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Lawrence Suspects' Interview: Met will view tape for any new leads

THE PRODUCERS of Tonight had promised rigorous questioning that would elicit new lines of inquiry, but the Lawrence family and their supporters criticised the programme for giving the five suspects a platform outside the courts to air their views.

Although Martin Bashir was praised by some Lawrence supporters for his direct handling of the five's racist views, his questioning, they said, fell short of what could have been elicited by a trained lawyer.

A friend of the family, Ros Howells, said: "I am even more saddened now that the private prosecution did not take place. The lawyers would have been more skilled in their questioning. Martin Bashir did very well to put himself on the line by confronting their racism, but he's no lawyer. I think the five were trying to appeal to the public for sympathy, portraying themselves as confused young men, but they are still certainly racist young men."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The Race and Violent Crimes Task Force watched this evening's programme with interest. Any new leads will be followed up."

Michael Mansfield QC, the Lawrence family's barrister, said: "The Lawrences themselves are concerned that such a programme should be broadcast to give a platform to people who have never taken the opportunity before. So in that sense, it is a travesty for them to be given the opportunity.

"However, there are lines of inquiry which we would like pursued immediately."

Neville Lawrence had seen the programme before its public screening and said he did not watch the broadcast last night.

He said: "These people have been given more than one occasion to say to the public whether or not they were involved in this murder.

"They chose to take us to the High Court to make sure we couldn't ask the obvious questions. As far as I am concerned these people can go on air and say anything, and we can't verify whether they are telling the truth or not. I am very angry that the programme was done in the way it was done."

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said: "I'm not commenting on the programme itself. That's a matter for the programme company and the broadcasting authorities."