Pursue the other killers, judge demands

As pair convicted of murdering Stephen Lawrence are sentenced, pressure for more arrests grows
  • @peachey_paul

An Old Bailey judge piled pressure on the police to atone for their first bungled inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence by demanding they bring more of his killers to justice.

Sentencing two of the murderers yesterday, Mr Justice Treacy urged police not to shut down the murder inquiry and told them to be alert to the possibilities of new scientific advances. He also urged those "who have been silent so far" to come forward after 19 years.

"The convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris will not, I hope, close the file on this murder," the judge said. "On the evidence before the court, there are still three or four killers of Stephen Lawrence at large."

Members of the Lawrence family will meet senior officers in the coming weeks to discuss whether the 23-strong investigation team remains together or is to be run down after two members of the violent racist gang were jailed.

Dobson, 36, who is currently serving a jail term for drug dealing, was sent to prison for a minimum of 15 years and two months. Norris, 35, was jailed for a minimum of 14 years and three months.

The family and police were not warned in advance about the judge's intervention and police and prosecutors say there are no live lines of inquiry. Prospects of further convictions are considered highly unlikely. Doreen Lawrence even spoke of moving on and "taking control" of her life again after nearly two decades of campaigning.

Two of the men named as main suspects in the years after the murder – Neil Acourt and Luke Knight – were acquitted during a private prosecution brought by the family in 1996. Any new prosecution against them would rely on "new and compelling" evidence being brought to light before Appeal Court judges could consider letting them be tried again for the same crime. Another suspect, Jamie Acourt, has never stood trial for the murder.

Acquittals have only been overturned seven times since the 800-year-old rule of "double jeopardy" for certain crimes was scrapped in 2005, including once for Dobson after the discovery of forensic evidence including a spot of blood on his jacket, that linked him to the killing. The evidence against the two men jailed at Her Majesty's Pleasure yesterday took years to amass and sources close to the case suggest the chance of anyone else being convicted was "non-existent" because of the unlikelihood of any new scientific breakthrough. A confession by anyone linked to the closely knit gang is also considered unlikely as disaffected members have never come forward in the estimated £30m investigation. Gary Dobson, seen as the weak link, has been secretly approached several times to try to persuade him to speak out against the other members. He always refused.

But police said last night that they were looking into new information received since the trial began. A Met spokesman said: "We have received a number of calls in light of the verdicts. This information will be evaluated."

The head of Scotland Yard, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said yesterday that "the other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easily" and that the case was being reviewed.

Officers will try to visit both men in the coming weeks to see if they will give further clues as to who was there on the night and who delivered the fatal blow.

Outside court, Stephen Lawrence's father, Neville, called on the two men to turn in others. He told a crowd of 200 people: "One of my greatest hopes is that these people now realise they have been found out, and are going to go and lie down in their beds and think that they were the whole ones who were responsible for the death of my son. And they are going to give up the rest of the people so I come here in a year's time and talk to you people again."