Inquest on 'racial killing' adjourned

THE INQUEST into the death of Stephen Lawrence, a schoolboy stabbed in an apparent racial attack, was unexpectedly adjourned yesterday after it was revealed that three possible murder suspects had recently been identified.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing the family of the 18-year-old, said 'dramatic' new evidence had been unearthed. He told Sir Montagu Levine, the Southwark coroner, that if the police did not pursue the latest leads, Stephen's parents intended to bring their own private prosecution. Going ahead with the inquest now might 'jeopardise' a possible future court hearing, he said.

On 22 April this year, the A-level student was waiting with a friend at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, on his way back home to nearby Plumstead, when he was stabbed twice by a gang of between four and six white youths after they had apparently made racist remarks. He collapsed and was dead on arrival at hospital.

The coroner said: 'There is a suggestion that some new evidence has come to light. In the interests of fairness and justice and being mindful of the possible prejudice to a future hearing in another court, I am going to adjourn.'

Sir Montagu said somebody knew what happened on the night Stephen was fatally stabbed. 'I would ask them to search their hearts and their consciences to come forward and give any information to the police.'

The new inquest will be heard on a date to be fixed.

Mr Mansfield told the court that the new information concerned somebody known to one of the alleged assailants, witnesses to the murder and the disappearance of another person. In addition, there was information about a statement made by one of the suspects. 'Three more individuals had been identified over and above the original persons who were arrested,' he said.

Mr Mansfield was referring to two teenagers, one 16, the other 17, who were charged with Stephen's murder earlier this year, but later released after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges because of a lack of evidence.

Mr Mansfield said: 'The information we have is very specific and in one case dramatic.' It had come from a 'reputable source' - Greenwich Borough Council.