Police bodyguard for Doreen Lawrence after racist threats

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The Independent Online

The mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence has been given a police bodyguard after being threatened by racist hate mail.

Doreen Lawrence said yesterday that she feared for her safety after she arrived with the police protection officer at an anti-racism conference held to mark the third anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence report.

Fears about her security were heightened after the organisers of the conference, the National Assembly Against Racism (Naar), received abusive hate mail linked to the event. Organisers suggested it named Mrs Lawrence – a claim denied by the police.

"It is a very difficult day for me due to the fact that I am bringing somebody here to protect my safety because of the racist hate mail that is being sent to this conference," she said. "There is added pressure thinking about myself and how safe I feel. Most of the time I don't feel safe."

Friends of Mrs Lawrence said last night she had been nervous about her personal safety and wary of strangers ever since her son was murdered at a bus stop in south London in April 1993. The family was targeted by racist hate mail when a major national campaign was launched to catch Stephen's killers.

Mrs Lawrence's friends believe concerns about her safety are linked to the disclosure earlier this month that a British National Party organiser, a half-Turkish Londoner called Lawrence Rostum, is a politics student at the University of Greenwich, where Mrs Lawrence works.

Students at the college have since mounted a campaign seeking Mr Rostum's removal from campus, where a third of students are from ethnic minorities. Her friends now fear that neo-Nazis are retaliating by targeting Mrs Lawrence.

The conference also heard angry accusations that David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, was fuelling racism with his recent proposals on immigration reform.

Lee Jasper, secretary of Naar and an adviser to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said ministers had failed to fully implement the reforms to tackle institutional racism proposed by Sir William Macpherson in his report in February 1999 on the Lawrence killing. Instead, Mr Blunkett had unveiled a white paper on immigration suggesting citizenship tests; restrictions on overseas arranged marriages and compulsory language tests.

"Instead of tangible action against racism, we see the 'blame the victim' culture back on the agenda, with the Government telling us who we can and cannot marry, what language we should speak, that some of us have to prove our allegiance to Britain through tests and other offensive suggestions," Mr Jasper said.

Mrs Lawrence endorsed his attacks. "We as black people are still on the outside looking in. That has not changed since the report came out," she told delegates. In a statement released before she spoke, she claimed the Macpherson report was now being widely ignored.

The Home Office is due to publish an annual report on implementing Macpherson shortly, but the Metropolitan Police said it was successfully but slowly introducing its recommendations. Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve confirmed the force had not yet fully implemented Macpherson, but added: "We're arresting more than 200 people a month for hate crime, which benefits all of us."

The Met is still investigating the killing, focusing on two new suspects. A man was arrested in December on suspicion of murdering Stephen Lawrence, and then bailed. The murder trial of three of the five original suspects was abandoned in 1996. The five are still under investigation for offences linked to the murder.