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Three deny student's murder

Three young men pleaded not guilty yesterday to the murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence at the start of a private prosecution brought by his parents.

Neil Acourt, 20; Luke Knight, 18, and Gary Dobson, 20, all of Eltham in south-east London, appeared at the Old Bailey charged with murdering the A-level student, who was stabbed to death on 22 April 1993. The trial is expected to start later this week.

Neither Mr Lawrence's father Neville, 52, a builder, nor his wife, Doreen, would comment as they arrived at court. It is believed to be only the fourth private prosecution for murder in 130 years.

Mr and Mrs Lawrence brought a private case against the men after initial proceedings against two people were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in 1993.

The Stephen Lawrence Campaign is raising legal funds and the case will be headed by Michael Mansfield QC.