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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK


UK

Lawrence suspects face inquiry

The men cannot be asked if they are guilty of murder

Five men, known as the principal suspects in the murder of Stephen Lawrence, are to give evidence at the public inquiry into his death.


BBC correspondent Peter Hunt: it will be a tense and volatile situation
All five have at various times been charged with the murder, but no one has ever been convicted.

The High Court has ruled that they cannot be asked if they are guilty of killing Stephen Lawrence.

But the inquiry chairman has also agreed they must not be allowed to use their appearance as a platform to maintain their innocence.


[ image: Stephen: Killed at bus stop]
Stephen: Killed at bus stop
This is the first time the five men will have spoken in public about a murder that has become the most notorious racial killing in the country.

Three of the men - Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson - were acquitted at the Old Bailey in 1996, on the direction of the judge.

The case against Jamie Acourt and David Norris never came to trial.

All of them refused to answer questions at an inquest into the death last year, exercising their common law right to remain silent.

'Fairness must prevail'


Gary Dobson's solicitor Michael Holmes: "My client has been under a lot of strain."
The scope of the questioning will be controlled by the inquiry chairman Sir William McPherson.

He has said that "fairness must prevail, whatever one thinks of these men".

His task will be to balance the men's rights in law with the Lawrence family's desire to hear the fullest account from them - an exercise he has described as potentially "skating on the thinnest of ice".

Last year the Daily Mail claimed the five men were responsible for the killing, after all five refused to answer questions at the inquest.

Killers 'live locally'

Stephen Lawrence was killed five years ago near a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London.

At the public inquiry in Elephant and Castle, south London, lawyers for the teenager's family have said they believe some of his killers lived locally, in the maze of streets known as the Brook Estate.

They say the men spent the hours after the murder moving between each other's houses.

Racist language

Monday's appearance at the inquiry marks the first time the five men will have spoken about the case in public.

Their lawyers say one of the questions they do not want to be asked is whether they are racist.

A police surveillance video, produced four years ago, shows four of the men playing with knives and using violently racist language.

Their lawyers have argued that any questions about their racial views would be an attempt to rub their noses in it - and that the inquiry panel should be able to draw its own conclusions from this tape.





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18 Jun 98 | UK
Five must appear at Lawrence inquiry

17 Jun 98 | UK
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18 Jun 98 | UK
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12 Jun 98 | UK
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Internet Links

Metropolitan Police: racial incidents

The Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign


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