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Thursday, June 11, 1998 Published at 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK


Lawrence mother calls police 'racist'

Mr and Mrs Lawrence have both been giving evidence

The mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence has accused the police handling the case of racism and negligence.

Doreen Lawrence told the inquiry into her son's death, that officers investigating his killing had treated her and her husband as "gullible simpletons".

She claimed they were "fobbed off" and patronised.

The BBC's Peter Hunt reports
Under cross examination by Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel for the Metropolitan Police, Doreen Lawrence, 45, said she felt it was her that was being put on trial.

To applause from the public gallery Mrs Lawrence said she had never been treated as a victim in her son's murder.

She said: "Am I on trial or something here? From the time of my son's murder I have not been treated as a victim."

Mr Gompertz then declined to ask further questions after being told by tribunal chairman, Sir William Macpherson, of Cluny, to use his "discretion".

Sir William said: "Your discretion should be exercised in favour of not asking further questions."

Earlier in a statement read out to the hearing Mrs Lawrence said the police had treated her and her husband as "gullible simpletons".

[ image: Stephen was killed over five years ago]
Stephen was killed over five years ago
She believed from the outset that racism permeated the murder investigation. It was as if black people were universally treated as criminals.

"Coming across a black family who have no criminal background is new to them, an alien concept. It was like you have to be a criminal if you are black."

She added that following the killing, there had been threatening letters, and the tyres of the family's car had been slashed.

But the police had dismissed these problems as simply the actions of "thugs", she said.

Mrs Lawrence said the police investigation had been so incompetently conducted that they had been obliged to carry out their own detective work as they prepared a private prosecution.

She went on to say that the family had spent £10,000 from a campaign fund on a forensic test, and when the private action was heard at the Old Bailey, the justice system had already been set against them.

Mrs Lawrence said: "What I want from this inquiry is to show the police's behaviour and their inaction".

She also paid tribute to her son, saying: "He was well loved and had he been given the chance to survive maybe he would have been the one to bridge the gap between black and white because he didn't distinguish between black and white."

Father's worst day

Later the inquiry heard again from Stephen's father, Neville Lawrence, who described how the day the murder trial collapsed was the worst of his life.

He recalled the shock on the faces of the jury when they were instructed by the judge to give not guilty verdicts.

"You could see disappointment, the anguish on everyone's face. There was no doubt in my mind that it was these people and I still do not doubt it."

Asked about the "mistakes" made during the murder investigation, Neville Lawrence said it was as if he himself had been stabbed.

To applause from the public gallery, he told the inquiry: "These mistakes have cost us extra. It has cost so much pain knowing that these people could have been behind bars for the murder of my son."

The inquiry continues with the five men who have at various times been charged, but not convicted of Stephen Lawrence's murder, due to give evidence on Monday, June 15th.

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