Lawrence trial runs into the new year

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The Independent Online

The jury in the Stephen Lawrence trial will deliver its verdicts in the new year on two men accused of murdering the black teenager.

On their first full day of deliberations yesterday, the eight men and four women failed to reach verdicts on Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, who are accused of being part of a racist gang which chased and surrounded the 18-year-old student before inflicting two fatal knife blows. Both men deny murder.

The case hinges on new forensic evidence, including a tiny spot of blood, clothing fibres and hairs from Stephen Lawrence, that the prosecution says was found on the suspects' clothing.

The defendants claim that the evidence got there as a result of contamination caused by poor practices by police in the aftermath of the killing, on 22 April 1993, in Eltham, south-east London.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Treacy, yesterday allowed the jury to look again at surveillance footage secretly recorded by police at Mr Dobson's flat in December 1994, some 20 months after the killing. The footage showed the two men making violent racist threats.

Mr Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, were both in court yesterday, while the family and supporters of the two defendants sat in the public gallery overlooking the court.

Mr Justice Treacy wished the jury a happy New Year before instructing them to return on Tuesday to continue their deliberations.

The trial has been the only case sitting at the Old Bailey during the Christmas period.