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The BBC's Stephen Cape
"Detectives remain cautious about the latest discovery"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Lawrence police 'incompetence' condemned

Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack
A friend of teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was with him when he was murdered, has condemned the original police investigation after the discovery of a knife and metal bar.

Duwayne Brooks said detectives had not looked for the bar properly because they did not trust his account of the attack.


I don't believe that they looked for a bar at all, as they had unfounded reservations about my account

Duwayne Brooks
Police are carrying out forensic tests on the knife and the bar, which on Tuesday were found buried in a garden near to where Stephen was stabbed to death.

Neil and Jamie Acourt, both previous suspects in the murder investigation, used to live at the house, in Eltham, south east London.

Police recovered the items following a tip-off from the new occupants, and sent the weapons for forensic examination.

Stephen was killed at a bus stop in a racist attack by a gang of white youths in April 1993.

In his original statement to police, Mr Brooks said he saw one of the gang strike Stephen on the head with a metal bar.

'Incompetence'

He said on Wednesday: "I don't believe that they looked for a bar at all, as they had unfounded reservations about my account.

Stephen Lawrence memorial
The weapons were found close to the murder scene
"Seven years later a bar is found with a knife in one of the suspects' properties. This shows how incompetent the Met investigation teams were at that time."

His solicitor Jane Deighton added: "The two previous searches must have been wholly incompetent."

Police now hope the new finds will provide clues as to who carried out the attack.

Michael Holmes, solicitor for Gary Dobson, who was acquitted of Stephen's murder, said: "One wonders why the police did not discover the weapons years ago. I feel very sorry for the Lawrences, who now face another period of uncertainty."

A lecturer in forensic science at Strathclyde University, Dr Adrian Linacre, said any fingerprints were likely to have disappeared but there could be other ways of getting a DNA profile, such as human hair.

Police chief's pledge

The dimensions of the knife were consistent with injuries found on Stephen's body.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the blade was about the same size as a red-handled knife shown recently by officers investigating the case on the BBC Crimewatch UK programme.

Stephen Lawrence murder
April 1993 Stephen stabbed to death
July 1993 Charges against Jamie Acourt and David Norris dropped
April 1996 Private prosecution against Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight collapses
1998 Inquiry into the murder
February 1999 Sir William Macpherson makes 70 recommendations to end institutionalised racism
DNA tests are already being carried out on a yellow lined jacket and a knife found in Eltham soon after the murder.

Last month, three men were arrested in connection with the murder. They were later released on police bail.

Deputy assistant commissioner John Grieve, director of the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, said: "We know there are people out there who know exactly what's happened to Stephen Lawrence and can give important evidence.

"We know we're going to get justice for Stephen.

"What happened has preyed on their consciences for seven years.

"Now is the time to come and speak to us. Tell us what you know. It could just prove to be the final piece of the puzzle."

Officers sued

No-one has been convicted for Stephen's murder but five men have at various times been arrested.

Stephen's parents are still pressing ahead with a compensation claim against the police officers involved in the bungled murder investigation.

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon is among 42 officers who are being sued. The others range from the rank of constable to superintendent.

The police handling of Stephen's death was the subject of a long-running inquiry.

A report of the inquiry's findings, published in February 1999, found racism played its part in the investigation.

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See also:

03 Feb 00 | UK
New hope in Lawrence case
25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
The Lawrence inquiry
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