Pete Doherty video claim dismissed by family of Mark Blanco
Version 0 of 1.
A rare interview given to a music magazine by Pete Doherty has triggered fresh questions about the death of a Cambridge graduate who fell from a balcony shortly after an altercation with the singer.
Mark Blanco, 30, died in December 2006 after attending a party at the east London flat of Doherty's friend, Paul Roundhill.
Blanco's family have expressed concerns about the way the Metropolitan Police conducted its investigation into the death, which a coroner categorically ruled out as suicide.
Minutes after Blanco, who had been ejected from the party by Doherty's friends, re-entered the flat, he was found lying in the street after falling 14ft from a first-floor balcony. CCTV footage showed Doherty, shortly afterwards, jumping over the actor's body as he and his friends – including his minder, Johnny "Headlock" Jeannevol – fled.
In an interview with the <em>NME</em>, Doherty said the Met's questioning of him was "minimal" and claimed the force had video footage showing that Blanco had fallen from the balcony unassisted – a sensational allegation, which, if true, could finally end the mystery of how Blanco died.
According to Doherty, Blanco, an antiquarian bookseller and amateur actor, had been attempting to ply him with drugs at the party. Doherty claimed Blanco, who was 6ft 4ins, said: "OK, look, have some crack." Doherty says he replied: "Mate, I don't want any fucking crack," before asking Jeannevol to "get rid of" Blanco.
Doherty, who has launched a clothing range and is promoting a new album and a novel, added: "[Blanco] was just shouting in my face… He was a big bugger and would have kicked my head in."
Blanco's friends and family have attacked the claims as a desperate attempt to rewrite the past. "Mark was a pacifist who would never raise a hand to anyone," said Sheila Blanco, Mark's mother. "Pathetic, tawdry PR stunts such as these strengthen even further my resolve: to secure justice for my son and to expose anyone who has obstructed the protracted investigation into his tragic death."
Blanco suffered from acrophobia, an irrational fear of heights, according to his family, who say he was afraid of even peering out of windows in high buildings. The family complain that police failed to cordon off the area where Blanco fell and to carry out forensic tests on his clothes.
An independent expert commissioned by the family reviewed the evidence and concluded that Blanco had been either pushed off the balcony or dropped over while unconscious, although the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said this could not be confirmed. A neighbour told the Met he had heard people running up and down in the stairwell outside the flat seconds before Blanco fell. On Christmas Day 2006, Jeannevol confessed to pushing Blanco off the balcony but retracted the claims after being treated in a mental health unit.
In the <em>NME</em> interview, Doherty, who admits to feeling "ashamed" for stepping over Blanco, says Blanco's family will "never be happy unless the police release the footage that shows him falling unassisted. I know they've got that."
And of the Met's investigation, Doherty said: "The murder squad down at Limehouse, yeah, they opened and closed that case three or four times. The pressure they put on me was completely minimal. And they kind of said off-tape 'Pete, we're sorry about this, right, but the family are convinced that their son was murdered'. I can understand it and it does look dodgy."
Doherty's comments have reinforced the Blanco family's view that the initial police investigation into Mark's death was inadequate. The Independent Police Complaints Commission's directorate of professional standards is now examining the Met's handling of the investigation.
Doherty, now living in Paris, repeats Roundhill's belief that Blanco – who was staging a play, Dario Fo's <em>Accidental Death of An Anarchist</em>, in which the protagonist falls to his death – "was turning life into art".
"Apparently he was some talented actor, was old Mark Blanco. I don't know. I'd met him on one occasion before and we had a fight."
Sheila Blanco described the comments as "obscene" and accused Doherty of a "reprehensible lack of humanity".
The Met has referred questions about Doherty's claims of video footage to the CPS. Last year the CPS said in a statement that "CCTV footage did show several individuals later leaving the same building that Mr Blanco had fallen from and passing his body, but this evidence does not shed any light on how Mr Blanco fell or who, if anyone, may have been responsible".
THE BLANCO FILE
<strong>Mark Blanco, 30, died on 4 December 2006 from injuries sustained the day before after falling from the balcony of an east London flat where Pete Doherty was attending a party.</strong>
<strong>3 December 2006</strong> CCTV footage, timed at 12.29am shows Blanco falling but records only a restricted view. The events that preceded his fall were not captured. At <strong>12.43am</strong>, London Ambulance Service receive a 999 call .
At <strong>12.50am,</strong> Doherty and his friends are seen leaving before the ambulance arrives.
<strong>25 December 2006</strong> Doherty's minder, Johnny Jeannevol, confesses to pushing Blanco off the balcony, though later retracts it.
<strong>4 October 2007</strong> The coroner records an open verdict and rules out suicide. Asks Metropolitan Police to reopen the case amid Blanco family claims the original investigation was flawed.
<strong>February 2011</strong> Doherty interviewed under caution.
<strong>12 May 2011 </strong>Crown Prosecution Service decides there is insufficient evidence to charge any individual with either murder or manslaughter in relation to the death.