Stephen Lawrence friend accepts libel damages over book

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The best friend of Stephen Lawrence has accepted a five-figure payout in damages over a suggestion that he exaggerated the closeness of his relationship with the murdered teenager and that he was hostile to white people.

Elvin Osei Oduro, a graphic designer, brought libel proceedings in the High Court over a book called Steve and Me written by another friend of Stephen Lawrence, Duwayne Brooks, and the Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone.

Mr Oduro's counsel, Lucy Moorman, told Mr Justice Gray yesterday her client had known Stephen since they were seven and they went to school together. He believed he and Stephen were best friends and Mr Oduro, 27, was made a trustee of the charitable trust set up by Stephen's parents after his death in April 1993.

Ms Moorman said that the book, published in April this year by the defendant, Time Life Entertainment Group, referred to Mr Oduro in terms that might suggest he had exaggerated the closeness of their relationship, that he was never Stephen's real friend and that Stephen felt he could not rely on him.

In the book the authors wrote: "Stephen and his best friend Duwayne Brooks. We were close friends, the closest. But it was never just the two of us. We had a big social circle. There was a group of us. We had a big social circle."

Three pages later the book adds: "There was a kid called Elvin, who was always trying to get in with us." And then on page 24: "Elvin was tagging along with Steve."

Mr Oduro was also upset by a suggestion in the book that he was hostile to white people. A later passage describes a conversation between Mr Oduro and Mr Brooks outside the Old Bailey at the trial of three defendants accused of Stephen Lawrence's murder.

"He [Mr Oduro] was ranting: 'How could you say that about me? How could you say I was going out with white girls? You're making me look stupid. I never spoke to white girls. I'd never go out with a white girl'."

Louis Charalambous, Mr Oduro's solicitor at the London law firm CCL, said his client denied making the comments and said suggestions in the book that he might be hostile to white people were "utter rubbish".

Mr Charalambous said after the High Court approved a settlement: "The book made a number of damaging references about Mr Oduro and others. When my client was alerted to these references shortly before publication we wrote to the publishers to put them on notice to change the references. They refused to do so and published. He was prepared to sue and is delighted with the outcome because he got everything he set out for: an apology from the publishers, damages, his costs and, most important of all, his reputation restored."

Isobel Griffiths, solicitor for the publisher, said in court that her client wanted to apologise for any distress caused to Mr Oduro and the publisher was also "happy to accept" Mr Oduro "remained close friends with Stephen Lawrence up until Stephen's death".