THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LEE BOXELL
CHEAM, SOUTH LONDON
On the morning of Saturday 10th September 1988, 15-year old Lee Boxell left his family home to meet a friend in Sutton town centre. It’s the last time his family would see him. Lee never returned home and, apart from a possible sighting on the day, nothing has been seen or heard of him since he and his friend parted company that lunchtime.
LEE DARREN BOXELL
Lee was born on 16th February 1973 to parents Christine and Peter Boxell. His sister, Lindsey, came along two years later. Peter was an architectural engineer and for a while the family relocated to Hanover in Germany where Peter helped design homes on the military bases. The family returned to the UK in 1984. Peter described his son as “kind and considerate”. He was never in trouble at school and by all accounts had a good relationship with his family.
SATURDAY 10th DECEMBER 1988
That morning, Christine left the family home to visit her mother, whilst Peter dropped Lindsey off at a friend’s house before heading to Sutton shopping centre.
Later that morning, Lee also left the family home to head to Sutton shopping centre to meet his friend at 11am, as arranged. They spent time shopping and visiting an arcade. At around midday, Lee’s mate decided to head home leaving Lee in Sutton. He was the last person to knowingly see Lee before he disappeared.
- 5ft 6″
- Light brown hair
He was wearing:
- black jeans
- A white Fred Flintstone t-shirt
- Brown suede shoes
Much emphasis has always been put on the fact that Lee told his friend that as his favourite team, Sutton, were playing away, he was thinking instead about heading to Selhurst Park that afternoon to watch Crystal Palace.
It was at this point I was going to put in an appeal, but upon looking at the fixtures, I can find no record of Crystal Palace playing on that date. If anyone can confirm this, please contact me. There were other matches locally he may have headed for: Charlton v Millwall, Wimbledon v West Ham or Carshalton Athletic v Bromley.
There were a number of possible sightings of Lee that afternoon following an appeal made by footballer, John Fashanu.
- 2:20pm: A witness claimed to have seen Lee outside Tesco in Sutton High Street that afternoon, which meant it unlikely he was heading to Selhurst Park that afternoon.
- A second witness claimed to have spotted a boy matching Lee’s description, in the company of a man at Sutton train station.
- A third witness claimed to have seen Lee walking in the opposite direction towards home, but this was discounted by detectives.
Detectives felt that the train station sighting was the most plausible and worked on those lines of inquiry. In 2013 they also stated that there was “known paedophile activity amongst a group of offenders in the Cheam area at the time Lee disappeared“.
LIFE AFTER LEE
In the days and weeks that followed, both Peter and Christine refused to leave the house. Their hope to one day see their son again remained, and for that reason they retained Lee’s bedroom in the exact way it was when he disappeared, and decided to never move home.
Despite their devastation, they were forced to continue some kind of normality for their daughter, Lindsey.
A year after Lee’s disappearance, a stranger contacted Peter and claimed to have spotted a boy matching Lee’s description working in a market in Perivale, West London. Sadly for Peter, when he got there, he realised it wasn’t his son but a boy who looked very similar. After this, there were no more leads forthcoming and despite Christine’s best efforts to gather press interest in Lee’s disappearance, nothing seemed to work. Then, in 2012, a small piece of information suddenly everything changed…
‘THE SHED’ YOUTH CLUB, CHEAM
In 2012, a new witness came forward to claim that Lee had begun frequenting a local youth club, known locally as ‘The Shed’, which met in the annex of St Dunstan’s Church in Cheam. Police then changed their thoughts on what may happened to Lee that day, instead looking at the possibility that Lee had visited The Shed and intervened to stop someone being abused and being killed.
This new line of inquiry also evolved from the police having discovered that a number of paedophile rings were operating in South London at that time, and the man who ran ‘The Shed’ had been jailed a year before, in 2011, for the abuse of girls who attended the youth club between 1985 and 1990. His name was William Lambert.
William “Bill” Lambert, who claimed he was a former soldier, wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) stating of his wish to tend the graves of those who had died in conflict. He was invited to tend and clean the graves at St Dunstan’s church in Cheam, and it’s whilst he was there that he set up and ran an unofficial youth club in the church’s annex which he called ‘The Shed’. Unfortunately this was an excuse to abuse children – something for which he had a past conviction, because in 1968 he was found guilty of gross indecency against a child.
