Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

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

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

18 Jun 98 | UK
Five must appear at Lawrence inquiry

17 Jun 98 | UK
Police inefficiency mars Lawrence murder probe

18 Jun 98 | UK
Five fight Lawrence witness orders

17 Jun 98 | UK
Police apologise to Lawrence family

12 Jun 98 | UK
Lawrence five to challenge order

12 Jun 98 | UK
Lawrence suspects seek to avoid inquiry

10 Jun 98 | UK
Lawrence appeal win

Internet Links

Metropolitan Police: racial incidents

The Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online