Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Justice after 18 years . . . but Stephen Lawrence's mother still angry over police failings

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993

In the Old Bailey courtroom yesterday Doreen Lawrence shed a single tear. Almost 19 years after her eldest son was knifed to death by a racist gang, the foreman of a jury had handed her - at last - some measure of justice.

Mrs Lawrence had sat through seven weeks of evidence about the gang - which "swallowed" Stephen at 10.35pm on April 22 1993 - and had campaigned ceaselessly since his death for the capture of his killers.

As Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of murder her composure showed only the slightest signs of shaking. Some 10ft to her right, her ex-husband Neville, with whom she rarely shared a word during the trial, repeatedly wiped away tears.

He described the moment as coming up for air: "I felt as if my heart was going to come through my mouth" - and pleaded with the convicted men to name the others who had murdered Stephen for being black.

After one public inquiry, five Metropolitan Police Commissioners and a fundamental change in the British criminal justice system that had been found woefully lacking, two of the 18-year-old's killers were served with their retribution at 2.36pm yesterday.

Mr Lawrence (69) said he felt "joy and relief" at the verdicts, but added outside court that he was conscious that five or six men had attacked his son.

Police revealed that nine other men remain under suspicion for being part of the murder. Alison Saunders, London's chief Crown prosecutor, said: "The only evidence at the moment where there was a realistic prospect of conviction is with Dobson and Norris."

The verdicts yesterday came after nine hours of deliberation by a jury of eight men and four women, who decided that what defence lawyers described as "less than a teaspoon" of forensic evidence had proven the pair's guilt.

As he was led away, Gary Dobson (36), who was a 17-year-old college student on the night he joined the gang that inflicted two 13cm-deep knife wounds on Stephen in 10 seconds of unprovoked hate, showed some of the snarling defiance which became the calling card of the Lawrence suspects.

He shouted: "You have condemned an innocent man."

His fellow killer, a sallow-faced 36-year-old who was 16 in 1993, seemed to smile to himself.

The pair will be sentenced by Mr Justice Treacy today, and will serve a minimum of 12 years.

Outside court Mrs Lawrence (59), flanked by Stephen's brother Stuart, said: "Today is not a cause for celebration. How can I celebrate when my son lies buried? 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, failed so miserably to do so. These are not reasons to celebrate."

Scotland Yard said it was "not the end of the road" and that more could be in the dock.

As the Lawrences stood outside the Old Bailey, a small crowd cheered. Before he drove off, the white driver of a black taxi shouted: "Thank God, finally justice."

Factfile

The key evidence that convicted Gary Dobson was a microscopic blood spot soaked into the fabric of his distinctive jacket, discovered during an exhaustive £3.8m scientific review. Ed Jarman, a blood expert at LGC, found a tiny bead of blood, with several fibres through it. It matched Stephen's blood as well as two fibres from his cardigan.

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