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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 01:35 GMT


Newspaper 'welcomes' Lawrence action

Violence as the five suspects leave the public inquiry last year

The five men named by the Daily Mail as the murderers of Stephen Lawrence are said to have an alibi for the night the teenager died, and would be willing to sue the newspaper.

The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti: The women say they have received death threats
The claims were made by the mothers of Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Mail said it stood by its allegations and would "welcome" a court case.

Special Report: Stephen Lawrence
The black teenager was killed in south-east London in 1993 in what police described as a racially motivated incident.

Pam Knight says the five are now prepared to mount a libel action against the paper, adding: "If they got a fair hearing, and their safety was guaranteed, yes, we would all do it tomorrow.

Pam Knight: "Enough is enough." Hear John Humphrys' interview with the mothers
"Our sons have been tried, convicted and condemned by the media."

They said that they had been put off a libel action by the prospect of a legal bill of up to £500,000.

The women say their sons' lives have been ruined, and that no lawyers want to take on the case because of the publicity, and because any jury would be prejudiced.

"We know where our sons were that night," said one of the mothers.

"I would stake my life on it. They have got nothing to do with the murder of Stephen Lawrence."

[ image: Stephen Lawrence: Mothers of main suspects deny they carried out the murder]
Stephen Lawrence: Mothers of main suspects deny they carried out the murder
No one has been convicted of murdering Stephen, who was stabbed in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993. Three of the suspects were cleared of a murder charge at the Old Bailey in 1996.

The Mail issued a statement on Friday standing by its naming of the five as murderers.

It said: "We believe, if it had not been for our actions, there would never have been an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent denial of justice to his family.

"We would welcome the opportunity to establish the truth in a court of law about this terrible crime and why Stephen's killers are still free."

[ image: Saturday's Daily Mail pledges to
Saturday's Daily Mail pledges to "stand firm" on their claims
Saturday's edition carries a front-page comment repeating the challenge it issued when first naming the men in 1997: "Sue us if you are innocent."

The mothers also defended their sons over a police video that showed extreme racist language and behaviour.

One said: "They were hitting back after 18 months of persecution. They were 17 years old. A lot of young boys that age say silly things and that is all it was."

The mothers also spoke about their sympathy for Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother.

One said: "I feel for her being a mother myself. It's the most terrible thing to lose a child. But our sons are innocent. They can't keep persecuting our sons for something they haven't done."

[ image: Protesters outside the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's death]
Protesters outside the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's death
It was widely assumed that none of the suspects could be prosecuted again in relation to Stephen's death because of the collapse of previous proceedings.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has started studying the long-awaited report by Sir William Macpherson into the police investigation of the murder.

A Home Office spokesman has said the home secretary will make a statement to the House of Commons and publish it shortly.

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