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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 23:51 GMT
Learning lessons of Lawrence case
Two young men await sentencing for murdering black student Anthony Walker in a case which drew comparisons with the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence. But the outcome was different and the police have been praised.

Anthony Walker
Within hours of Anthony's murder, police said it was racially motivated

Ever since the death of Anthony Walker in July, inevitable comparisons with the murder of Stephen Lawrence were made by the media and by the mothers of both victims.

Both men were 18-year-old black students killed in unprovoked racist attacks while waiting with friends at bus stops.

Stephen was stabbed to death by a gang in Eltham, south east London, in April 1993. Anthony was killed with an ice axe in Huyton, Merseyside, 12 years later.

Both were ambitious and hoping to do well at their studies - Stephen wanted to become an architect and Anthony a lawyer.

The day after son's death, Anthony's mother Gee said: "This is on a level with the Stephen Lawrence case.

Racist motive

"My son was killed purely because of the colour of his skin. We cannot change our colour."

Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence, was incensed by Anthony's killing and went to Merseyside to offer her support.

The police's determination and efficiency in their investigation was there to see
Gee Walker
Anthony's mother

She said: "How many young people have to die before society sees and makes changes?

"I am hoping that Anthony's killers will be brought to justice because I think he deserved that and his family deserve that."

Within months Anthony's killers have been convicted. Cousins Michael Barton, 17, and 20-year-old Paul Taylor await sentencing.

The Walker family have nothing but praise for Merseyside Police and Mrs Walker said: "The police's determination and efficiency in their investigation was there to see. We appreciated it.

"There are people waiting to go to court from something that happened 14 or 15 months ago, but here we are, four months later."

A-Level student Stephen Lawrence was stabbed when he and his friend Duwayne Brooks were attacked by a gang of white youths.

Soon afterwards, five men were arrested but nobody was ever charged.

A private prosecution against three of the men, Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and David Knight, brought by the Lawrence family began in April 1996. But it collasped within a week after the judged ruled eyewitness evidence was inadmissible.

'Dragging of heels'

The Metropolitan Police investigation which followed his death led to an inquiry which found the force was guilty of "institutional racism".

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was also attacked at a bus stop

It also found investigators had made a catalogue of errors.

Professor Chris Mullard is chairman of Focus Consultancy, which has worked extensively with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

He told the BBC News website in August that the reluctance of officers to accept that Stephen's murder was racially motivated led to "lots of missed opportunities" in the investigation.

"For four years, there was a dragging of heels and a reluctance that really affected the investigation.," he said.

"Early on, there were massive opportunities if the police had acted quickly and believed Stephen's parents."

Officers had concentrated their efforts on other areas as a result of this reluctance, he said.

Whilst that (Stephen Lawrence case) was at the back of my mind, it didn't affect how we directed this inquiry
Det Chief Sup Peter Currie
Merseyside Police

As a result, one of the key recommendations of the 1999 report by Sir William Macpherson on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry was that the definition of a racist incident should be "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

The contrast between the early stages of the police investigations into both murders could not be more marked, Mr Mullard says.

"In the case of Anthony Walker, police said, literally within hours, that the attack was racially motivated," he said.

The Macpherson Report has changed the way police forces deal with race hate crimes.

Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Currie led the investigation after Anthony Walker's killing.

He said shortly after Anthony's death one of the teenager's sisters expressed doubts about the police.

He asked her "what would give you faith in us?", and she replied 'If you catch whoever did it."

Faith in police

He explained: "After we charged Taylor and Barton, I went to the Walkers' house and the same sister happened to be there.

"I asked her 'Have you got faith in us now?' and she put her arms around me and said: 'Yes, I have'."

Mr Currie said he had been asked a number of times how the Stephen Lawrence case affected Merseyside Police's investigation.

"Whilst that was at the back of my mind, it didn't affect how we directed this inquiry.

"My intention from the outset in this inquiry, as in any inquiry, was to provide a quality service," he said.

"Whether the victim is black, white or any other colour, that is always our aim."

Mrs Walker said it was 13 years since Stephen was killed and "times have changed".

"The police made mistakes then, but they learned their lesson and they've not made the same mistake twice," she said.

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