Stephen Lawrence’s mother accused Scotland Yard of giving up on her son last night after the force effectively conceded defeat in its quest to nail all of his racist killers.
In a carefully-worded statement 27 years after the teenager was murdered, Met chief Dame Cressida Dick said the inquiry had run out of leads.
She announced the inquiry – which has cost tens of millions of pounds – had entered an ‘inactive phase’.
Although two men were convicted of killing Stephen in 2012, the remainder of a gang of at least five white youths involved in the attack are now unlikely to ever face prosecution.
Last night, the teenager’s parents expressed frustration that three of their son’s murderers may never be held responsible.
Stephen’s mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence said she was ‘truly disappointed that those others who were equally responsible for my son’s racist killing may not be brought to justice’.
Murdered: Stephen Lawrence, pictured, was killed back in April 1993. The Met police have announced that the inquiry into his death has entered an ‘inactive phase’
Accusing the Met of giving up on her son, she added: ‘I am very sad that a line has now been drawn into the investigation and that it is now in an ‘inactive’ phase.
‘Despite this, I would still urge anyone who has any information that could help me get all of Stephen’s killers convicted, to come forward. It is never too late to give a mother justice for the murder of her son. Whilst the Metropolitan Police have given up, I never will.’
Her former husband, Neville Lawrence, said he was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ by the Met statement. He said that although the Met had closed the case, ‘the case can never be closed for me’.
‘I had hoped that the conviction of two of the killers in 2012 would lead to new evidence coming to light and a prosecution of the other suspects,’ he said. ‘This has unfortunately not happened and over the last few years I have had to come to terms with the reality that some of the killers of Stephen may never be brought to justice for what they did.’
Stephen’s mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence, pictured giving evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee, said she was ‘truly disappointed that those others who were equally responsible for my son’s racist killing may not be brought to justice’
Neville Lawrence, pictured, said he was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ by the Met statement
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the decision to shelve the Lawrence murder investigation as ‘upsetting’. ‘I have just called Doreen Lawrence following the upsetting decision from the Metropolitan Police to close Stephen’s case,’ the former director of public prosecutions, tweeted.
‘We worked together on her son’s case and I know she will never rest in her fight for justice for Stephen, and she will also never rest in her fight for equality across society – and we will fight with her every step of the way.’
Stephen, an 18-year-old A-level student, was murdered in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993.
However, a bungled police inquiry meant that no arrests were made for two weeks after his death.
In February 1997, the Daily Mail took the unprecedented step of naming the five suspects – Gary Dobson, David Norris and three others – as Stephen’s killers.
In February 1997, the Daily Mail took the unprecedented step of naming the five suspects – Gary Dobson, David Norris and three others – as Stephen’s killers. Pictured: The front page of the Daily Mail on February 14, 1997
Under the front-page headline ‘Murderers’, we challenged the gang to sue. But they never did and former Labour home secretary Jack Straw has since stated that the Mail’s front page and subsequent ‘Justice for Stephen’ campaign played a crucial role in his decision to set up the Macpherson public inquiry into botched handling of the case, which branded the Met ‘institutionally racist’.
Following a DNA breakthrough, Dobson, now 45, and Norris, now 43, were found guilty in 2012 of stabbing the teenager. They had been named as suspects within 48 hours of the stabbing in April 1993. No others were ever charged.
In her statement yesterday, Dame Cressida said she was sad the force had been ‘unable to secure any further convictions for Stephen, his family and friends’.
‘The investigation has now moved to an “inactive” phase, but I have given Stephen’s family the assurance that we will continue to deal with any new information that comes to light,’ she said. ‘The investigation will also be periodically reviewed for any further investigative opportunities which may arise, for example with advances in technology.’
The latest phase of the investigation into Stephen’s murder began in 2014, with a new senior detective taking over as the lead officer from Clive Driscoll, the highly-respected officer who oversaw the successful prosecution of Dobson and Norris.
