Third man is arrested over racist killing of Lawrence

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The Independent Online

A third man was arrested yesterday in connection with the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The arrest in south London followed the detention of two men during raids in south-east London and Glasgow on Tuesday night. The men, all in their early twenties, are understood to be part of a 12-strong gang suspected of a series of racist attacks in the capital.

After being questioned about the stabbing to death of Stephen, 18, in Eltham, south-east London in 1993, all three were released on bail last night.

None of those arrested were among the five original suspects named over the murder. However, one of the men detained is believed to match the description of a long-haired blond man seen with the five at the time. Further members of what police described as a "loose-knit" group are expected to be detained by Scotland Yard.

Police said the operation, which follows lengthy surveillance, is an attempt to put pressure on the killers and persuade gang members, witnesses and former lovers to assist with the investigation.

Scotland Yard is especially anxious for a woman who was walking in front of Stephen moments before the attack to give evidence. The identity of the woman is known.

In what seems to be a further attempt to kick-start the inquiry, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, the officer in charge of the murder case, said his team would use new DNA forensic analysis to test a two-foot knife believed to be the murder weapon and a coat worn by one of the killers during the attack.

Further pressure has been heaped on three of the original suspects after their arrests in connection with smuggling foreigners into Britain were made public. Gary Dobson and the brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt were detained on Tuesday during raids on south London homes. The three, with another man, were given bail, and a fifth man was charged with assisting illegal entry.

Mr Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight were acquitted in 1996 of Stephen's murder when a private prosecution collapsed. The case against Jamie Acourt and David Norris was dropped before it reached court.

As part of a wider anti-racism drive, Scotland Yard made a series of dawn raids yesterday that led to the arrest of more than 60 people for a range of offences, including harassment and threats to kill.