Lawrence family to sue white youths over death

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The Independent Online
The grieving family of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence yesterday announced they were planning civil action against white youths suspected of his brutal stabbing.

Speaking on behalf of the family, their solicitor, Imran Khan, appealed for witnesses to come forward to help assist the action for damages after an inquest into his death decided he was unlawfully killed.

"We are strongly considering taking further legal action against those individuals we think may have been responsible in some way and we hope during these proceedings no one can possibly claim privilege."

The family has also decided to lodge a formal complaint against the conduct of the police officers who investigated the murder scene. They maintain the police failed to carry out a thorough search based on an anonymous tip-off they received, and did not use the criminal intelligence available to them to track down the suspects before vital evidence was lost.

Outside Southwark coroners' court, south London, a prepared statement by Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence, 44, was read out.

"There were times this week when I was not sure whether I was in a court room listening to evidence of how my son was killed or at a circus watching a performance. It became a mockery of trying to get to the truth," she said.

"What was coming across for me was that none of the officers saw fit to go round to known suspects' homes even to eliminate them from the inquiry.

"Right from the start on the night our son was murdered, it seemed that in the minds of the police he was only a black boy, so why bother. No one can convince me otherwise."

She added: "There are two questions I would like the police to answer: Are all the officers trained in basic first aid or was it because they just did not want to get their hands dirty with a black man's blood?"

Mrs Lawrence broke down in tears on hearing the verdict of unlawful killing, after the jury agreed Stephen had died from an unprovoked attack by five white youths.

On directing the jury, the Southwark coroner, Sir Montague Levine, said it would be perverse to give any other verdict. "This was an horrific crime and totally unprovoked in which a group of cowardly young men attacked an unsuspecting youth, which resulted in him bleeding to death", he said.

Five white youths were accused of murdering the promising A-level student as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993, but the charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution. A private prosecution by Mrs Lawrence also failed.

The Metropolitan Police said they had done all they could to find Lawrence's killers.

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