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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK


UK

Scuffles suspend Lawrence inquiry

Police form a barrier across the foyer of the inquiry building

The inquiry into the killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence was temporarily suspended on Monday morning after action by members of the Nation of Islam.

Questioning of the five men who were charged but not convicted of the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, had begun.


BBC Correspondent Peter Hunt reports the scene of the disruption
But members of the black supremacist group confronted policemen, shouting "You are stopping the public from coming into the inquiry. You are disrespecting black people."

Jamie Acourt, one of the five who was being questioned on the stand at the time was rushed out of the chamber by police.

One man, apparently not connected with the Nation of Islam, was bundled over as he attempted to confront Mr Acourt.

The dead teenager's mother, Doreen Lawrence, took the inquiry microphone and pleaded for calm "for the safety of everybody" and to allow the witness to continue to be questioned.


[ image: Stephen: Killed at bus stop]
Stephen: Killed at bus stop
Police had mounted a strong presence at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, as five men known as the principal suspects in the murder the black teenager face the first of a possible two days of questioning.

For the first time there were three uniformed policemen, wearing knife-proof vests and carrying CS spray, handcuffs and collapsible batons, inside the private room at the inquiry building.

As they entered the building there were shouts of "murderers" and "racist scum" from the crowd, but there was no trouble.

Inside the chamber, which was almost full to its 250 capacity, there was strong support for the Lawrence family. About 20 stewards from the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign sat between the witness stand and the public gallery which contained 30 of Nation of Islam members.

The stewards were wearing t-shirts with a picture of the dead teenager on the front and the words "Murdered by racists, killers on the loose" underneath.


BBC correspondent Peter Hunt: it will be a tense and volatile situation
The main bone of contention at a brief preliminary hearing was whether the barrister representing the Lawrence family, Michael Mansfield QC, would be allowed to question the five about previous violent attacks in the same area of south London.

Inquiry chairman, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny has ruled that it is unrealistic to refer to the five men as anything other than "the suspects", but on Monday morning he repeated his decision that he would rule "on the hoof" on the admissibility of individual questions from Mr Mansfield.


Gary Dobson's solicitor Michael Holmes: "My client has been under a lot of strain."
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.

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.



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18 Jun 98 | UK
Five must appear at Lawrence inquiry

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

Metropolitan Police: racial incidents

The Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign


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