Police knew Lawrence murder witnesses were intimidated

SENIOR detectives investigating the murder of Stephen Lawrence knew that witnesses were being intimidated to keep them from talking to police, and believed that the criminal family of one of the prime suspects was responsible.

Detective Inspector Benjamin Bullock, second in command on the murder investigation, told the public inquiry into Stephen's death that he believed local teenagers had been threatened by associates of Clifford Norris, a notorious south-east London criminal and father of David Norris.

"It came to our notice on one occasion that there were some people going around, warning off people in general on the estate," he said. "I believe they were connected with the Norris father, but I have no direct evidence of it."

David Norris was one of five white youths later charged with stabbing Stephen to death at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in a racially motivated attack in April 1993. None of them was ever convicted.

Det Insp Bullock, who is due to retire next year, claimed witnesses were also deterred from opening up to police because of the media's "undue emphasis on the racist nature of the attack".

"Witnesses were under enormous pressure from the media and the hype of racist attack," he said. "It seemed to be the one thing reported, it seemed to take the headlines all the time, just the racist part."

Det Insp Bullock said that one of a number of regrets that he harboured about the conduct of the murder investigation was his failure to seek the help of Scotland Yard's Witness Protection Scheme. Most of the witnesses, he said, were "people of 17, 16 years old who were obviously frightened and didn't want to get involved".

The inquiry was told that Det Insp Bullock was given a damning professional appraisal by Detective Superintendent Bill Mellish, the senior officer who took over the Lawrence investigation in July 1994.

Det Super Mellish told a Police Complaints Authority team last year that he found a "dispirited and negative team" working "in a dreadful environment".

He would have expected a good team leader to have tried to "rally morale, be tenacious in the quest for evidence and motivate a tired workforce", he said. "In the event, I found quite the opposite. I cannot recall one innovative or positive strategy emanating from DI Bullock."

Questioned by Edmund Lawson, QC, counsel for the inquiry, Det Insp Bullock agreed that there had been "an unreasonable delay" in acting on an early tip about the killers' identity. But he denied that he had shown "little or no interest" in "important and specific" information volunteered by a man who came into the police station less than 24 hours after the killing.

"There was interest, but at the time I was up to my eyeballs in other things," he said. "By the time I was free, he had left the station. If I have any regret, it is that I didn't see that man."

The inquiry continues today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Advisor

£19500 - £21500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading children's chariti...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor