Lawrence death suspects seen washing off blood

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The Independent Online
POLICE investigating the murder of Stephen Lawrence were told that four suspects were seen washing blood off themselves on the night of the stabbing, Stephen's father told a public inquiry yesterday.

Neville Lawrence, 56, said his family heard about the incident from a woman who visited their home in Plumstead, south-east London, a few days later. "She said that there had been people in her house on the night of the murder who had washed blood off themselves," he said. "She gave the names of the Acourts, Norris and Knight."

Mr Lawrence said in a statement read out to the inquiry that he and his wife, Doreen, gave the information to their solicitor, who passed it to police. The inquiry has been told that no arrests were made for two weeks. Charges eventually laid against five men - Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight - were dropped before the trial.

In an echo of concerns expressed by his wife last week, Mr Lawrence said he felt that little effort was expended on the investigation. "It was clear to me from the outset that the police had no real interest in catching Stephen's murderers," he said. "For this reason we did not have much confidence in them."

He also criticised the failure of police to communicate with the family. Officers did not speak to them at the hospital on the night of Stephen's murder, he said, and what little information they did have - that he had been attacked in the street - was given to them by a neighbour. "Nobody actually told us what had happened to Stephen," Mr Lawrence said.

The inquiry is examining issues arising from the death of Stephen, who was stabbed at a bus stop in Eltham, a few miles from his home, in April 1993.

Mr Lawrence described a visit to Greenwich mortuary to see his son's body. "My feelings at that point were that I was looking at my son lying there and thinking, what butchers could have done something like this to a human being."

Like his wife, he voiced deep unhappiness with two police liaison officers assigned to the family. On one occasion, one of them, Constable Linda Holden, made a remark about woollen gloves and a hat that were found among his son's belongings. "It was clear that she was implying that Stephen was a cat burglar," he said.

"I felt that they were not sympathetic. The way they spoke to us made us feel as though they regarded us as a nuisance. I felt as though they resented us wanting to know what was happening with the investigation."

Mr Lawrence said that the family felt threatened after youths were seen hanging around outside their house after the murder. "We were very concerned about our children's safety. It was clear that not only were police not going to protect us, but they didn't believe that we were in any danger.

"We were beginning to feel that the killers of my son had more rights than we had. We heard that the killers were being protected."

The inquiry continues today.