Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Lawrence suspect `in race stabbing'

THE YOUNGER brother of David Norris, one of the five suspects in the Stephen Lawrence murder case, pulled a knife on an Asian motorist and "sliced" his face, a court was told yesterday.

Gatri Hassan told Woolwich Crown Court that Clifford Norris, 20, assaulted him when he stopped to remonstrate over a motoring incident last November. He rejected a suggestion by defence lawyers that the person he described to police as his assailant was in fact David Norris, one of the men suspected of killing the black student Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.

The jury heard that Clifford Norris - whose father, also called Clifford, is serving a prison sentence - told police after his arrest that he was with his girlfriend on the evening of the alleged attack. Mr Norris, of Chislehurst, Kent, whose mother, Theresa, was in court yesterday, denies unlawful wounding and possession of an offensive weapon,

Mr Hassan, a mechanic, said he had been driving along Downham Way, south- east London, at about 9pm on 30 November after dropping off his wife's family in Eltham. A blue Peugeot 106 sped up behind him, overtook him on the wrong side of the road and slammed on the brakes. A little further along the road, the same thing happened.

With the two cars alongside each other, the driver - whom he later identified as Clifford Norris - "banged on his window in an angry fashion, with a clenched fist", Mr Hassan said. "He was saying something I couldn't hear. He seemed to be very irate."

He pursued Mr Norris, stopped and got out of his car. "He got out of his car and came up to me very fast, shouting and swearing, saying `come on, do you want some?'" Mr Hassan said. "At that point I noticed he had a fairly big knife in his right hand, with a blade at least six inches long. Seeing the knife put me in a state of shock. I just wanted to back away and go. I said `look, just leave it'."

Mr Norris continued swearing and punched him in the right eye, he said. "After the first blow, I lost vision, then I felt another blow. I felt my eyebrow slice open. I didn't see what caused it, but I felt blood on my face." Three young men who were standing near by pulled Mr Norris off him, he said.

David Nathan, for the defence, told Mr Hassan that he had described his assailant as fair, while Clifford Norris had black hair. He showed him press cuttings from the Stephen Lawrence case, including photographs of David Norris, who he pointed out was fairer than his brother.

Mr Hassan acknowledged that he had heard of David Norris and the Lawrence inquiry. "Plainly you know something about that case?" asked Mr Nathan. "Yes," replied Mr Hassan. "For many right- minded people, particularly living in this area, it is a matter of concern and interest, no doubt including you?" asked Mr Nathan. "Of course," replied Mr Hassan.

Mr Nathan told him: "The blond-haired man you were describing was not this defendant. You were describing his brother. You were angry, your vision was blurred, you identified the wrong man."

Mr Norris, who was arrested after Mr Hassan memorised the registration plate of the Peugeot, told police that he had been with his girlfriend in nearby Mottingham all evening, talking and watching television. However, he refused to give her name and told them: "I don't know nothing about the assault." He claimed that only he and his girlfriend ever drove the Peugeot.

Mr Hassan said he was "100 per cent" certain he had identified the right man, but agreed that he could not be sure whether a knife had been used.

The court heard that Mr Hassan told police that he saw Clifford Norris pushing a white van in the area a few days after the alleged incident. Some days later, David Norris was arrested for driving that van without insurance.

The case continues today.