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Friday, July 17, 1998 Published at 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK


The inquiry so far - key moments

Chaotic scenes broke out as the five original suspects leave the Lawrence inquiry

Nearly a year after the latest inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence was announced, the prospect of bringing his killers to justice seems as remote as ever.

But as the first stage of the hearing draws to a close, Stephen's defiant parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, can take some comfort in knowing it has not all been a waste of time.

Eighty-eight witnesses have appeared during the 55 days of evidence. The key moments were as followed:

  • March 24: Edmund Lawson QC, the government-appointed counsel to the inquiry, delivers a blistering critique of police conduct during the Lawrence investigation, calling it "seriously flawed".

    [ image: One of the original suspects, David Norris, gives evidence]
    One of the original suspects, David Norris, gives evidence

  • March 30: In a statement to the inquiry, Neville Lawrence says a visitor to the family home told him four suspects were seen washing blood off themselves on the night of the attack. The information was passed to police, but no arrests were made for two weeks.

  • April 20: Outside the inquiry, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Condon, attacks the "confrontational" approach of the inquiry. He says it is turning into a show trial of his officers and so far "had not assisted the search for truth".

  • May 8: Counsel for the Lawrence family, Michael Mansfield QC, claims the investigation was hindered by links between a police officer and a notorious south London criminal, whose son was a suspect.

    [ image: Det Supt Brian Weeden did not understand basic tenet of criminal law]
    Det Supt Brian Weeden did not understand basic tenet of criminal law

  • May 13: A senior detective, Det Supt Ian Crampton, who led the investigation for the first three days said he should have arrested five suspects earlier than he did.

  • May 14: The five "prime suspects" in the case, who were arrested but never convicted over the murder, move to avoid appearing at the hearing. Lawyers for the men tell the inquiry chairman, Sir William Macpherson, they want a judicial review of his decision to summon them.

  • May 15: Neville Lawrence collapses shortly after hearing graphic evidence from Duwayne Brooks, Stephen's friend who was with him on the night of the stabbing. Mr Brooks says: "Racist thugs killed Steve and shattered my life."

    [ image: Apology: Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston]
    Apology: Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston

  • May 27: Det Supt Brian Weeden, who assumed control of the investigation from Mr Crampton, admits he had not understood a basic tenet of criminal law - that he could make early arrests of suspects on the basis of "reasonable grounds for belief".

  • June 8: Sir William dismisses an internal police review of the investigation, which concluded it to be satisfactory, as "indefensible". He interrupts the giving of evidence by the a former top police officer, who led the review, saying he is an unreliable witness with little credibility.

  • June 11: Neville and Doreen Lawrence give evidence in person. Mrs Lawrence interrupts questioning by a police lawyer, asking: "Am I on trial?"

  • June 12: The High Court grants the five original suspects leave to apply for judicial review.

    [ image: Councel for the Lawrences, Michael Mansfield QC]
    Councel for the Lawrences, Michael Mansfield QC

  • June 17: Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Ian Johnston, tells Mr Lawrence he is "truly sorry" for letting him down over the police investigation. He accepts the internal review of proceedings had been totally discredited and says that while he understands and can explain some of what went wrong "I cannot and do not seek to justify it".

  • June 18: The five original suspects have their judicial review application dismissed. But Lord Justice Simon Brown says they must not be asked whether they killed Stephen Lawrence.

  • June 29: Chaos breaks out on as the five men arrive to give evidence. Police use batons and CS gas to prevent a group of black militants disrupting the inquiry.

  • June 30: The men are pelted with bottles, cans and stones as they leave the inquiry. They release a joint statement claiming they were not involved in the murder.

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