Stephen Lawrence murder: ‘How can I celebrate when I cannot see or speak to my son?’
STEPHEN Lawrence’s mother last night expressed both “relief and anger” after two men were finally convicted of the racist murder of her teenage son, but emphasised she could not celebrate the verdict because detectives “failed miserably” to bring his killers to justice 18 years years ago.
Mrs Lawrence was speaking after Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were found guilty of murder by a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday, almost 19 years after Mr Lawrence was stabbed to death by a gang of thugs at a bus stop in Eltham, south London.
Last night, police vowed to pursue the other men believed to be responsible for the unprovoked attack in April 1993. Neil Acourt, his brother Jamie and Luke Knight have all been identified as suspects.
Mr Lawrence’s parents, Doreen and Neville, wept quietly as the verdict was delivered yesterday in a hushed courtroom.
Afterwards, Mrs Lawrence, her voice breaking with emotion but holding back more tears, thanked the jury for their verdict, but she also struck a sombre note.
“How can I celebrate when my son lies buried?” she asked. “When I cannot see him or speak to him?
“When will I see him grow up and go to university or get married or have children? These verdicts will not bring my son back,” she said.
“How can I celebrate when I know that this day could have come 18 years ago if the police who were meant to find my son’s killers [had not] failed so miserably to do so. These are not a reason to celebrate.
“I feel relieved that, to some extent, I can move forward with my life. But mixed with relief is anger – anger that me and my family were put through 18 years of grief and uncertainty, not knowing if, or when, we would ever get justice.
“Had the police done their job properly, I would have spent the last 18 years grieving for my son rather than fighting to get his killers to court.
“This result shows that the police can do their job properly, but only if they want to. I only hope that they have learned their lesson and don’t put any other family through what we have been put through.
“The fact is that racism and racist attacks are still happening in this country, and the police should not use my son’s name to say that we can move on.”
Mr Lawrence’s father, Neville, said: “My life was torn apart by the senseless murder of my son over 18 years ago. Unfortunately, no-one was brought before a court at that time as they should have been.
“The loss itself, together with the lack of justice, have meant that I have not been able to rest all this time. I’m therefore full of joy and relief that today finally two of my son’s killers have been convicted for his murder.”
Later, he added: “I’m praying that these people now realise that they have been found out and say to themselves: ‘Yes, I did that awful deed, but I wasn’t alone in that action that night and there are other people who are also guilty of what I have done’, and name them.
“I hope before the sentence is passed on them, that they will actually talk and give the rest of these people who were part of the group that killed my son.”
Last night, Cressida Dick, the acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, insisted that the force, condemned as “institutionally racist” in 1993, would continue to work to bring the remainder of those involved to justice.
“We do, of course, acknowledge that there were five people involved on the night that Stephen was murdered,” she said. “We have not brought all those people to justice. So if we get new evidence, if we have further opportunities, we will respond to that.
“We don’t see this as the end of the road.”
Former home secretary Jack Straw said police relations with black and Asian young men had improved dramatically as a result of the tireless work of Mr Lawrence’s parents.
The Acourt brothers and Knight were all arrested in connection with the killing in 1993, although last night the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to support murder charges.
A private prosecution brought by Mr Lawrence’s family against Neil Acourt, Knight and Dobson collapsed.
There was a sense of relief among the Lawrence family’s supporters after yesterday’s verdicts. His friend Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night he was murdered, and whose evidence was ruled out of order in an earlier trial, said via Twitter: “Some JUSTICE at last.”
Alison Saunders, chief Crown prosecutor for London, said the Lawrence case was one of the “most significant of its generation” and paid tribute to the Lawrence family for their “perseverance and determination”.
She said: “This is one of the most significant cases of this generation, changing attitudes, policing and the law. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get here.”
Ms Saunders explained how the prosecution had taken the “exceptional step” of applying to the High Court to quash Gary Dobson’s acquittal and order a retrial.
She said: “We were convinced the new and compelling evidence presented by the police was strong enough to successfully prosecute these individuals. The High Court agreed with the application for a retrial.”
The Metropolitan Police faced fierce criticism of the original investigation into Mr Lawrence’s death, with claims that corruption and institutional racism had led to the intial investigations failing.
A public inquiry chaired by Sir William MacPherson in 1999 branded the force “institutionally racist” and claims were made by Mr and Mrs Lawrence’s lawyers that some officers were influenced by Norris’s former drugs baron father, Clifford Norris.
The breakthrough in the investigation came when a cold-case team of forensic scientists were called in.
They found tiny traces of blood, hair and fibres on clothing seized from Dobson and Norris’s homes.
The defence had claimed that the material got there via contamination, but this was rejected by the jury.
During the trial, which began on 14 November, they were shown police surveillance footage from 1994 of Dobson and Norris using racial slurs.
In the film, Norris also launched into a violent tirade about how he would kill and torture black people.
However, Dobson and Norris were both defiant as they were led out of court in handcuffs.
Dobson shouted: “You have condemned an innocent man in here today. I hope you can live with yourselves.”
His mother, Pauline, yelled from the public gallery: “He did not kill that man.”
After a short further hearing, relatives called down to the pair saying “I love you”. Dobson and Norris told them “stay strong”.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “In the 19 years since his murder, Stephen Lawrence’s family has fought tirelessly for justice.”
He added: “This verdict cannot ease the pain of losing a son. But, for Doreen and Neville Lawrence, I hope that it brings at least some comfort after their years of struggle.”
The recommended starting point for Dobson and Norris’s sentence tomorrow will be around 12 years, because they were 17 and 16 respectively at the time of the attack.
However, the judge may increase this because of the racially motivated aspect of the case, and the fact that they realised that one of group might use a knife.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west