TUC: Lawrence killers will never be brought to justice, says father

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The Independent Online
THE KILLERS of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence are not likely to be jailed for the crime, his father Neville told the conference.

In a deeply emotional speech that left many delegates in tears, Mr Lawrence thanked the TUC for its support throughout his family's campaign for justice in the face of indifference from police, the courts and even the government of the time.

Mr Lawrence, who broke down at the beginning of his address, confessed that he was not optimistic that the killers would be convicted for the murder of Stephen, aged 18, at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993.

"I don't think anybody is going to be prosecuted or serve time for the death of my son. That's the worst thing I have ever faced, to know that these people are going to get away with it in a country like this. It pains me," he said. Mr Lawrence was determined to ensure that his son's memory lived on in an educational trust set up recently in his name, a cause that gained further support when the TUC president, John Edmonds, presented him with a pounds 1,000 cheque.

Mr Lawrence described his anger after the murder, and the way police treated his family, "like animals", and said local trade unionists were the first to support his fight for truth.

Mr Lawrence said that even with the strong help of the unions, it took the intervention of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to get the campaign the attention it deserved.

He said that his family's campaign was a "worthwhile fight" for all Britain's children, not just black children, and he would not be "fobbed off" by anyone. He said all parents "had to stop your breath" every time their child walked out the door. Even now, five years on, "I still think my son is coming through that door".

Stephen was stabbed by a gang of white youths in Eltham, but police said there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution. A private prosecution brought by his parents collapsed two years ago.

A new inquiry was conducted earlier this year to explore allegations that police racism contributed to delays in the murder investigation and failure to secure a prosecution. The inquiry, which was chaired by Sir William Macpherson and took 10,000 pages of evidence, with 88 witnesses, will reconvene for final legal submissions later this month.

In an earlier address to the congress yesteday, Cheryl Carolus, high commissioner of South Africa, offered her government's continuing support for the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign, but warned that governments of all nations faced an increasing tide of racism unless they tackled the poverty and lack of opportunity that often gave rise to it.

Ms Carolus said: "The murder of Stephen Lawrence cannot go unchallenged. We know that racism is alive and well in Britain, that racism and xenophobia is alive and well in the world today, including still in South Africa. We can stop it."

She praised the bravery of Mr Lawrence and his wife Doreen, and said it was clear that every time they had to speak about the case they felt the death of their son yet another time.

"I want to salute them for their bravery, which sometimes is completely unrecognised." Ms Carolus also praised the clear direction given by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, that such racist murders were totally unacceptable and that every effort would be made to find the perpetrators.

But the TUC's race relations committee chairman, Bob Purkiss, warned the conference that the trade union movement should not rest on its laurels.

"I am proud of what unions do. We have taken a lead and we have taken a stand. But I have to say to you - it's not enough. We still haven't got the black union officers to reflect the membership.

"Many black trade unionists are now saying that trade union action has reached a plateau. That unions are not willing to take the next steps and that trade unions are still male, stale and pale" he said.