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Harlow murder: Jury unanimously finds Lee Clarke guilty of killing his friend Phillip Lewis and disposing of his body in ponds





A man who thought he could get away with killing his friend and disposing of parts of his body in ponds across Harlow has been found guilty of murder.

Following a four-week trial, a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday (March 8) unanimously found 56-year-old Lee Clarke guilty of murdering Phillip Lewis. He will be sentenced next week.

The detective who headed the murder inquiry said that “coward” Clarke has refused to say why he killed Phil – or where he disposed of the rest of Phil’s body, only adding to the suffering inflicted on the family.

Murderer Lee Clarke has refused to tell anyone why he murdered his friend Phillip Lewis, known in Harlow as Scottish Phil. Picture: Essex Police
Murderer Lee Clarke has refused to tell anyone why he murdered his friend Phillip Lewis, known in Harlow as Scottish Phil. Picture: Essex Police

An investigation was launched on New Year’s Eve 2022 after Essex Police received a call from a member of the public who had discovered a suspect item at Oakwood Pond, near Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Harlow at around 2pm. The area was quickly cordoned off and, following attendance by forensic officers, the item was confirmed to be human remains.

A murder investigation within Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate was launched and dozens of detectives and specialist officers were assigned to the case.

Within two days of the discovery, the victim was identified through a DNA match as 59-year-old Phillip Lewis, known locally as Scottish Phil.

Victim Phil Lewis was a son, a father and a friend. Picture: Essex Police
Victim Phil Lewis was a son, a father and a friend. Picture: Essex Police

Det Supt Rob Kirby said: “This investigation progressed quickly and, despite how tragic this case is, the quick identification of Phil was impressive and crucial in establishing what had happened.

“Once Phil had been identified, detectives were able to carry out enquiries, including phone network analysis to establish when Phil had gone missing and determine when he was killed. Based on this, it’s believed that Phil was killed on November 12. Further enquiries identified Lee Clarke as the suspect.”

On January 4, a warrant was executed at Clarke’s home in Wedhey, Harlow, and he was arrested on suspicion of murder. During searches of the property, officers found items including power tools and blood marks. Four days later, Clarke was charged with murder and remanded in custody.

D/Supt Kirby added: “The charge against Lee Clarke was a significant development and the speed at which this was authorised demonstrated the hard work that went into this investigation. However, enquiries didn’t stop there, and our officers continued to gather the evidence needed to present this case in court.

Police investigating the murder of Phillip Lewis searched five ponds and reservoirs in Harlow
Police investigating the murder of Phillip Lewis searched five ponds and reservoirs in Harlow

“A vital element of these enquiries were the searches of multiple ponds across Harlow to gather evidence and get justice for Phil, who was a son, a father, a friend and a well-known man in Harlow.

“These searches were carried out by our police search advisors (POLSA) and marine unit and were supported by specialist agencies, including the Environment Agency. Searching water is a lot more complex than it may seem. It involves ensuring local wildlife is protected before draining the pond and conducting fingertip searches, which cover centimetre by centimetre of an area.”

During these searches, further remains of Phil were found.

Police investigating the murder of Phillip Lewis searched five ponds and reservoirs in Harlow
Police investigating the murder of Phillip Lewis searched five ponds and reservoirs in Harlow

Clarke’s trial began on Wednesday February 7. During it, he claimed that the blood in his flat was due to a broken mirror which Phil had helped him clear up.

He will reappear at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday (March 12) for sentencing.

Police searching around Oakwood Pond in Harlow
Police searching around Oakwood Pond in Harlow

D/Supt Kirby said “This trial has proven Lee Clarke to be a killer and a coward.

“Despite being arrested over a year ago, he has refused to tell anyone why he killed Phil. He has also refused to disclose where he disposed of the rest of Phil’s body, which has added to the suffering inflicted on Phil’s family.

“This was a huge investigation for Essex Police and it would not have been possible without the support from the community in Harlow. Residents were patient and compassionate whilst our officers carried out enquiries. I can confidentially say that without the support from Harlow, assisting our hard-working officers, this result would not have been possible.”



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