The Star Late Edition
Race crime that shamed Britain solved
Inquiry into thug attack on boys opened can of worms for police
THEIR son’s murder shamed Britain. But yesterday Doreen and Neville Lawrence at last obtained a measure of justice when two thugs were convicted of their son Stephen’s appalling race-hate killing.
Nearly 19 years after the promising student was stabbed in a South London attack, they saw Gary Dobson and David Norris found guilty of the country’s most notorious unsolved murder.
It was a triumph for the Lawrences, who have fought tirelessly for justice and who collapsed in tears when the verdicts were handed down.
After years of false hope, doomed prosecutions and the Macpherson inquiry into police racism which shook the Establishment, it took a predominantly youthful jury of eight men and four women just 12 hours to find the pair guilty of murder following a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Both Dobson and Norris had been named as suspects within 48 hours of the murder in April 1993.
But the pair dodged justice for years, relying on a climate of fear which allowed them to swagger around Eltham, southeast London, as if nothing had happened.
In 1997, the Daily Mail named them – along with Neil and Jamie Acourt and Luke Knight – as Stephen’s killers and challenged the gang to sue the newspaper. They never did.
The case was made possible only because of a change in the law which abandoned the principle of double jeopardy, where a person cleared of an offence cannot be tried again.
Neville Lawrence, 69, urged police to go after the remaining members of the gang who stabbed his 18-year-old son to death and challenged the two found guilty: “When you stand up to be sentenced today, provide the judge with the names of the other killers.”
Though he felt such relief at the verdicts that he “felt my heart would burst”, Lawrence, who admits the strain of the case cost him his marriage, said he would not rest until all the gang members were behind bars. “I still haven’t given up on the fact that we know some people are still out there.”
A “numb” Doreen Lawrence said: “I am still shocked, but it is a good shock.
“I’m hoping that eventually they will give up the others.
“Finally justice has been done. I think I am going to go home and light a candle tonight for Stephen. I will tell him at long last we have justice.
“There was no way I was going to give up, no way I was going to stop fighting on his behalf.”
The truth caught up with drugs trafficker Dobson, 36, and Norris, 35, the son of a gangster, after a trial made possible only by advances in forensic science and changes in the law. Because they were just 17 and 16 at the time of the murder, the pair will be sentenced as juveniles today, meaning they will receive a lower tariff than if they were adults. However, the racial element of the murder could lengthen their prison terms.
Detectives said they were determined to lock up the remaining members of the gang. They believe five or six youths were in the mob.
A-level student Stephen died after he and his best friend Duwayne Brookes were attacked by a gang of racist youths in Eltham shortly after 10.30pm on April 22, 1993.
Stephen had been waiting for a bus with Duwayne, also 18, when they were approached by the gang who were heard to shout: “What, what *****r.”
The original police investigation was dogged by controversy, allegations of racism, corruption and collusion.
Father-of-two Dobson and Norris, who has five children, were finally trapped after a review of forensic evidence.
They were arrested over the murder in September 2010. But it was not until May last year that appeal judges ruled Dobson should stand trial despite being acquitted in 1996.
The Scotland Yard inquiry and the decision to seek a retrial of Dobson was taken by the chief crown prosecutor for London, Alison Saunders.
Saunders said the case was one of the “most significant of its generation” and she paid tribute to the Lawrence family for their “perseverance and determination”. – Daily Mail