Lawrence inquiry chief visits site of killing

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The Independent Online
THE MAN heading a new inquiry into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence paid an emotional visit to the site of the attack in Eltham, south east London, yesterday.

Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, a retired High Court judge, said his visit was a bid to encourage witnesses to come forward, and was also "in memory of Stephen".

"It is right that this inquiry is into his death and it seemed to me right to come here and remind people of the terrible events of five years ago," Sir William said.

He spent several minutes looking at a memorial stone in the pavement at the spot where Stephen died, which was defaced last week.

The bus stop will always bear the scars of the shocking race murder. Stephen, a bright 18-year-old student, was killed as he waited for a bus in April 1993. No one has been convicted of the crime despite a criminal trial and a private prosecution.

Sir William has already appealed for more witnesses to come forward and give evidence to the inquiry, which gets under way on Monday at the Elephant and Castle, south London.

He admitted yesterday that no one had responded to his appeal but he said he still hoped that the inquiry, announced by the Home Secretary Jack Straw last July, would help solve some of the questions surrounding the case.

"I hope it will lance the boil and help the Lawrences come to terms with the dreadful events of five years ago," he said.

"New prosecutions are unlikely, as everyone who knows about this case must realise, but it's impossible to forecast what will come out of this inquiry."

Five men were arrested in connection with the murder but charges against two were dropped in September 1995. The trial of the remaining three collapsed at the Old Bailey the following year.

An inquest last year decided that Stephen was unlawfully killed in an unprovoked racist attack by five white youths.

Sir William, who has visited the spot once before, added that another reason for yesterday's visit was to "mark our disgust at the vandalism that was perpetrated". "It was an unspeakable act," he said.