Parents of Lawrence murder suspects hit back

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The Independent Online
THE PARENTS of the five white men suspected of murdering the black teenager Stephen Lawrence spoke out for the first time yesterday, attacking the "crucifixion by media" of their sons.

The outburst was provoked by an investigation into the men's backgrounds by the regional ITV company, London News Network (LNN).

The men's relatives said in a letter issued through their solicitor that the five were "completely innocent of any violent offence". The letter was sent to LNN yesterday in advance of the programme, The Lawrence Five, which is to be broadcast on Friday.

The five - Gary Dobson, Luke Knight, David Norris, Jamie Acourt and his brother, Neil - were charged with murdering Mr Lawrence, 18, who was stabbed to death at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993. None was convicted.

The men were named in tip-offs to police by 26 different local sources in the 48 hours after the murder.

Norris and the Acourt brothers were already suspected of involvement in other violent attacks in the area. When the five appeared at the public inquiry into the teenager's death last summer, they responded to questions from lawyers with monosyllabic answers.

The letter, from the parents of Dobson and Knight and the mothers of Norris and the Acourts, said: "We, the parents of these innocent young men, and children at the time, are sick of them being victimised for a political cause and crucified and tried by the media. Most people have prejudged this case because of the adverse publicity; we would ask that they look at this case with an open mind."

The LNN programme will include footage from a police surveillance camera planted in Dobson's flat. It shows the suspects brandishing knives and exchanging sadistic, racist abuse.

The letter said that the video was "a product of what happened to our sons".

The parents told LNN: "They are hitting back at 18 months of persecution, they are hitting back at society for condemning them.

"We would not justify your unfounded allegations by answering them all individually, but would like to stress our sons are completely innocent of any violent offence, including the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

"This case has turned into a gravy train, with everyone reaping rewards at the expense of our sons. As you are putting so many views forward, we hope our letter can be brought to the public's attention."

Norris' father, Clifford, a south London criminal alleged to have links with local police officers, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for drugs and firearms offences.

Sir William Mapherson of Cluny's report on the public inquiry into the case is due to be published later this month.

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