Reference: Unexplained Mysteries – Missing Person Cases Examined and Dissected: True Stories of Unexplained Disappearances: By Seth Balfour, (2016) – Chapter 4 – Lee Boxell: The Case with Nearly No Clues – I have double-checked and corrected details where required.
I have lived in Sutton (South London) from around 1994, and despite having an interest in unsolved crime and missing persons (due to the psychological challenge of ‘problem solving’) – until about 60 minutes ago, I had never heard of this case! In 1988 the Soviet Union still existed and Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister of the UK! Thatcher is a very controversial figure as she began the dismantling of the British Welfare System and changed the legal onus of the NHS from ‘care’ (regardless of cost), to ‘cost’ (regardless of medical necessity). In other words, a diagnosed illness would no longer be treated if the required treatment is deemed ‘too expensive’ to be granted. This situation continues today, reflecting decades of endless suffering to the British people who fully fund the NHS (and Welfare State) through taxation. Those who can afford it, (and this is the entire point of Thatcher’s ‘Reform’) are forced to seek medical treatment from the private health sector. Furthermore, Thatcher ‘closed-down’ the coal and steel industries which employed millions of working-class people – mostly in the North of England. Thatcher also targeted Scotland (due to its support for the Labour Party) with further vicious Benefit, Welfare and Social Services cuts as a precursor to introducing these ‘Reforms’ throughout the UK.
Thatcher’s Tory ‘Reform’s polarised the UK into those who benefitted from the tax-cuts together with the deregulation of business and the credit industry, etc – and those whose standard of living (compared to previous decades) had taken a deep dive into abject poverty. Homelessness returned to British streets (and has never left), and vulnerable people started to die of starvation, violence and medical neglect. The London Borough of Sutton and Cheam fell into the former category of out and out affluence and was at the time considered ‘recession proof’. This area was (and still is) staunchly Conservative due to it once forming part of East Surrey (Sutton and Cheam became a London Borough in 1965 and a part of what was then referred to as ‘Greater London’). Today, Sutton and Cheam is a Borough of Outer London and falls in Zone 5 of the Transport for London (TfL) Travelcard System – whereby a local traveller can traverse London Buses, Tubes, Trams and Trams by purchasing just a single ticket. As a vibrant and multicultural part of London – Sutton and Cheam is a very different place when compared to many similar ‘non-London’ areas. Life in London is very different to many other places in the UK – and the Sutton of 1988 was full of hope, good intentions, affluence and some aspects of disturbing decadence.
When I first settled permanently in Sutton in 1994, I was surprised to find stories of allegations of racial abuse committed by the local police, (a local Chinese man was a popular and famous hairdresser whose shop was attacked by a group of racist skin-heads. When he rang the Met Police to ask for help – a ‘Special Patrol Group’ [SPG] vehicle was sent – but things did not work out as intended. Apparently, the attending police officers ‘greeted’ the skin-heads and asked ‘where the problem was’ – and were directed into the shop in question. The Chinese owner was beaten-up, thrown in the back of the van, and driven to Sutton Police Station. However, as he was very rich, he contacted a very good lawyer who had him out in minutes. He then successfully ‘sued’ the Met Police – who ‘could not explain the behaviour of our officers). Furthermore, Sutton Council was accused of not ‘supporting’ multiculturalism in the Borough. Although Lee Boxell was not the victim of racism (thankfully), he could well have been the victim of a local gang of paedophiles!
Lee Boxell went ‘missing’ on September 10th, 1988. This was a Saturday – and Saturdays used to be very ‘special’ for families living in Sutton and Cheam! The local High Street of Sutton seemed ultra-modern, affluent and even ‘exotic’ in parts! It used to be a magical place to visit in the times before the internet an online shopping! Although I cannot be sure writing all these years later, I suspect Lee Boxell was still on his ‘Summer Holidays’ from High School, and was probably preparing to return to school after a six- or seven-week holiday. This usually involves new school clothes, writing materials and study aids, etc. Lee Boxell was around 15-years and 7 months old when he disappeared. This means he might well have been heading into his final year of school – a very important time for study, examinations and decisions about the future. He could have been heading to Sixth Form, college, or even university, depending on his grades and intentions. Another option would have been to leave education and head into the workforce. As Thatcher had also abolished ‘free’ Further and Higher Education in the UK, 1988 was the last year that any student could apply for and be granted ‘free’ college or university education. As Lee Boxell was still at school in 1988 – and wouldn’t be leaving until 1989 (or later) – this may well have been a ‘disincentive’ to stay in the education system (as many did not want to run-up thousands of pounds in student debt, etc).
According to his parents, Lee Boxell was not under any particular pressure on the morning of Saturday, September 10th, 1988. Whilst his parents intended to go shopping in Sutton, Lee Boxell had plans to travel from his home in Cheam to nearby Sutton – probably on foot – to meet a friend. As Lee Boxell had only a ‘few pounds’ on him, he window-shopped until 1pm, when he suggested to his friend that they go to see a football match together (probably via the train or bus) to the nearby city of Croydon. Here, they would watch a football match between Charlton Athletic and Millwall football teams playing at Selhurst Park. Selhurst Park is actually the home stadium of Crystal Palace, but from 1985-1991, it was shared with Charlton Athletic. This was the time before the founding of the ‘Premier League’ – and this match was between two ‘Division 1’ football teams, with ‘Division 1’ being the ‘top’ tier of English football at the time. The result of this match was Charlton Athletic 0 – Millwall 3. Indeed, when I first moved to Sutton in 1994, there was still a ‘Crystal Palace Supporters Shop’ on the ground floor of the St Nicholas shopping mall. According to police records, Lee Boxell did not attend this match because the friend he had met in Sutton, did not want to go (they parted at 1pm with Lee suggesting he might still go on his own). Furthermore, no one saw Lee Boxell either at the match or at any point on the required journey to or from the stadium in question. Instead, Lee Boxell was last seen at around 220pm at the bottom of Sutton High Street outside what was then a Tesco store (now ‘Asda’). This still is a busy part of Sutton with access to ample bus routes, pubs and various eateries, etc, and invites a highly mobile population passing through the area. Whatever the case, this was the last confirmed sighting of Lee Boxell. This is when the case went cold.
Thirteen years later (in 2001), it was revealed that a fourteen-year-old boy – Roy Tutill – who had disappeared in nearby Leatherhead in 1968, had been murdered by local sex-offender Brian Field – but when Lee Boxell went missing (in 1988), Brian Field was found to be in prison. In 2011, a woman came forward to local police to report that in her youth she had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a grave-digger who worked for St Dunstan’s Church (situated in Cheam Village next to Cheam Library and across the road from the Cheam Scout Hut). This was ‘William Lambert’ (who was seventy-four-years-old in 2011), who had been allowed by Church Authorities to use a building situated on Church-owned land to found what he called ‘The Shed’ – a ‘Youth Club’ where William Lambert would encourage local teenagers to gather through the promise of cigarettes and alcohol. He would then entice local boys to help him select, groom and then sexually abuse teenage girls that he found suitably ‘attractive’! The police believe that William Lambert – who pretended to be a ‘Warlock’ – could have killed Lee Boxell who might have threatened to go to the police to report what Lambert was doing. The police have also stated that they are aware that a gang of paedophiles was operating in the Sutton and Cheam area in 1988 – which may well have been centred around ‘The Shed’. The police have dug various areas of St Dunston’s graveyard over the years leading up to 2013 – but have yet to locate the remains of Lee Boxell.