Pictured: Britain’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (L) poses for a photograph with Doreen Lawrence (R) as they arrive to attend a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square in London, on April 23, 2018. Dick made the announcement to say that the inquiry was entering an ‘inactive phase’
Since then, more than 240 new witness statements have been taken. The Met also examined a woman’s DNA obtained from a bag strap discarded at the scene of the murder. Despite a major appeal for information, that woman has not been identified.
Officers also sought to identify a man who had been near the murder scene wearing a jacket with a distinctive V-shaped emblem.
A third line of inquiry had been to track down a man who had called the BBC’s Crimewatch programme in 2013 to say he had information about the attack.
The Met said it had created more than 1,880 documents and messages and raised over 1,580 actions to work through. ‘The appeal generated more than 40 lines of enquiry for the investigation team,’ the Met said.
‘Despite exhaustive efforts, officers were unable to trace the individuals.’
Portrait of the five thugs in the spotlight
David Norris, now 43
Norris, who has five children from various relationships, was jailed for a minimum of 14 years and three months when convicted of Stephen’s murder in 2012.
The gangster’s son grew up in leafy Chislehurst, miles from his fellow gang members who were raised in the more deprived area of Eltham.
Norris, who has convictions for violence and racism, sought £10,000 in damages after he was beaten up in jail in 2017. In 2002, he was jailed for abusing an off-duty police officer on the same road where he and four others had slain Stephen nine years earlier.
Gary Dobson, now 45
Dobson is serving a life sentence in HMP Warren Hill, Suffolk, after he and David Norris were convicted of Stephen’s murder in 2012 when new forensic evidence linked them to the killing.
The father of two was jailed for a minimum of 15 years, two months, and his earliest release date could be 2026.
For 20 years he maintained his innocence but effectively admitted his guilt in 2013 when he abandoned an appeal against his conviction.
Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris were both convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 2012 at the Old Bailey
Jamie Acourt, now 44
Acourt is 18 months into a nine-year jail sentence over a £4million cannabis plot having spent years in Spain on the run.
In 2018 he was found in Barcelona, where he had lived for two years as Simon Alfonzo. He was arrested over Stephen’s murder in 1993 but, like his brother Neil, was never convicted.
At his sentencing for the drug plot in 2018, his barrister claimed the only reason he hid was that he feared the press coverage he would get after years of being dogged by stories about his suspected involvement in the murder.
Neil Acourt, now 45
Neil Acourt was released from prison last year after being jailed for his part in a £4million drugs racket.
He was seen just two miles from where Stephen was murdered last April while out on licence, loading tools into a van. Acourt was never convicted of Stephen’s murder but was jailed for 18 months in 2002 for a racist attack on an off-duty black detective then imprisoned in 2017 for his role in the drug-smuggling operation. In 1994 a police surveillance team filmed him making appalling racist remarks.
Luke Knight, now 43
Knight was never convicted as there was insufficient evidence linking him with the murder. He is the only one of the five arrested over Stephen’s killing who does not have a conviction.
He was held in 1993 over the murder but was released. He appeared in court again in 1996 when Stephen’s parents brought a private prosecution, but walked free when it collapsed.
I’m truly disappointed, but I’ll never lose hope
In a statement, Stephen’s mother, Baroness Lawrence said: ‘Eight years after the conviction of two of the men that murdered Stephen I am now told that there are no further leads to follow in the investigation.
Very sad: Baroness Lawrence, pictured, has spoken of her disappointment
‘I am truly disappointed that those others who were equally responsible for my son’s racist killing may not be brought to justice.
‘I would like to thank Clive Driscoll who was the senior investigating officer responsible for the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris which took place almost 20 years of me fighting for justice.
‘Having Clive Driscoll on Stephen’s case made all the difference to me and had he had the opportunity of continuing to investigate the murder there may have been more convictions.
‘I am very sad that a line has now been drawn into the investigation and that it is now in an “inactive” phase.
‘Despite this, I would still urge anyone who has any information that could help me get all of Stephen’s killers convicted, to come forward.
‘It is never too late to give a mother justice for the murder of her son. Whilst the Metropolitan Police have given up, I never will.’
