat in east London, which was owned by Doherty's drug dealer and friend Paul Roundhill.
Two police investigations into Blanco's death failed to lead to prosecutions despite one man confessing to murder and another admitting assaulting Blanco and setting his cap alight shortly before he died.
Blanco is believed to had gone to the flat to invite Doherty to see his production of a play, which was opening that night at a nearby theatre. The play, Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, centres on a man who falls to his death from the window of a police station.
Blanco was not welcome at the party where guests including Doherty, his companion Kate Russell-Pavier, and minder Johnny "Headlock" Jeannevol were taking crack cocaine. An argument ensued, according to another guest, Naomi Wang.
CCTV captured Blanco leaving the flat, then turning around to go back inside. Moments later his body is seen dropping from the balcony.
Little can be discerned in the grainy CCTV footage but detailed examination of the enhanced images has led forensic experts to strongly doubt that Mark's death was accidental or suicide. Independent analysts in the US and UK believe further tests will confirm their view, that Mark was unconscious but still alive when his body was thrown over the railing.
"You can see that Mark's body mass was at waist height when he was thrown, and you can see the other person's body mass separate from Mark's as he is thrown. It's as if someone is carrying him, then throwing his body over the balcony rail," Blanco's mother Sheila Blanco told IB Times UK.
"It's a bit like thermal image resonancing. There's more than one person there."
Drunk as a skunk
Jeannevol, who suffers mental health problems, walked into a police station on Christmas Day 2006 and confessed to Blanco's murder. But DI Mark Dunne, the detective involved in the first investigation, said Jeannevol was "drunk as a skunk". When Jeannevol retracted his statement, his retraction was accepted by Dunne, who is now a detective chief inspector.
Roundhill has told police he assaulted Blanco shortly before he died, punching him several times and setting fire to his cap. He described it as an attempt to "get Mark's attention" and persuade him to leave the flat.
Doherty was caught on CCTV fleeing the scene. He was arrested later that night for an unrelated matter, and appeared in court the following morning after trashing a hotel room where he and his friends had gone after the party.
Preliminary examination of the CCTV footage will be followed up by more detailed "reverse projection" tests. The cost of those tests is likely to have to be met by Sheila Blanco, which will cause her difficulties, she said.
Lack of defensive injuries
The tests, conducted independently, are line with a bio-mechanics investigation and a neurobiologist's report both privately commissioned by Sheila Blanco.
Grant Fredericks, a leading US video forensics analyst who teaches at the FBI National Academy, said the images of Blanco's death were "consistent with a person being carried and dropped over the edge of the balcony".
British expert John Kennedy, who has given video forensics testimony in scores of cases in the UK and overseas, said the lack of defensive movement or defensive injuries on Blanco's body was further evidence that he was already unconscious on the balcony.
"The evidence points to one of them throwing Mark over the rails," Michael Wolkind, the QC who is acting for Mrs Blanco, told IB Times UK.
"We can identify the position in which Mark was carried over the rails but we are still going to need a confession, or evidence from a witness, to mount a criminal case," he said.
"We are still waiting for one of them to have a fit of conscience and come and talk to us. The police have been strangely reluctant to see any evidence of a crime in this case. We cannot explain this."
Some witnesses have come forward. In January 2010, Naomi Wang, then Naomi Stirk, approached Blanco's legal team to give information, saying she had "lost confidence in the police".
She said she believed Blanco's death had not been an accident and that both Roundhill and Jeannevol had been with the deceased on the balcony.
In a signed statement, Wang said she believed Blanco had been pushed over the balcony unconscious.
She said Jeannevol had confessed to the murder to her, as well as to the police and numerous other acquaintances. She said Jeannevol told her he was likely to go on trial, and had said the same thing to others.
"All three men who were there that night - Headlock, Doherty and Roundhill - have serious questions to answer," said Sheila Blanco.
"Mark did not go over the railing unaided. He was dropped, pushed or thrown to his death."
* For further information, visit the Justice for Mark Blanco campaign, visit: www.justiceformark.com
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