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The family that lost everything but its dignity

Neville Lawrence listened intently, his eyes squeezed shut in concentration

Inside a crowded Court 16 at the Old Bailey, members of Stephen Lawrence's family listened as the prosecution detailed how the teenager died on the streets of London in an unprovoked racist killing.

It is a story they have heard before and, no doubt, gone over many times in private. Only this time his father, Neville, was not there to listen to the account. Before Mark Ellison QC detailed how a group of white men had attacked "as one", leaving Stephen with fatal stab wounds, Mr Lawrence left the courtroom and returned only once the account was over.

For 18 years, he and his ex-wife, Doreen, have been the human faces of a painful legal saga. The case, the court heard yesterday, has seen a private prosecution brought by the family stopped after evidence was found to be unreliable. They then endured an inquest and a public inquiry that was critical of the original police investigation.

They were back again yesterday, sitting quietly at the rear of the court on four chairs reserved for them. Mr and Mrs Lawrence, who divorced in 1999, sat with their own solicitors – Mrs Lawrence regularly speaking with hers.

The grey-haired Mr Lawrence listened intently, sometimes with his eyes squeezed shut in concentration. Stephen's younger brother, Stuart, sat next to his mother, occasionally taking down notes on a small notepad.

To their left, just a few yards away and up three steps to the dock, sat the two men accused of killing the 18-year-old. At one point as the prosecution outlined its case, Mrs Lawrence looked long and hard across to where Gary Dobson and David Norris sat. Then she turned back again and continued to listen.