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Stephen Lawrence suspect Neil Acourt admits drugs supply charge

Published 02/03/2016

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A man arrested in connection with Stephen Lawrence's murder has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs worth around £4 million.

Neil Stuart, also known as Neil Acourt, 40, of Eltham, south east London, admitted the offence at Kingston Crown Court.

He sat in the dock wearing a grey tracksuit and spoke only to enter a guilty plea when the charge - relating to the supply of Class B drug cannabis resin - was read out to him.

Acourt was one of five youths arrested over the racist murder of Stephen, 18, at a bus stop in Eltham, in 1993.

Jack Vose, 62, of Backworth, Newcastle, and Daniel Thompson, 27, of South Shields, Northumbria, were in the dock with Acourt and also pleaded guilty to the drugs offence.

The trio were accused of conspiring with others to supply the Class B drug between January 1 2014 and February 2 2016.

They were charged after police seized approximately 100 kilos of cannabis, Scotland Yard said. A sentencing date has yet to be set.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of Mr Lawrence's murder, almost 19 years after he was killed.

The teenager was fatally stabbed by a gang of white youths in a racist attack that shocked the nation.

Acourt was arrested in connection with the murder, but while committal proceedings were scheduled for him, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally discontinued the prosecution following a meeting with the senior investigating officer.

The Lawrence family began a private prosecution against Acourt and others but it collapsed in April 1996 after identification evidence was ruled inadmissible and they were acquitted.

In February 1997 an inquest jury found that Mr Lawrence was "unlawfully killed by five white youths".

The five men arrested in 1993 denied involvement in the murder in a television interview in April 1999.

More than three years later, in September 2002, Norris and Acourt were jailed for 18 months for a racist attack on off-duty black policeman Gareth Reid.

Norris had thrown a drink at the officer from a car and shouted "n****r" while Acourt drove the vehicle at him during the attack in May the previous year in Eltham less than a mile from where Mr Lawrence was murdered.

On November 14 2011, the trial of Dobson and Norris began at the Old Bailey, and on January 3 2012 they were found guilty of Mr Lawrence's murder.

At the time, Mr Lawrence's parents spoke of their relief at the verdict, but mother Doreen said it was not an occasion for celebration.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, with her voice breaking at times, she said: "Despite these verdicts, today is not a cause for celebration. How can I celebrate when my son lies buried, when I cannot see him or speak to him?

"When I will not see him grow up or go to university, or get married or have children. These verdicts will not bring my son back.

"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?"

In a statement read by his solicitor Jocelyn Cockburn, Neville Lawrence said: "I'm also conscious of the fact that there were five or six attackers that night. I do not think I'll be able to rest until they are all brought to justice."

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the murdered teenager's father called for Norris and Dobson to name the rest of those responsible for his son's murder.

"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," he said.

Acourt, Jamie Acourt and Luke Knight were arrested along with Norris and Dobson in 1993 in connection with Mr Lawrence's murder.

The original investigation into the murder came under criticism by a public inquiry, which branded the Metropolitan Police institutionally racist.

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