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Murder of Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence (13 September 1974 – 22 April 1993) was a black British teenager from Eltham, southeast London, who was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus on the evening of 22 April 1993.[1]

After the initial investigation, five suspects were arrested but never convicted.[2] It was suggested during the course of investigation that the murder had a racist motive and that Lawrence was killed because he was black, and that the handling of the case by the police and Crown Prosecution Service was affected by issues of race, leading to an inquiry.[3]

In 1999, an inquiry headed by Sir William Macpherson examined the original Metropolitan police investigation and concluded that the force was "institutionally racist". The inquiry has been called 'one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain'.[4] The report of the examination's work and conclusions was published in 1999 as The Macpherson Report.

No one has yet been convicted of Lawrence's murder. On 18 May 2011, it was announced that two of the original suspects are to stand trial for the murder in the light of "new and substantial evidence" becoming available.[5] A jury was selected on Monday 14 November 2011, and the trial started on the following day.


Stephen Lawrence was born on 13 September 1974 to Neville Lawrence, a carpenter, and his wife Doreen, a special needs teacher. He was brought up in Plumstead, South-East London.[6] At the time of his death he was studying English, design and technology, craft and physics at the Blackheath Bluecoat School and was hoping to become an architect.

Murder and trials

The attack occurred at 10:35 pm on 22 April 1993, as Lawrence waited with a friend, Duwayne Brooks, at a bus stop in southeast London.

As Brooks called out to ask whether Lawrence saw the bus coming he claimed that he heard one of Lawrence's assailants saying: "What, what, nigger?"[7] as they all quickly crossed the road and 'engulfed' Lawrence, who then received two stab wounds to a depth of about five inches on both sides of the front of his body, in the chest and arm. Both of the stab wounds severed axillary arteries. Although he tried to escape, he collapsed and bled to death after running 119 metres (130 yards).[7]
“ It is surprising that he managed to get 130 yards with all the injuries he had, but also the fact that the deep penetrating wound of the right side caused the upper lobe to partially collapse his lung. It is therefore a testimony to Stephen's physical fitness that he was able to run the distance he did before collapsing. – Pathologist, Dr Shepherd. ”

[edit] Witnesses

All three witnesses at the bus stop at the time of the attack said in statements that the attack was sudden and short; none were later able to identify any of the suspects.[8]

In February 1999, officers who were investigating the handling of the initial inquiry revealed that a woman had telephoned detectives three times within the first few days after the killing.[9]

In 2004, the police stated: "The witness who appeared on the right of the scene and walked into Rochester Way with Stephen and Duwayne behind is very important to us. We know who this witness is, she knows who she is, we know what she knows. She has never made a statement. This witness may have been the catalyst for the attack".

A case was brought against two of the suspects, Neil Acourt, then 17, and Luke Knight, who was 16, who were initially charged with murder but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case on 29 July 1993, citing insufficient evidence.[10]
[edit] Private prosecution

In April 1994,[11] Stephen Lawrence's family initiated a private prosecution against the initial two suspects and three others: Jamie Acourt, Gary Dobson and David Knight. The family were not entitled to legal aid and a fighting fund was established to pay for the analysis of forensic evidence and the cost of tracing and re-interviewing witnesses. The family were represented by counsel Michael Mansfield QC, Martin Soorjoo and Margo Boye who acted on an unpaid basis.[12] The charges against Jamie Acourt and David Norris were dropped before the trial due to lack of evidence, and the three remaining suspects were acquitted at trial when the judge ruled that the identification evidence given by Duwayne Brooks was inadmissible.[4] Another man, named by the police only as "Phil" was also questioned at this stage.[citation needed]

Alleged police corruption

On 25 July 2006, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced it had asked the Metropolitan Police to look into alleged claims of police corruption that may have helped hide the killers of Lawrence.

A BBC investigation alleged that the murder inquiry's Det. Sgt. John Davidson had taken money from known drug smuggler Clifford Norris, the father of David Norris, a chief suspect in the investigation.[31] Neil Putnam, a former corrupt police detective turned whistleblower, told a BBC investigation that Clifford Norris was paying Mr Davidson to obstruct the case and to protect the suspects. "Davidson told me that he was looking after Norris and that to me meant that he was protecting him, protecting his family against arrest and any conviction," Putnam said.[31] Davidson denied any such corruption.

The Metropolitan Police Service announced it was to open up a special incident room to field calls from the public, following the BBC documentary The Boys Who Killed Stephen Lawrence. The Independent Police Complaints Commission later stated the claims made in the programme were unfounded.[32]

On 27 July 2006, the Daily Mail repeated its famous "Murderers" front page.

The need to re-establish trust between minority ethnic communities and the police is paramount... seeking to achieve trust and confidence through a demonstration of fairness will not in itself be sufficient. It must be accompanied by a vigorous pursuit of openness and accountability.[33]

On 17 December 2009 Independent Police Complaints Commission investigators and officers from the Metropolitan Police's directorate of professional standards arrested a former police constable and a serving member of Metropolitan Police staff on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice by allegedly withholding evidence from the original murder inquiry, the Kent investigation and the Macpherson inquiry. Dr Richard Stone, who sat on the Macpherson inquiry, commented that the panel had felt that there was "a large amount of information that the police were either not processing or were suppressing" and "a strong smell of corruption". Baroness Ros Howells, patron of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, agreed: "Lots of people said they gave the police evidence which was never produced."[34] On 1 March 2010 the IPCC announced that "No further action will be taken against the two men arrested following concerns identified by the internal Metropolitan police service (MPS) review of the murder of Stephen Lawrence" and the two were released from bail.
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