Black couple condemn inquiry into son's murder: Marianne Macdonald reports on the meeting between a grieving family and Nelson Mandela

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STEPHEN LAWRENCE'S grieving family yesterday criticised the police investigation into their son's murder by a gang of white youths.

Speaking from a London hotel after meeting Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, Doreen Lawrence, 40, a trainee teacher, castigated the police for failing to make arrests.

She warned: 'They are patronising us and when they do that to me I get very angry. They're not dealing with illiterate blacks. We're educated. It's time they woke up to our people.'

The family met Mr Mandela privately. He expressed sympathy for the stabbing of their 18-year-old son two weeks ago by a gang of up to six youths in Eltham, south-east London. Mr Mandela told them: 'I know what it means to lose a child under such tragic circumstances. I'm deeply touched by the brutality of this murder. It's something we are all too used to in South Africa where black lives are cheap.'

Stephen Lawrence, who hoped to be an architect, was an A-level student at Blackheath Bluecoat school. He was murdered late at night while waiting for a bus home to nearby Plumstead. He is the third black teenager to be stabbed to death in the borough of Greenwich in just over two years.

His murder has strengthened concern over the rise in racial violence in the borough. The Greenwich Action Committee Against Racist Attacks said 27 cases of arson were carried out by whites against blacks last year in the area. There was also 297 cases of abuse, 83 assaults and 178 cases of rubbish put through letterboxes.

Mrs Lawrence said that the police had been given names and addresses of the suspected murderers. 'I'm sure they know who these people are and they haven't arrested them. They are walking, eating and drinking and my son is lying on some slab.'

The family is convinced concern would have been far greater had their son been white. The family is also angry to have received no condolences from the Government.

Scotland Yard denied police had failed to arrest the murderers. 'Our investigations are being carried out vigorously by dedicated officers. We are confident we will arrest and charge the people responsible.'

(Photograph omitted)