Officer failed to check on suspects

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The Independent Online
THE most senior police officer at the scene on the night that Stephen Lawrence was murdered said yesterday that he did not consult intelligence records for information about potential suspects although he believed that the attack might have been racially motivated.

Chief Superintendent Christ- opher Benn told the public inquiry into Stephen's death that he had taken up his post a fortnight earlier and was not aware of previous racist violence in the area.

Ch Supt Benn was on patrol with a police dog van when it was called to Eltham, south-east London, where Stephen had been attacked by a white gang at a bus stop. He said that although he had no operational responsibility in the investigation, he went to the scene in a supervisory role.

Cross-examined by Michael Mansfield QC, for the Lawrence family, he agreed that he did not find out Stephen's name while he was there, or that of his friend, Duwayne Brooks, an important eyewitness. Nor did he speak to Detective Constable Stephen Pye, the only detective present for the first hour, he said.

Ch Supt Benn said he was satisfied that a thorough search of the area had been carried out once he had established that officers had checked a local pub, a railway station and a Wimpey bar.

Earlier, DC Pye told the inquiry, which is chaired by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, that a house-to-house search that night was aimed at finding witnesses rather than suspects.

After he had given an account of his actions, Sir William interjected: "You achieved absolutely nothing that night." DC Pye replied: "Yes, we did. I was instrumental in arranging things that were happening."

Questioned by Jeffrey Yearwood, for the Commission for Racial Equality, DC Pye said that he had not known until he attended the inquiry that the term "coloured" was offensive to some black people.

The inquiry continues today.