James Saunders commenting in The Guardian, October 2013
Mark Blanco's mother urges new inquiry into death of son at Pete Doherty party
The family of a man who died in suspicious circumstances after attending a party with rock singer Pete Doherty is calling for a cold case review of his death, claiming further forensic analysis can prove that it was not an accident.
Mark Blanco died in December 2006 as a result of head injuries sustained after falling from a balcony at a flat in east London. On the night that he died Blanco, a Cambridge graduate who once worked for Goldman Sachs, visited the flat of Paul Roundhill, a friend of Doherty, in an attempt to publicise a play that he was putting on, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo, in which a character dies after falling out of a window.
In a bizarre series of events on the night of the death, Roundhill set fire to Blanco's cap while Doherty told another acquaintance to "have a word" with the aspiring actor. Roundhill has also admitted to police that he punched Blanco in the face several times. CCTV footage taken shortly after Blanco fell to his death shows Doherty and his friends running past the actor's prostrate body.
Blanco's mother, Sheila, has campaigned for police to reopen the investigation into her son's death in the belief that he did not fall accidentally.
Peter Marshall, a BBC Newsnight correspondent, commissioned expert analysis of the CCTV footage taken outside the flat that appears to show a second person was on the balcony when Blanco fell.
Grant Fredericks, a video analyst who is based in the US and regularly appears as both a prosecution and defence expert witness, concluded from the footage 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".
Now Blanco's family is urging Scotland Yard to act on Fredericks's recommendation that a specialist technique, known as "calibrated reverse projection analysis", be employed to further enhance the CCTV footage. Fredericks says this will accurately determine the exact position of Blanco's head and shoulders in the image and confirm whether a second person was on the balcony shortly before he fell.
In a letter sent earlier this year to the Crown Prosecution Service, James Saunders, the Blanco family's solicitor, wrote: "Although the identity of person behind Mark Blanco is not revealed by the enhancement, the knowledge that there was such a person confirms Mrs Blanco's view that this is a homicide case.
"The throwing of a passive person over a balcony, on to a pavement below, must be a dangerous act at the very least, and is more suggestive of murder." It is estimated that the new analysis would cost between lb11,000 and lb20,000.
The inquest into the death recorded an open verdict and rejected suicide. The coroner called for a fresh investigation.
Scotland Yard referred the case to SCD1, its specialist crime division, but stopped short of reopening the case, which officers within the Met believe was either suicide or an accident.
Mrs Blanco has been highly critical of the lack of resources that have been devoted to investigating her son's death. "My days are not only filled with the pain of living without Mark, but also with the knowledge that those custodians of the law, the Met police, show a cavalier attitude to pursuing any conclusive lines of inquiry into his highly suspicious death," she said.
"I have been put in a position where I have had to carry out and finance the investigation myself. Does justice in this country have to rely on the tenacity of a mother?"
In June, Saunders wrote to the CPS requesting that they push for a new investigation. The family feels that a cold case team would bring a fresh impetus to the investigation. "A new team would bring new people who would approach the case with vigour and enthusiasm," Saunders said.
In a letter to the Blanco family last month, the CPS said that it had asked the investigating officer to "check on progress" in the case and that it could not comment further until the police had decided what course of action they would take.
The Blanco family's MP, Anne Milton, has written to the home secretary, Theresa May, asking her to help push for a new investigation into the death.
"Sheila Blanco has been waiting and waiting," said Michael Wolkind QC, a barrister who represents the Blanco family. "If only the authorities devoted more resources to commission more tests, we would be a lot closer to solving what is undoubtedly a case of unlawful killing."