Case isn’t closed for me, I don’t regret our fight
Stephen’s father, Neville Lawrence said: ‘I am disappointed to hear this news but not surprised. I had hoped that the conviction of two of the killers in 2012 would lead to new evidence coming to light and a prosecution of the other suspects.
Neil Lawrence, Stephen’s father, has said ‘the case isn’t closed for me’
‘This has unfortunately not happened and, over the last few years, I have had to come to terms with the reality that some of the killers of Stephen may never be brought to justice for what they did.
‘Stephen died 27 years ago in a senseless murder by racists. The tragedy of this for us was compounded by the initial police response and investigation which were tainted by racism and incompetence. The police failures meant that we as a family had to fight a system as well as deal with the grief of losing our son.
‘With the announcement today that the investigation has become inactive, I am conscious that the case can never be closed for me. I will always live with the hope that someone might come forward with evidence which will allow us to achieve full justice for Stephen – by bringing about the prosecution of the others responsible for his murder.
‘I do not regret our fight for justice, although the burden has at times felt too heavy for a family to bear. In fact, I am immensely proud of everything that has been achieved along the way.
‘Without the campaign we wouldn’t have been where we are today. I particularly note the support I have received over the years from families who have suffered what I have, especially the family of Richard Adams, who provided me with support in my darkest hours.
‘This experience has compelled me to try and provide this support to others struck by the tragedy of losing a child.’
Over 27 agonising years: How the story unfolded
April 22, 1993: Stephen Lawrence is stabbed to death as he waits at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London.
May-June, 1993: Neil Acourt, Jamie Acourt, Gary Dobson, Luke Knight and David Norris are arrested in connection with his murder.
July 1993: Crown Prosecution Service formally discontinues the prosecution.
December 1993: Southwark coroner Sir Montague Levine halts an inquest into Mr Lawrence’s death after the family’s barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, says there is new evidence in the case.
April 1994: The CPS says the new evidence is insufficient to support murder charges.
September 1994: The Lawrence family begins a private prosecution against Neil Acourt, Mr Knight and Dobson.
December 1994: Secret video evidence is filmed showing Dobson and Norris making obscene racist remarks.
April 1996: The private prosecution against Neil Acourt, Mr Knight and Dobson begins at the Old Bailey but collapses after identification evidence is ruled inadmissible. The three are acquitted.
February 1997: An inquest jury finds that Stephen was ‘unlawfully killed by five white youths’. The Daily Mail runs a front page story with pictures of the suspects under the headline ‘Murderers’.
DECEMBER 1997: A Police Complaints Authority report on the original police investigation of Stephen’s murder identifies ‘significant weaknesses, omissions and lost opportunities’.
February 1999: The Macpherson Report finds the police guilty of mistakes and ‘institutional racism.’ It also suggested a rethink of the principle of ‘double jeopardy’ laws.
April 1999: The five arrested in 1993 deny involvement in a TV interview.
September 2002: Norris and Neil Acourt are jailed for 18 months for a racist attack on off-duty policeman Gareth Reid.
May 2004: The CPS announces there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute anyone for the murder.
April 2005: Double jeopardy is scrapped if there is new evidence.
May 2011: The Court of Appeal agrees that Dobson’s 1996 murder acquittal can be quashed.
From the Daily Mail, March 7, 2014
November 2011: The trial of Dobson and Norris for Stephen’s murder begins.
January 2012: Dobson and Norris are found guilty of murder at Old Bailey.
March 2013: A review by Mark Ellison QC finds that a Met ‘spy’ was working within the ‘Lawrence family camp’ during the course of the judicial inquiry into matters arising from his death.
March 2015: Then-home secretary Theresa May launches an inquiry into undercover policing following the report of the Ellison Inquiry.
October 2015: The National Crime Agency announces that the Met are being investigated for alleged corruption over their initial handling of the case.
April 2018: Scotland Yard admits it has no new lines of inquiry in the investigation into Stephen’s murder.
April 2019: Then-prime minister Theresa May marks the first Stephen Lawrence Day.
YESTERDAY: The Met announces that there are no further lines of inquiry in the murder probe.