In 1994 he again found himself in the dock, this time accused of raping girls who attended the club. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
It wasn’t until 2009, when a woman came forward claiming to be one of his young victims, that the police investigated further. They were able to locate other witnesses who gave evidence in 2011 against Lambert and saw him finally sent to jail, aged 75.
One of those survivors (who also knew Lee at the time he disappeared), spoke out about the abuse she endured whilst attending the club. She said that Lambert would hold ‘initiation ceremonies’ to ‘pass on the next level of his witch powers’, which could be ‘passed on through sex.’
Lambert referred to himself as a ‘warlock’ and dabbled in satanic rituals whilst abusing girls. Inside the church was a room with an occult symbol on the wall, where a girl would invite others inside for Lambert to abuse as part of these ‘initiation ceremonies’.
He would also refer to part of the churchyard which, he’d tell the girls, couldn’t be used for burials as it was unconsecrated. This led detectives into a more thorough search of the area and they began digging up areas of the churchyard, but to no avail.
Det Insp John McQuade, who began reviewing the case in 2011, realised it should have been treated as a murder investigation from the beginning.
He said although the case was still being investigated as a missing persons inquiry, there was “little evidence” he was still alive.
“We believe that there is a witness or witnesses who would have been at the shed on the day Lee went missing and would appeal directly to those people to come forward,” said the detective.
Lambert’s son gave an interview to the Local Guardian newspaper in 2011, in which he described his horrendous childhood at the hands of Lambert:
The son of child rapist William Lambert has apologised to his father’s victims in the wake of his conviction last week.
Mr Lambert’s son, now 47 and a grandfather himself, has followed the horrific trial from afar and felt compelled to apologise to his father’s victims – who were also his friends when he grew up in Sutton.
The man, the former gravedigger’s eldest son from his second marriage, was sickened by the reports from the trial which centred on the horrific sexual abuse of four teenage girls at St Dunstan’s Church in the mid-1980s.
He said: “I just feel I have to speak out and apologise to all the girls who were abused by my dad. I knew most of them and we grew up together – they were my friends.
“Imagine you found out 30 years later that lots of your childhood friends were abused by your father? I feel physically sick that he was doing what he was doing and if I had known at all I would’ve confronted him.
“My father is an evil, sick and twisted man and we had a horrific childhood full of violence and anger – I don’t really remember us having a proper Christmas. I was the eldest and used to get the majority of the beatings especially if I tried to protect my mum or brothers.
“I remember one time he threw me off a wall and beat the hell out of me – we were just kids but he used to punch us like we were men. I can still smell his stinking breath and can still see him, furious, standing over me with his fists clenched.”
Lambert claimed throughout his life, to friends and family, that he was in the parachute regiment but his son poured cold water on that suggestion. He said: “He used to have us believe he was a war hero. We were told he fought on the Suez Crisis in Egypt in the 1950s. But in actual fact he never really had a proper job and was always ponsing off the dole. He was such a good liar, we all fell for them.
“I have daughters myself and there is no way he will ever see them again. I honestly hope he dies in prison, hopefully alone.”
Lambert will be sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on June 10.
In April 2014, police announced they had arrested four people in connection with Lee’s disappearance. Three men were aged 78, 42 and 41 were arrested on suspicion of murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and indecency with children, and a 42-year old woman was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and indecency with children.
The police undertook a year-long dig at the church graveyard, but to no avail. The three people were eventually released without charge.
BRINGING ATTENTION TO THE CASE
In 2017 The Missing People Choir – of which Peter is a member – appeared on Britain’s Got Talent – a UK television show. The choir is associated with the Missing People charity and they sang a song entitled ‘I Miss You‘ written by Peter about Lee’s disappearance, with pictures of missing loved ones appearing on a large screen behind them. After their performance they received a standing ovation.
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON LEE’S DISAPPEARANCE, PLEASE CONTACT THE METROPOLITAN POLICE ON 101, OR VIA CRIMESTOPPERS.