CONTROVERSIAL star Michael Barrymore arrived in the North-East last night to prepare for the next leg in his comeback - as police announced a new inquiry into the death of a man at his home five years ago.

Mr Barrymore, who will be starring as Ebenezer Scrooge at the Sunderland Empire from tomorrow, welcomed news of the investigation into the death of Stuart Lubbock, 31.

Mr Lubbock, of Harlow, Essex, was found in Mr Barrymore's pool in nearby Roydon, in 2001.

A lengthy investigation was carried out but no one was charged with any offences in relation to the death.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Lubbock had suffered severe internal injuries, suggesting he may have been the victim of a serious sexual assault before his death.

Alcohol, ecstasy and cocaine were found in his bloodstream.

A coroner recorded an open verdict at an inquest into Mr Lubbock's death in September.

Mr Barrymore said of the new inquiry: "I am delighted and thrilled.

"I've been asking for years for this to be done. I'm willing to give every single assistance I can to bring closure to this matter for everybody's sake, so that we can all carry on with our lives.

"It has been five-and-half years so far, and five-and-half years too long."

Mr Lubbock's father, Terry, said last night: "This is the first of many steps hopefully leading to arrest, and that is what I want to see.

"I will be truly, truly elated when that happens."

Mr Lubbock confirmed he would be a silent presence in the Sunderland audience on one of the nights.

Friend Harry Cichy, who will be joining him, said: "It is ironic that Michael Barrymore is playing the part of Scrooge, with all the ghosts following him.

"Like it or not, the ghost of Stuart Lubbock is always around him."