Lawrence suspects named within days, inquiry told

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A SENIOR detective who investigated the murder of Stephen Lawrence admitted yesterday that officers had sufficient information about the prime suspects to arrest them within 48 hours.

The public inquiry into Stephen's death has already heard that no arrests were made for more than a fortnight. Yesterday it was told that the five white youths eventually charged were named by nine different sources in the first two days after the murder, in telephone calls and letters to police.

Edmund Lawson, QC, counsel to the inquiry, suggested to Detective Inspector Philip Jeynes, the first senior investigating officer at the scene, that the tips - from anonymous and named sources - amounted to "more than enough information" on which to make arrests. "Yes, sir," Det Insp Jeynes agreed.

The informants named Neil and Jamie Acourt, Luke Knight, Gary Dobson and David Norris as responsible for stabbing Stephen near a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993. The case against them was dropped before it reached court and a private prosecution against them also failed.

One source told police that the Acourt brothers had also been involved in an attack on a white youth a month earlier.

Mr Lawson cast doubt on an assertion by Det Insp Jeynes that a thorough house-to-house search was carried out on the night of the murder in Dickson Road, along which eye-witnesses saw Stephen's assailants flee.

He said that Kent officers, who reviewed the conduct of the Lawrence investigation for the Police Complaints Authority last year, returned to Dickson Road but could find only one house visited by officers in 1993. "It seems odd, doesn't it?" Mr Lawson asked Det Insp Jeynes. "Yes sir," he replied.

Det Insp Jeynes said he failed to discover during his three hours at the scene that two police officers had taken a detailed description of one suspect from Duwayne Brooks, a close friend of Stephen who was with him when he was stabbed.

Cross-examined by Michael Mansfield QC, counsel for the Lawrence family, he said it did not occur to him until much later that night that the murder might have been racially motivated.

The inquiry continues on 20 April.