The parents of a missing boy from south London are appealing for help locating his remains so they can finally say goodbye to their son. Crimestoppers are offering a £20,000 reward for information.
Lee Boxell, a 15-year-old high school pupil and keen football fan, was last seen alive on 10 September 1888.
That morning he left his home in Cheam, Sutton, to meet a friend and go shopping. His friend last saw him at around 1pm.
The final confirmed sighting of the teenager was outside a shop in Sutton High Street at around 2.20pm.
His disappearance has remained a mystery and the investigation has been complicated by rumours, speculation and conflicting accounts given by witnesses and suspects.
One theory – apparently based on a comment that Lee made to his friend – was that he was going to Selhurst Park to watch the Charlton vs Millwall football match that afternoon. However police have said there is no evidence to prove this was the case and last confirmed sighting suggests he would not have been able to get to the stadium in time for kick-off.
In 2012 police received information that Lee visited an unofficial youth club at St Dunstan’s Church, known locally as ‘The Shed’. The club was visited by many local children and teenagers and was run by the graveyard digger, William Lambert, who had been convicted in 2011 of sexually abusing four girls between 1985 and 1987.
One of the girls who visited the club claimed that she had been told that Lee was dead two days after his disappearance. Another witness said she believed Lambert was involved.
Police also received anonymous tip offs that Lambert had bragged about burying Lee in the churchyard.
This prompted the Metropolitan Police to undertake its largest-ever archaeological dig in the hope of finding Lee’s remains. It concluded in 2013 without finding any trace of the teenager.
The following year Lambert, then aged 78, and two other men aged 52 and 41 were arrested on suspicion of murdering Lee. They were all later released without charge.
In 2019 detectives said they believed that Lee was killed after he witnessed a teenager being sexually assaulted at the club that afternoon and either intervened or threatened to expose the suspect.
I believe that Lee was assaulted by one person who then had help from one or more others to dispose of his body and/or cover up the death. I would appeal to those people to come forward and confirm this and help us to locate Lee’s body. I accept and wish to make it clear that it may not have been the intention to kill Lee and that your role in assisting the main attacker will be taken into account. But you have to take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences before it is too late for Lee’s family.DCI John McQuade, speaking in 2019
Lambert, who died of Covid-19 in 2021, is also said to have told associates that he saw Lee a year after his disappearance and that Lee was living under an assumed name. Police said that this version of events was “found not to have been credible”.
In a further appeal in 2023, on the 35th anniversary of Lee’s disappearance, the Metropolitan Police admitted that they had been unable to find “conclusive evidence that Lee came to harm”. However the nature of his disappearance and the lack of sightings or credible information since 1988 has led detectives to believe he is no longer alive.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Blackburn said: “Lee was a boy with a very happy family life. He was a good student who loved football. The story that he had run away, started a new life and was living under an assumed name was absolutely not viable.
“My hope is that someone who didn’t feel they could speak to us in the past may now feel that they can come forward and share what they know.
“At this stage of our investigation my priority is to find Lee so that he can be returned to his parents. Lee’s parents deserve answers and they deserve the opportunity to bury their much-loved son.
“Your information could help end the suffering for Lee’s family. If you can help, anonymously or otherwise please do get in touch.”
Lee’s parents, Peter and Christine Boxell also urged witnesses to come forward to give them closure “before it’s too late”.
We have not seen or heard from our dear son Lee since he went to Sutton, thirty-five years ago on 10th September 1988. He was only 15 when he disappeared. We fear that Lee may have been murdered. We are still hoping that someone will come forward to help find his remains, so that my wife and I can say goodbye to our beloved son before it’s too late for us (we are in our late 70s).
If you can help us and his sister finally know what happened and have some closure – please, do what’s right. If you know where he may be, or have any information about what happened to Lee, please contact the police Investigation team on 0208 721 4005, or if you prefer you can tell the charity Crimestoppers what you know, anonymously. Once you’ve given your information you need never have any further involvement with anyone about the case. Crimestoppers can’t identify who you are and will never ask or take any personal details from you. So, this really does give someone a chance to do the right thing and help ease our years of pain. We can then see Lee finally laid to rest.Peter Boxell, speaking in 2023
A reward of £20,000 has been offered by Crimestoppers for information that leads to the recovery of Lee’s remains. Contact them via the website or on 0800 555 111.