Lawrence's father calls for inquiry into 'corrupt' police

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The Independent Online

Stephen Lawrence's father has demanded that the investigation of an allegedly corrupt detective involved in the hunt for his son's killers should include other officers in the botched initial murder inquiry.

John Davidson, a former detective sergeant accused of taking money to "look after" one of the five chief suspects in the racist stabbing 13 years ago, is already expected to be the subject of a full inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

But Neville Lawrence, whose son was murdered by a gang of white youths in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993, said he wanted any investigation by the Yard and the IPCC to include all officers whose conduct was criticised by the Macpherson report, which said the original inquiry was mired in "institutional racism" and "professional incompetence".

The report criticised five officers who refused to accept the killing of the 18-year-old student was racist, and said there had been a catalogue of errors by other officers.

Mr Lawrence said yesterday: "I have written to the IPCC asking that their investigation be not only into the conduct of DS Davidson but also all other officers who were criticised in the inquiry report for failures of conduct." Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother, who recently published a book on her son's murder, said: "I'm hoping the IPCC will prove that they are independent and ... investigate the corruption like it should have been done a long time ago.

"It's taken us all this time to actually get here and to the fact that we knew there was corruption all along but just couldn't prove it."

The concern of the Lawrence family was echoed by the Metropolitan Police Authority, which said it had "serious concerns" about the claims against Mr Davidson, made in a BBC1 documentary broadcast last night. Len Duvall, the MPA chairman, said: "This case is not closed and if new information comes to light the MPA's expectation is that the Metropolitan Police Service will carry out a full investigation."

The allegations are a blow to the Metropolitan Police, which remains sensitive to criticism arising from one of the most shameful episodes in its history.

The force produced figures yesterday showing there have been just 26 allegations of corruption or improperly disclosing information against officers since 2003. So far this year, there has been one allegation of corruption.

Mr Davidson, who retired from the force in 1998, is accused by a colleague of admitting that he received money from Clifford Norris, a well-known gangster and the father of David Norris, one of the suspects in the killing.

Neil Putnam, a former Yard detective constable who was himself convicted of corruption, told the BBC programme, The Boys Who Killed Stephen Lawrence, that Mr Davidson admitted to him that he was being paid to protect David Norris in the weeks after the killing.

Mr Putnam also claimed that when he passed on this information to anti-corruption investigators it was never acted upon or passed on to the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into the killing. The claim is denied by the Yard, which said it has no record of Mr Putnam's claims.

The original investigation was heavily criticised by the Macpherson report for its failure to gather evidence quickly, act on numerous calls naming the suspects, or conduct proper searches of their homes.

Sir William Macpherson, who chaired the inquiry, declined yesterday to comment at length on the BBC allegations, saying only that they were "very interesting". But a member of the public inquiry panel said there had been suspicions that corruption hampered the original investigation. The five suspects - Jamie and Neil Acourt, David Norris, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson - were arrested but have never been convicted of an offence relating to the murder.

Dr Richard Stone said: "Sir William himself said at the time that there was a definite smell of corruption around this investigation."

Mr Davidson, described by a senior Yard officer in the documentary as "corrupt", yesterday continued to deny any wrongdoing.

Despite spending the last six months of his career on suspension during a corruption inquiry, Mr Davidson left the force with a full pension and set up a private investigation agency in south London in 2000.

He now owns and runs a bar and restaurant called El Contrabandista, or The Smuggler, in Menorca.

The Yard insisted last night that it found no evidence that Mr Davidson's corrupt activity had taken place within the Lawrence investigation.

It added: "Had we had such information, it would have been determinedly pursued."

The key figures

Clifford Norris, 45, father of a murder suspect, David Norris, was convicted in 1995 of smuggling 272kg of cannabis, worth £1.3m. He had jumped bail but was arrested in August 1994 and sentenced to nine-and-a-half years. Last year, he sold his £800,000 mock-Tudor mansion in Bickley, Kent, to pay back £400,000 made from drugs.

Sir William Macpherson, who chaired the inquiry, accused sections of the press of having a vendetta against him and his family, in 2001. This, he alleged, was due to the inquiry's finding that the police were "institutionally racist". The former SAS man and High Court judge has retired from public life and lives in a castle in Scotland.

Duwayne Brooks, who witnessed the stabbing of his friend Stephen Lawrence, received an apology and £100,000 damages this year from the Met Police. He said his account of the attack was dismissed by police who treated him as a suspect. He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and wrote a book, called Steve and Me.

David Norris, 29, has four children aged five to 11, and often visits his father. The murder charge brought against him by the Lawrence family in a private prosecution was dropped before it reached court. Norris and Neil Acourt were jailed for 18 months, later reduced to 12, in September 2002 for a racist attack on an off-duty black detective.

Gary Dobson, 30, has a five-year-old son and lives in Eltham with his partner. He was acquitted of the Lawrence murder in the private prosecution after the judge ruled testimony from Mr Brooks inadmissible. In 1999 he swore "on his mother's life" that he was innocent of the Lawrence murder in a radio interview.

Neil Acourt, 30, was also acquitted in the failed 1996 private prosecution. He was captured on a police video in 1994 saying: "... every nigger should be chopped up and left with nothing but stumps." He was convicted in 2001 for possessing an offensive weapon and for arace attack on a policeman in 2002, along with David Norris.

Jamie Acourt, 29, who lives in a housing association house in Elmstead, south-east London, has one recent conviction, for theft in 1999 (with co-defendant David Norris). He has never stood trial for the murder. He attempted to remove himself from the area by asking to be re-housed in another borough, but social services did not agree.

Luke Knight, 31, maintains the lowest profile of the five, living with his mother in Bexleyheath but often meeting up with the Acourts. He was acquitted in the 1996 private prosecution. In the documentary he is shown in his front garden apparently riding a child's bicycle.

Owen Walker and Arifa Akbar