David Norris lived in the shadow of crime

 

David Norris looked pale and gaunt as he repeatedly protested his innocence during the Old Bailey trial.

At the time of his arrest for murder in September 2010, he had been reduced to storing his belongings in a van while living in a bedsit.

The 35-year-old's lifestyle was a far cry from the gated home where he lived with his family when Mr Lawrence was killed in 1993.

Smartly dressed throughout the trial, Norris had to use a hearing device to be able to listen to evidence.

He told the jury in a strong south east London accent that he was "ashamed" of a shocking racist tirade that was secretly recorded by police in 1994, in which he said he would torture and kill black people.

Jurors rejected his repeated claims of innocence, when he told the court he was "no angel" but not a killer.

His mother Theresa Norris was also accused of inventing an alibi for him when she gave evidence.

At the time of his arrest in 2010, Norris no longer spoke to his father Clifford, a former south London drug baron, and was trying to make ends meet with a business selling scrap.

He was no longer living with his partner or five children and was struggling to overcome the notoriety he had acquired since the killing 17 years before.

Norris at first told officers he was a man called Smith when he was held after a cold case team uncovered new fibre and hair evidence on clothing seized from his house.

At a subsequent bail hearing his barrister pointed out that despite knowing he remained a prime suspect in the investigation, he had never fled the country for a new life.

Stephen Batten QC said: "David Norris has sat it out for so long knowing that this moment might come and knowing that there were a lot of people who wanted it to come. He could, of course, have emigrated, gone to live in a Costa in Spain, but he hasn't."

Mr Batten described how Norris had lived in the shadow of major publicity, campaigns and an inquiry about the case.

"Throughout it all, David Norris sat it out in south east London with his family," he said.

There had been claims by the Lawrence family legal team that Norris's father knew officers involved in the investigation and that he used his influence to protect the suspects and sent thugs to silence informants.

Detective Inspector Benjamin Bullock told the public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr Lawrence's death that people he believed were connected to Clifford Norris were going around warning witnesses off in the early days of the investigation.

David Norris had previously been linked to two other stabbings, one where he was acquitted and the other where the charges were dropped.

The month before Mr Lawrence died, Norris was accused of stabbing Stacey Benefield in the chest in Eltham High Street.

Mr Benefield survived the attack and claimed he was offered £2,000 by someone believed to be Clifford Norris to withdraw support for the charges against his son. David Norris was later acquitted by a jury.

He had previously been accused of another knife attack on Darren Witham in 1992, but the charges were dropped the following year.

More recently, Norris and his friend Neil Acourt were jailed for 18 months in 2002 over a racist attack on an off-duty black police officer.

Norris threw a drink and shouted "n*****", while Acourt drove the car they were in at Detective Constable Gareth Reid.

PA

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