Police chief says he knows who killed Lawrence

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The head of the Metropolitan Police insisted yesterday that he knew who killed the black student Stephen Lawrence and said he still hoped to bring the murderers to justice.

Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Met, said his officers were still working hard to find new evidence, including scientific material, with which to prosecute the suspects.

The 18-year-old was stabbed to death by a gang of white racists at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London in April 1993.

Five suspects, Neil and Jamie Acourt, Luke Knight, Gary Dobson and David Norris were arrested by police and charged with Stephen's murder.

Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight were formally acquitted when a private prosecution for murder failed and cases against the other suspects were dropped.

During a telephone phone-in with Sir John on BBC Radio Five Live the police chief was asked if he knew who killed Stephen. He replied: "Yes."

He added: "We will proceed with investigations and see what we can do with that. We certainly haven't given up on the investigation."

He agreed that most people who had read reports about the case in the media would be aware who was the focus of the investigations.

Later when challenged about the prospects of a successful conviction he replied that there are now many cases coming before juries which due to advances in forensics and other techniques could not have been considered in previous years.

"We'll never give up while we think we have evidence that will take people before the courts.

"We're still on the case and will still be on the case while there's hope that we can convict these people," he said.

During yesterday's radio programme, Duwayne Brooks, the 18-year-old friend of Stephen who witnessed the stabbing, asked the Commissioner why police were still investigating the killing.

Mr Brooks, who is suing the Metropolitan Police for negligence over his treatment, said it was a "waste of taxpayers' money" because no one would ever be charged. Sir John replied: "John Grieve, who is heading up the investigation, would not pursue these avenues of inquiry unless he thought they were going to get a result.

"We owe it to you and to the Lawrence family."

Mr Brooks said: "We know it's impossible for these guys to face trial."

The Government is considering whether to scrap double jeopardy – the rule that prevents defendants being tried twice for the same crime – in serious cases such as murder.