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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 18:56 GMT


'Good must come from terrible evil'

Mr Straw and the Lawrences study the vandalised plaque

The parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence have been joined by Home Secretary Jack Straw at the defaced London memorial to their son.

Neville and Doreen Lawrence inspected the damage with Mr Straw, who said "words almost fail me".

"It's proof if any were needed we have to drive out racism from the minds of people in this country.

"You must not despair. One of the wonderful things about the Lawrence family is they have never despaired.

"We have to make sure good comes from the most terrible evil."

Earlier, Mrs Lawrence said the police had not learned from their mistakes after news that the camera guarding the granite stone near where Stephen was stabbed in 1993 was not loaded with film.

The vandalism happened after the damning report into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the murder investigation was published, though the appendices have been withdrawn.

Stephen's parents Neville and Doreen are now seeking compensation from the police.

Flowers untouched

The vandals daubed the memorial, a symbol of the Lawrence family's fight for justice, with white paint.

Mrs Lawrence's solicitor, Imran Khan, said she was "shocked and outraged" at the attack.

But on hearing that the culprits were not captured on film she told him: "The police are compounding and not learning from mistakes they made in the past."

Mr Khan said: "She cannot believe the police allowed this to happen."

The camera was put in place after previous attacks, but it appeared to have been replaced with a dummy, Mr Khan added.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Parkes, of Scotland Yard's racial and violence task force, said: "Unfortunately, a decision was made to take this camera out and deploy it elsewhere.

"We cannot anticipate every eventuality."

Referring to the vandalism he said: "Only sick and racist people would do something like this in London."

A spokesman said earlier: "I think the sensible thing to do would be to review what happened and see if any lessons can be learned from it."

He confirmed that secret cameras had been used to help catch vandals at the site on previous occasions.

Police cordoned off the memorial as dozens of officers carried out door-to-door inquiries in Well Hall Road. The bus stop where Stephen was stabbed, 100 yards along the street, was also daubed in paint, as was a nearby bridge

[ image: Stephen Lawrence: His killers remain free]
Stephen Lawrence: His killers remain free
Home Secretary Jack Straw said: "I am appalled by this dreadful act of vandalism to Stephen's memorial stone.

"I know that the prime minister shares my anger."

The Mirror newspaper has put £10,000 on offer for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

Earlier the compensation bid was revealed by Mr Khan.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I will be writing to the commissioner asking him to give compensation to the family for the way in which they have been treated during the course of this incompetent and grossly negligent murder investigation.

"If they do not respond satisfactorily I am prepared to give them seven days and after that we will then take the matter to court.

"It has got nothing to do with money, but the family are entitled to do that. It's a option that is available and I strongly advise them to do it.

"We had always considered that and awaited the outcome of this report to see how far this report went.

"It has gone a long way and it clearly indicates that there was gross negligence and incompetence fuelled by racism and I think the family are entitled to take action."

The Metropolitan Police said that any claim would be "very carefully considered".

[ image:  ]
The long-awaited Macpherson report, announced by Mr Straw on Wednesday, said the police investigation was "marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers".

But on Thursday the Home Office announced it was withdrawing the appendices to the report because they contained information that "should have been kept in confidence".

"We are urgently assessing the implications of this," it said.

Earlier, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon warned Stephen's killers that his force remains on their trail.

Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight he said: "The despicable racist thugs who killed Stephen - if they're watching ... they should feel hunted."

Meanwhile, the Mirror has offered a reward of £50,000 for information leading to the imprisonment of Stephen's killers. Nobody has been convicted of the murder.

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