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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK


Violent clashes as suspects depart inquiry

Two of the five men leaving the inquiry

The five men leaving court this afternoon. Joshua Rozenberg reporting.
Protesters at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry have clashed with police in south London as the five men previously accused of the black teenager's murder left the hearings.

The angry scenes outside the inquiry came as the five men left.

The men have now issued a statement stenuously denying any involvement in the death of Stephen Lawrence.

The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti: 'Eggs were thrown at them as they came in.'
Earlier, the protestors shouted "murderer" at the five men as they arrived amid tightened security at the inquiry.

But during the morning hearings, there was no repeat of Monday's violence when the inquiry had been stormed by black militant activists, and police used CS spray to restore order.

One of the five white men once charged with, but never convicted of killing the black teenager, faced continued questioning.

'I can't remember'

The second day has been dominated by the witnesses' inability to remember facts.

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg reports on the details on today's questioning.
Michael Mansfield QC has been questioning the witnesses on behalf of the Lawrence family. At one point he asked David Norris about a meeting with his father, saying, to laughter from the public gallery:

"I want to ask you about your father Cliff, you are not going to say you can't remember, are you?"

But Mr Mansfield was reprimanded by the inquiry chairman Sir William Macpherson.

"Please don't, it is not helpful for getting to the truth," he said.

But Sir David himself has suggested that the witnesses may be being evasive. At one point he said: "We've heard what the witnesses have said. We and the members of the public will draw our own inferences."

At the beginning of the hearing, Mr Mansfield dramatically held up head of a claw hammer, the handle of which had been removed and replaced with a strap, which had been found in David Norris's bedroom.

Mr Mansfield asked Norris what this could be for but Norris replied only that he had never seen it or handled it, nor did he know what it was for.

Mr Mansfield asked Norris: "Are you going to persist in saying 'I don't remember where I was' whatever questions are put to you?"

To which Norris replied: "If I could remember I would say, but if I can't remember, I can't remember."

Hostile welcome

When they arrived at the inquiry building, at least two eggs and a bottle were thrown at the five suspects. The crowd of about 100 had gathered by 8.30 am (BST) and included a presence of a dozen members of the Nation of Islam.

They shouted "murderers" and "racists" as the men arrived.

The five strode up the ramp together into the inquiry building amid careful police protection.

Neil and Jamie Acourt, who were questioned yesterday, appear to have attended as a gesture of support for their three friends.

David Norris, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson will face questions about their possible roles in racist activities and the possession of offensive weapons.

The inquiry is principally looking into the behaviour of police in the case, after allegations by the black teenager's family that the investigation was hampered by ineptitude, racism and possible corruption within the force.

It has taken the family five years to get to the stage of an inquiry, and they have appealed for calm after Monday's scuffles, to allow the questioning to continue uninterrupted.

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