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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 03/98: Lawrence  
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Friday, 13 March, 1998, 18:17 GMT
What happened on Stephen Lawrence's last night alive ?
Scotland Yard exterior
The police investigation of Stephen Lawrence's murder was criticised by the Police Complaints Authority
When Stephen Lawrence left home for an evening out on April 22, 1993 he had no idea he was heading for a fatal appointment with five white youths.

Nor could he have known the social and political consequences of his murder and the bungled police investigation into it.

The 18-year-old, who was studying for A levels in English, physics and design and had ambitions of becoming an architect, was stabbed when he and a friend, Dwayne Brooks, came across a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London.

His friend managed to escape unhurt, but Stephen was fatally wounded and managed to stagger 250 yards before collapsing on the pavement. He died in hospital later that night.

Fourth racial murder in two years

The incident heightened racial tension in London -- he was the fourth black or Asian youth murdered in two years -- and at his funeral many of the 700 mourners demanded the closure of the British National Party's headquarters in nearby Welling.

Mr Brooks, now 23, said he had met Stephen after school and went to see a girl in Lewisham but could not find her.

He went on: "Then we went to Stephen's uncle's house and were playing Super Nintendo, eating and chatting.

"We left about 9.50pm and went to Eltham. I said we shouldn't have gone that way: there are too many white gangs."

He said as they waited for a bus in Well Hall Road five boys walked towards them from Eltham railway station.

Gang shouted racial abuse

"They ran across the road shouting `What nigger ?'," recalls Mr Brooks.

He said one of the youths hit Stephen on the head with what looked like a rounders bat and then the others attacked him, but he cannot remember seeing a knife.

Mr Brooks said the boys ran away laughing and he said when he looked at Stephen he was bleeding through his clothes and was saying: "Look at me !"

Stephen had been stabbed in the neck with a 10-inch knife and was bleeding to death from an arterial wound.

The pair ran from the scene until Stephen collapsed.

Evidence was "contaminated"

Mr Brooks claimed when the police arrived one officer threatened to handcuff him because he was "getting hysterical".

He said another officer later asked him if he or Stephen had a criminal record and then said: "Are you sure they called you niggers ?"

Mr Brooks gave evidence at the Old Bailey trial in April 1996 but the judge decided his eyewitness account had been "contaminated and flawed" and he ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdict on the three defendants.

Detective Sergeant Chris Crowley told the judge Mr Brooks had admitted to him he had not seen the attackers' faces and although he picked them out in an identity parade he had already heard the names of the suspects through the grapevine.

The police inquiry team were criticised for failing to conduct immediate house-to-house investigations in the street along which Stephen's killers fled.

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