Stephen Lawrence friend's tearful testimony


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The Independent Online

Stephen Lawrence's best friend wept in court today as he described the black teenager's heartbreaking final moments.

The Lawrence family remained composed as Duwayne Brooks gave an emotional account of how the confused and fatally wounded Mr Lawrence asked him what had happened.

Sobs could be heard coming from the public gallery as Mr Brooks broke down during his testimony.

The 37-year-old, who gave evidence at the Old Bailey despite his father dying last night, said: "He jumps up and for a second I was relieved that nothing had happened and we ran up the road and we were running, and he kept asking me to tell him what was wrong because he can't run properly. Blood was streaming out around his neck and through his jacket."

The pair, who had known each other since they were 11, were set upon by a gang of white attackers in Eltham, south east London in April 1993.

Mr Brooks told the court that he saw Mr Lawrence being attacked with a weapon that looked "shiny".

He said: "I don't know if you could call him the leader, but the guy who had the weapon, ran straight into him and, wham, just like that."

He raised his right arm to show the jury a striking motion.

He went on: "When I was being chased he had like a metal bar in his hand, and when I ran back he hit Stephen with the bar. He was getting up and he hit him which made him go back down."

Prosecutor Mark Ellison QC asked: "Did you see whereabouts?"

Mr Brooks answered: "It looked like he hit him in his head."

Mr Brooks sobbed as he looked at a picture of the scene and described his best friend's dying word to him.

He told a hushed courtroom: "He said one more time 'Duwayne' and his voice was funny and he fell at that tree."

Mr Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville, sat silently at the back of the court listening intently to the evidence.

Their son Stuart sat between them and appeared to wipe away a tear with his hand.

The defendants made notes in the dock. Norris was wearing a hearing loop.

Mr Brooks, wearing a blue shirt and tie, told the court violence broke out after the attackers had hurled racist abuse at him and his friend.

"These guys have come across the road and one of them said, 'what what nigger'."

Mr Brooks said he felt "threatened" and warned Mr Lawrence to run.

Asked to describe the group, he said: "At the time all I could say was they were all white, they were about the same age and they were all wearing jeans."

He said the person who shouted the racist remark at him had worn a grey bomber jacket with white strips on either side.

Mr Brooks said he had suffered post traumatic stress disorder after seeing his friend killed.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both of south London, deny murdering Mr Lawrence.

In cross-examination, Mr Brooks said he had remembered extra details of the attack months afterwards.

He said: "I made a statement some months after when I began to remember other parts of the incident which for some reason I couldn't remember because it was too distressing, it was too scary to remember and it was very upsetting."

In his original statement made to police on the night of the murder, Mr Brooks had not mentioned the man with the bar, but he was included in a later account, the court heard.

The court was read a statement from Conor Taaffe who prayed over Mr Lawrence as his life ebbed away.

He said: "I was holding his head and back and prayed over him in a whisper and said things like 'bless him Lord Jesus'."

Mr Taaffe was on his way home from a church meeting with his wife Louise, and saw Mr Lawrence and Mr Brooks running along the road.

"I noticed Stephen was bending forward from his middle while running. He was holding his upper chest with one of his hands," the statement read.

The couple continued walking in the opposite direction but then heard Mr Lawrence collapse, and saw him lying face down on the pavement.

At first Mr Taaffe believed it was a "ploy" or practical joke and went on: "I had to fight my instinct to see if he was all right."

When the pair heard a car screech to a halt near the prone teenager they realised something was wrong and went to help, the jury was told.

In her statement, also read to the jury, Mrs Taaffe described Mr Brooks as "very hysterical and virtually screaming rather than talking".

She said she put her hand on Stephen's jacket and said comforting words to him as he fought to stay alive.

The court was also read a statement from James Geddis, an off-duty police officer based at Plumstead, made in March 2000, in which he claimed that Mr Brooks said he "didn't want the f***ing police".

He said: "He appeared very agitated and he was swearing, he was actually shouting. I decided because of his behaviour not to disclose I was a police officer."

When a patrol car arrived, he told the court Mr Brooks said: "We don't need the f***ing police, why are they here?"

The next live witness was the then Pc Linda Bethel, one of the first officers on the scene who, along with Mr Geddis, traced the trail of spots of blood Mr Lawrence had left along the road.

In cross examination by Timothy Roberts QC, for Dobson, she said that night Mr Brooks was unable to describe any of the attackers, and had said that he had not seen his friend being assaulted.

The court heard Mr Lawrence showed no signs of life. Attempts to resuscitate him by the ambulance crew and doctors at a local hospital failed.

Pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd said Mr Lawrence bled to death after arteries were severed by stab wounds to the right and left shoulder.

He said the fact that Mr Lawrence ran 220 yards before collapsing was consistent with the injuries.