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Wednesday, September 2, 1998 Published at 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK


Lawrence five set for 'trial by media'

The five arriving at the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's killing

The five youths suspected of murdering black teenager Stephen Lawrence may try to clear their names in a television showdown with the BBC reporter who quizzed Princess Diana about her private life.

Publicist Max Clifford, who has been approached for advice by the five men implicated in the 1993 killing, confirmed a letter had been sent to them by Martin Bashir requesting an interview.

[ image: Martin Bashir: Came to prominence after interviewing Princess Diana]
Martin Bashir: Came to prominence after interviewing Princess Diana
The BBC has confirmed it is preparing a "serious investigation" into the stabbing at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, but insisted it would not be based on any set-piece chat.

Mr Bashir's interviews with Diana in 1995 and ex-nanny Louise Woodward earlier this year have made him one of the UK's foremost television journalists.

But Neil Acourt, 22, his brother Jamie, 21, Gary Dobson, 22, Luke Knight, 20, and David Norris, 21, refused to answer questions on Stephen's death at an inquest last February - and observers have raised serious doubts about the validity of questioning the five on television.

[ image: Stephen Lawrence: Stabbed at a London bus stop]
Stephen Lawrence: Stabbed at a London bus stop
After a series of stormy public appearances at the inquiry into Lawrence's death this summer, they have turned to Mr Clifford who believes "trial by media" may be the best way for them to win over public opinion.

He said: "I think if they want people to believe them, they've got to stand up and be counted. If you like, trial by media is the best chance they have of changing the public perception or not, depending on how they come across."

He added: "Martin Bashir has written to them and wants to meet up with them with a view to doing an interview. They asked me to represent them, which I declined.

"But I gave them advice that, if they want the public to change their perception of them, they should talk to the media."

Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight were cleared of murdering Lawrence, an A-level student, at an Old Bailey trial in 1996.

Charges against Jamie Acourt and David Norris never came to court.

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