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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Lawrence suspects bailed
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in 1993
Four people being quizzed by police on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in the Stephen Lawrence murder case have been released on police bail.

Detectives investigating the murder of the black teenager arrested two men and a woman, all in their 40s, in south-east London on Thursday.

A second woman in her 40s was arrested later in the day - also on suspicion of perverting the course of justice - but all four were bailed to return in October.

Arrests for the murder itself are not thought to be imminent but the investigation has not been scaled down, according to the Metropolitan Police.

Stephen, 18, was stabbed to death in April 1993 by a gang of white youths as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London.

Sir John Stevens
Sir John Stevens: Knows who did it
The police have been heavily criticised for their handling of the investigation.

The first three people to be arrested on Thursday were arrested early in the morning and taken to various police stations for questioning.

Police have refused to say whether any of the four are relatives of previous suspects in the case.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "This is one further step as part of a lengthy, ongoing investigation. This investigation remains vibrant.

"Officers from the team have been to interview anyone who may have information relating to the murder or the events surrounding it."

Double jeopardy

The Metropolitan Police was accused of "institutional racism" in a report into its investigation.

Five men were initially arrested but proceedings against two of them were discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service.

An inquest into Stephen's death ended in February 1997, with the jury deciding the teenager had been "unlawfully killed in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths".

Duwayne Brooks
Duwayne Brooks: Evidence ruled inadmissible
Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, then took up a private prosecution against all five but the case against two of them was dropped at the committal stage.

Three men - Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight - went on trial at the Old Bailey but were formally acquitted in April 1996.

The judge ruled that identification evidence from Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen's, was inadmissible.

The decision appeared to end the Lawrence family's quest for justice.

But the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens hinted earlier this year that there was likely to be a development in the case.

And he said he knew exactly who had killed the 18-year-old.

The case has led to the government announcing plans to scrap the double jeopardy rule in murder cases.

Under current rules defendants cannot face trial again for murder even if they confess or police discover new evidence.

Under the new system senior judges would be able to order a retrial where compelling new evidence had emerged.

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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The initial police investigation was condemned at a public inquiry"
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