An investigation has been launched after human remains were found at Oakwood Pond in Harlow on Saturday 31 December.
Officers were called to Fourth Avenue shortly before 2pm Saturday afternoon following reports of a suspicious object in the water. Specialist forensic officers have since confirmed that these are human remains.
An investigation with Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate is underway and early enquiries are ongoing.
Detective Chief Inspector Antony Alcock said:
“It’s the really early stages of this investigation and we are working to determine what has happened. I understand that this is concerning news for local residents and our officers are likely to remain in the area for the next few days to continue enquiries.
“We ask that the public respect the cordons in place and we will be updating the public as the investigation develops.”
“Through our enquiries at the scene and due to the circumstances in which the remains have been found, we believe this person’s death is suspicious and, as such, have started a murder investigation.
“The investigation is in the early stages and we have a large team of dedicated officers working around the clock on it.
“Specialist officers have been carrying out searches in the area and will continue to do so over the coming days.
“This includes looking to drain the pond to identify any potentially crucial evidence.
“We are working closely with the Environmental Agency and Harlow District Council in order to ensure there is no detrimental effect on the wildlife.
“This person is someone’s loved one and someone’s family member, and they will have questions about how and why they were killed.
“We’re committed to finding out what happened and who is responsible, and have a track record of holding criminals to account.
“If you live or work in the area, you will also continue to notice an increased police presence while we carry out door-to-door enquiries.
“We appreciate that this news has been concerning but we are doing everything possible to determine what has happened.”
Specialist officers are continuing their enquiries at Oakwood Pond in Harlow today following the launch of a murder investigation.
Work to drain the pond has begun as part of the work to gather evidence, following the discovery of human remains on New Years Eve. Specialist police search advisors have been working at the scene since Saturday afternoon to carry out searches in the area and our officers have been amongst the community, carrying out house to house enquiries.
We can now confirm human remains found at Oakwood Pond in Harlow at the weekend belong to 59 year-old Phillip Lewis.
Phillip lived in Harlow for many years and was known as ‘Scottish Phil’.
On 4 January, detectives investigating Phil’s murder arrested two men.
A 52 year-old has been arrested on suspicion of murder, while a 23 year-old has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
The men, who are both local, are currently in custody.
Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby, Head of Major Crime, said:
“Phil lived in Harlow and he was well known in and around the town centre and had a wide circle of friends who he would socialise with.
“I want to extend my condolences to Phil’s friends and family and re-iterate my commitment to them that we will work relentlessly to bring those responsible for his murder to justice.
“This has been a fast-paced investigation and we have worked quickly to make arrests, but there is still much to do.
“Specialist officers are continuing to search the area around the pond and work to drain it is ongoing.
“This is really important to identify potentially vital evidence.
“A team of dedicated detectives are continuing to work around the clock to give Phil’s friends and family the answers they need about what happened to him and why.
Det Supt Kirby added we need the public’s help:
“I want to thank the community here in Harlow for their support and understanding.
“I know this investigation has caused shock and concern, but we don’t believe there is an ongoing risk to the wider public.
“You will continue to see a visible police presence in the area.
“I appeal directly to the residents of Harlow for the following information.
“I would like anyone who came into contact with Phil in any way since 1st November 2022 to come forward, so we can build a picture of Phillip’s life prior to his death.
“I would like anyone who lives in the areas of Oakwood Pond or the estates coming off Harberts Road, south of Fourth Avenue, and who has CCTV or doorbell video systems to contact us so that we can check it.
“We also want to speak to anyone who regularly visits Oakwood Pond and the surrounding area, who has seen anything suspicious in the last two months.
“Any information you have, no matter how insignificant you believe it is, could be vital for our investigation and to get justice for Phil’s family and friends.”
A man has been charged with the murder of Phillip Lewis, whose remains were found in Oakwood Pond, Harlow, on New Year’s Eve.
Two men had been arrested as part of our investigation.
One of those men, Lee Clarke, 55, of Wedhey, Harlow, has now been charged with murder.
He is due to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, Monday 9 January.
A second man, aged 23, had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. He has been released on bail until March whilst our enquiries continue.
Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby, head of Essex major crime, said:
“Quite clearly this is a significant stage in the investigation into the death of Phillip Lewis.
“Over the last eight days, we have had a team of dedicated detectives and forensic experts who have pieced together what we believe to be the circumstances around Phillip’s death.
“Of course, that work does not stop at the point of charge and in many ways, this is still the beginning of complex investigation into the death of a 59-year-old man who was a son, a father and a friend.
“One element of that work continues today as, alongside our partners, we continue to drain Oakwood Pond to allow for further investigation of the area to take place.
“This is being done in the most environmentally friendly way possible and I’d like to pass on my thanks to partners for helping to facilitate this.”
Det Supt Kirby added:
“I would continue to appeal to anyone who came into contact with Phillip in any way since 1 November 2022 to come forward. To date, a number of people have come forward and the information they have provided to us has been invaluable.
“Equally, I would like anyone who lives in the areas of Oakwood Pond or the estates coming off Harberts Road, south of Fourth Avenue, and who has CCTV or doorbell video systems to contact us so that we can check it.
“We also want to speak to anyone who regularly visits Oakwood Pond and the surrounding area, who has seen anything suspicious in the last two months.”