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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK


'We did not kill Stephen Lawrence'

Statement: Rejects allegations

The five "prime suspects" accused by supporters of the Stephen Lawrence campaign of the black teenager's murder have issued a statement denying they were responsible.

The text was made public at the end of a dramatic day at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, in London.

In the statement, the five men, Jamie and Neil Acourt, David Norris, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson, attacked the campaign surrounding the family of Stephen Lawrence.

It later brought counter-claims from the Lawrence family and their supporters.

[ image: Michael Mansfield QC: Led questioning of the five]
Michael Mansfield QC: Led questioning of the five
The poorly-spelt statement reads: "In 1993 we were all arrested for the murder of Steven (sic) Lawrence, which we all vehemently deny.

"We do sympathise with Mr and Mrs Lawrence and the tragic loss of their son.

"We understand their quest to discover what happened to their son and why no one has been convicted of his murder.

"We have no knowledge of this murder, we were not involved, we did not kill Steven (sic) Lawrence.

"It has been said that we have built a wall of silence around ourselves. "The truth is, that we have not publicly sought to argue this case through the media.

"Others have used the media - this case has been twisted and sensationalised.

"We have been powerless to have our side put across or our account given, without fear of our words being manipulated or distorted for the media's sensationalism.

"We have had to defend ourselves against the prosecution by the state, an investigation which continued for almost two years, including police surveylance (sic) and bugging our homes and subsequent private prosecution.

"Throughout all these proceedings there has never been a case against us which stands up to any form of scrutiny.

"The case was thrown out by a magistrate against two of us. At the Old Bailey, the family's private prosecution had to accept there was no case - they offered no evidence and three of us were found not guilty.

"Five years have now past (sic) and we are still being forced to prove our innocence, despite being acquitted.

"We continue to be portrayed as guilty men.

"Our lives have been changed forever - we will fight these accusations until we are satisfied that our names have been cleared.

"It is time for us to say `enough is enough - we are innocent'.

"We think it is time the public heard this from ourselves."

Five 'peddle lies'

[ image: Neville Lawrence: Five 'pedalled lies']
Neville Lawrence: Five 'pedalled lies'
The murdered teenager's father, Stephen Lawrence, later told more than 300 supporters that he condemned the statement by the men.

To a standing ovation from the supporters, he said: "Yet again I have had to sit here and listen to people peddle lies and there was nothing I could do.

"Then I had to sit here and watch these people walk away.

"They don't understand what we have been going through these past five years.

"I can understand mothers or fathers sympathising with me for the loss of a child, but not somebody who over the past years has been attacking black people and calling them names."

His wife, Doreen, was too upset by the day's proceedings to speak to the supporters.

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