An emotional Michael Barrymore sobbed as he recalled the events that ruined his career - and he claimed he remains "100 per cent innocent" over the death of a man found floating in his swimming pool.

The comedian and presenter was one of the best-known TV stars in the country when 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock, whose family was from Braintree, was found dead at the star's home in Roydon, Essex, in 2001.

Six years later, Barrymore - whose real name is Michael Parker - was arrested in connection with the death. He was released, but subsequently withdrew from public life.

Speaking on Piers Morgan's ITV programme Life Stories, Barrymore said he "couldn't be more sorry" for his behaviour that night.

Barrymore fled and stayed silent during an inquest into Mr Lubbock's death.

But, struggling to hold back tears, the 67-year-old claimed he had left his home because he thought it would be "surrounded" by press.

He said he deserved to "walk around with my head held high for the rest of my life" after winning compensation from Essex Police last year for wrongful arrest.

During an emotional exchange he also admitted he would prefer if he was heterosexual, saying: "If I had a choice I'd rather not be gay. I really would. Life would be easier.

"Life can be difficult at times, especially when you are known because everyone has a potshot at you."

Recalling the events of 2001, he said: "That family deserves proper answers. No parent should have to bury their young.

"I had nothing to do with Stuart. I am innocent. I am not 99.9 per cent innocent. I am 100 per cent innocent and I am entitled to walk around with my head held high for the rest of my life."

He added: "I didn't facilitate him taking drugs. I was advised (to stay silent) by lawyers at the time. You don't have to answer in a coroners court.

"I can see lots of things in hindsight. I'm not making excuses. I f***ed up. I f***ed up. What more do you want? I'm sorry. I couldn't be more sorry.

"I have to live in hope that somehow, somewhere, there will be an answer. I just hope it will be within what is left of my life."

Barrymore also rubbished claims made in the press that he had been hosting a "gay orgy", asking: "How do you have a gay orgy with four girls and five blokes, two of whom are straight?"

Mr Lubbock's body was found in Barrymore's pool after a party where drugs and alcohol were consumed.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had suffered serious anal injuries. In 2002, an open verdict was recorded at the inquest into his death.

Barrymore is known for presenting shows including Strike It Lucky, My Kind Of People and My Kind Of Music.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith, head of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Attacking hardworking front line policemen and women on national TV is unfair, particularly when some of what is being reported is simply wrong.

"The investigation into Stuart's death, and how he sustained such serious injuries is still open.

"We owe it to him and to his family to piece together exactly what happened in the swimming pool at Mr Barrymore's home in March 2001."

Anyone with information can contact Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The force added following the Court of Appeal hearing in December 2018 three matters were affirmed:

  • Detectives were right to suspect that one of only three people could have been responsible for the injuries Mr Lubbock suffered
  • There were reasonable grounds to arrest Mr Parker in 2007 on suspicion of murder and rape; and
  • That arresting Mr Parker at the same time as two other suspects might have led to a breakthrough in the case.

A spokesman added: "Although it has been 18 years since Stuart's tragic death, the pain of his loss and not really knowing what happened to him is no less painful for his father and family - they still want and need answers.

"The passing of time can mean that loyalties change and we would urge anyone who now wishes to come forward to us with information about Stuart's death, to do so - it's never too late to do the right thing."