Lawrence Suspects' Interview: `I never used knives and I've never been violent'

Interview Transcript
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The Independent Online
The programme shown last night interspersed individual interviews with the five suspects with footage from police surveillance cameras and the violent scenes filmed outside last year's inquiry into the police handling of Stephen Lawrence's murder.

THE INTERVIEWER, Martin Bashir asked Neil Acourt what the public thought of him and his fellow suspects. "We're seen in the public eye as murderers, big time gangsters, killers, we're looked upon as scum," Acourt said. Gary Dobson, said that the five were regarded as "loveable rogues" on the estate where they lived.

He said: "We were five young lads on an estate. We had a reputation, not as fighters or violent people but every council estate across the length of Britain has got little bastards who break windows and who play knock down ginger. We have never pretended to be angels. We have never pretended to be anything else but ourselves."

Luke Knight said "I've never said I was an angel but I never used knives and I never stabbed no one." David Norris admitted he had had behavioural problems at school, but said he had never been violent. "Martin I've a bit of a short temper but I've never been violent. But boys do things that they shouldn't do."

Neil Acourt said: "If someone put trouble my way I would not stand for it, simple as that. If someone attacked me with a weapon and there was a weapon I would pick it up and defend my life."

Jamie Acourt, asked about a previous fight at his school, said: "I fighted him, just me and him. I can't remember what it was about. I never used a cosh. I had the cosh in my hand." Asked about threatening a woman on his estate, he said: "I would like to see the records. No I never. These are the things that have been twisted to make me look like the bad guy."

Asked where he was the night of Stephen Lawrence's' murder, he said: "I was at home. No I didn't go anywhere that night. I think it might have been the next day."

His brother Neil said: "I didn't hear about the murder till the next day. I had heard there was stabbing on the night. Someone knocked on the door who was was passing through the area and said there had been a killing, no, a stabbing."

Martin Bashir said "I've spoken to your brother, he said he'd heard the next day"

"That's down to him, I can't remember for him I'm not saying he's lying. If he can't remember anything that's down to him." Gary Dobson said: "He knocked at the door and said there'd been a boy killed down at Well Hall. Maybe we're not 100 per cent sure. One of us ain't lying." Asked if this discrepancy seemed suspicious Neil Acourt said "Anybody can have any view they want. We're not trying to change a single mind. We just want people to hear us fairly

David Norris said: "I don't remember that day whatsoever. If someone said to me what were you doing two weeks ago on Wednesday, I would not be able to tell you." He said he could remember nothing from two weeks before or after the murder. But he went on to say that on the night of the killing: "I was most likely at home or at my girlfriend's house."

Asked why his memory seemed to be returning, Norris added: "I have been racking my brains since the inquiry because I knew I was going to be coming on telly and I wanted to say something. I have been thinking and thinking. The person who more than likely knew where I was was my mum." He said his mother had told him that he had most probably been at his girlfriend's house. "If I can't remember, does that mean I'm guilty?" he added.

Asked if he carried a knife, Jamie Acourt said: "I got asked this in the inquiry. I have carried a couple of knives on occasions. I don't know why.

"At the time a lot of young boys did carry stuff. I got prosecuted for it." Asked why he carried the knife, he replied "for protection I suppose". Asked if he would have used the knife, he said "yes".

Neil Acourt said: "I did carry a knife.For no reason, not to attack anyone I couldn't tell you why. You just do stupid things that kids do, carving your name in wood, chucking it into floors just stupid things that kids do." Asked again if he carried knives before Stephen's death, he said: "I may have from time to time."

Norris said "My mother wouldn't have let me hang around with people if they were carrying knives."

In the autumn of 1994, police put a hidden camera in Dobson's flat. Asked about the footage of Neil Acourt shown playing with a knife in the flat, and stabbing a chair, Knight said: "I don't believe he was stabbing someone, he was stabbing the chair. I knew he was mucking around." Explaining his actions Neil Acourt was asked: are you fascinated by knives? "No not all." Have you a thing about knives? "No." Knight, asked about Neil Acourt's stabbing of the furniture, said: "He was just mucking about." Neil Acourt said "All teenagers go through that phase. You can call it what you like. It's just mucking. It was just messing about."

On 2 December 1994 the youths were filmed getting ready to go out for the night. In the police film, Neil Acourt is head to say: "Lets all get shivved up" Luke Knight said "It means carrying a knife." Bashir then said to Neil Acourt: "You admitted you carried a knife before Stephen Lawrence's death." Neil Acourt replied: "No. If you look at the knives in the video you'll see nothing similar to the knife I carried when I was 16. As things got serious in my life as a threat I carried a bigger knife."

The surveillance footage also showed the youths using offensive and violent racist language. Asked about the videotaped evidence of his racism, Gary Dobson offered an apology saying: "I don't find it funny now. If black people are offended by my words and actions on that video, yes, I apologise."

Luke Knight: "It's embarrassing to watch yourself say things like that but I believe black people ruined my life at the time." Neil Acourt said, in the police footage, that: "every nigger should be chopped up and left with nothing but fucking stumps". Asked what the public would think of what his brother had been recorded as saying, Jamie Acourt said: "Its obvious. They're gonna think `he's an animal' but it ain't like that." Neil Acourt agreed that his racist remarks looked "completely stupid" and he added: "I'm embarrassed by it. It does not look good at all."

In the police film David Norris said: "If I was going to kill myself I'd go and kill every Paki. I'd go down Catford with a sub-machine gun. I'd blow their arms and legs off." Last night Norris said: "Its the sign of a depressed young man."

Bashir said: "Its the sign of a psychotic racist. If you were going to kill yourself you'd kill every black person, you'd kill me. Am I what you'd call a Paki David? "Some people might call you that."

"Would you?"

"No, Martin"

Finally the five suspects were asked if they had killed Stephen Lawrence.

Neil Acourt said: "In your eyes, in the public eyes, the way its been turned around. But it doesn't ring like that to me. Its not like that at all" Luke Knight said: "I am completely innocent. There is no evidence to say I was there." Gary Dobson said: "No I did not"

Bashir told David Norris that his memory loss was a fiction designed to disguise his guilt. Norris said: "That's your opinion and your entitled to your opinion Martin. That's fair enough. As long as I know in my heart, that's good enough"

Jamie Acourt was asked "Who's to say you weren't carrying a knife on 22 April 1993?"

He replied, "Me."

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