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Thursday, April 9, 1998 Published at 06:19 GMT 07:19 UK


Lawrence suspects 'could have been arrested within days'
image: [ Stephen's parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence have fought for years to get justice over their son's death ]
Stephen's parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence have fought for years to get justice over their son's death

A retired senior police officer has told the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that there was enough evidence to make an arrest within 48 hours of his death.

The black teenager died after being stabbed in a racist attack at Eltham in south London in 1993.

Philip Jeynes, a former Detective Inspector, told the public inquiry into the teenager's murder that police had received a string of phone calls from members of the public naming a group of five local white youths as the culprits.

[ image: Stephen's killers remain at large]
Stephen's killers remain at large
An anonymous note found in a phone box also pointed to the group's involvement.

One man even came personally to Eltham police station in south London to tell police they should investigate the group.

Edmund Lawson QC, acting for the inquiry, asked him whether there had been enough information to arrest some of the individuals.

Mr Jeynes replied: "That would have been enough. I would have thought so."

However arrests in the case were not made for two weeks.

Five men have at various times been charged with Stephen's murder but no one has ever been convicted.

Mr Jeynes was also accused by Michael Mansfield QC, representing the Lawrence family, of failing to ask a string of "basic questions" on the night of Stephen's death.

[ image: Flowers are laid at the bus stop in Eltham where Stephen was stabbed to death]
Flowers are laid at the bus stop in Eltham where Stephen was stabbed to death
Key among these was his failure to ascertain on arriving at the murder scene that a police constable had already interviewed Stephen's friend, Duwayne Brooks, who provided the first description of any of the attackers.

Other failures, according to Mr Mansfield, included the lack of both house-to-house inquiries on the night of the murder and a mobile search of the area in case the suspects were still out on the streets.

But Mr Jeynes, who retired from the Metropolitan force last October, denied not carrying out his job properly.

He said: "I thought that what I did at the time was right and that I was doing my best.

"I can't do any more than that. I can't think of everything."


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