Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Stephen Lawrence’s legacy honoured at memorial 30 years after his racist murder

The Black teenager’s family was joined by the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the memorial

Lucas Cumiskey
Saturday 22 April 2023 19:56 BST
Baroness Doreen Lawrence attends a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the murder of her son Stephen
Baroness Doreen Lawrence attends a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the murder of her son Stephen (PA Wire)

Stephen Lawrence’s mother said his “story remains as important and relevant as ever” as a memorial service was held in central London to mark the 30th anniversary of the teenager’s death.

The murder victim’s family gathered for the anniversary at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also attended.

Sir Keir made a short speech and read a poem by Maya Angelou at the request of Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

The anniversary comes after Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley apologised for failings in the aftermath of the killing, with the force’s response to the investigation being branded institutionally racist in the 1999 Macpherson Report.

Stephen was stabbed to death on April 22 1993 in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus in Eltham, south-east London, after he was set upon by a gang of white youths shouting racial slurs and brandishing weapons.

The bungled original investigation hampered by racism and alleged police corruption meant it took nearly 20 years for two of the 18-year-old’s five killers to be brought to justice, with three never prosecuted.

Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death on April 22 1993 (PA Media)

The date of his death is now marked by Stephen Lawrence Day each year.

Sir Keir told the memorial that “contrasted against the very worst side of Britain, Stephen represented the best”, as he lamented the loss of “a life which shone with the light of potential”.

He was director of public prosecutions when two of Mr Lawrence’s killers were brought to justice.

Speaking outside the church, Mr Khan continued his assertion that the Metropolitan Police Service remains “institutionally racist”.

He said: “We’re here today to celebrate and remember Stephen Lawrence’s life, his legacy but also the extraordinary work that’s taken place by his family, Doreen Lawrence and by their team and address the issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.

“It’s 30 years since Stephen Lawrence was brutally murdered, I remember it well as a south Londoner.

“For those of us who are people of colour it had a ripple effect on us, ripples of hate but also the appalling way that the family was let down by the Met Police Service, by the media and by some politicians. Thirty years on, we’ve not made the progress we’d hope to have made.

“It’s really important that we recognise that 30 years on, Dame Louise Casey has found the Met Police to still be institutionally racist, we can’t ignore that or equivocate on that, we’ve got to make progress.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan attended the service (PA)

The Casey Review into the Metropolitan Police published last month found the force to be institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic in the wake of a series of scandals, including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer and Pc David Carrick being unmasked as a serial rapist.

Sir Mark admitted on Friday that the Metropolitan Police “did not dig deep enough” to root out racism since Mr Lawrence’s murder.

The Met commissioner said a failure to robustly confront “cultural and systemic” failings, which were exposed by the force’s response to the murder, had undermined its ability to fight crime, and he pledged to “finally” make the Met determinedly anti-racist.

Baroness Lawrence said her son’s “story remains as important and relevant as ever” 30 years after his death, adding that she is “filled with immense pride to witness all that has been achieved in his name”.

“From launching education initiatives to opening up career pathways and inspiring community engagement, Stephen’s legacy has touched countless young lives and moved us closer towards a more just and equitable society,” she said in a statement.

“Yet, we must also acknowledge the work still to be done.

“Inequality persists, and our mission to create a world free from discrimination continues.”

She said: “we will ensure that Stephen’s legacy endures, inspiring change and uniting us in the pursuit of justice and equity for all”.

Earlier this week, she told the BBC that “nothing much has changed” within the Metropolitan Police in the 30 years since her son was murdered.

Jessica Neil, chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation, said the anniversary was “an incredibly difficult time” for Mr Lawrence’s loved ones but said she was “feeling hopeful for the next 30 years”.

She said: “Today I’m feeling hopeful. This service, Stephen Lawrence Day more broadly and the wider community that support us, it’s such a powerful demonstration of what can happen when ordinary people come together and demand extraordinary change.

“I think the anniversary of Stephen’s death is an incredibly difficult time for the family, but focusing that into the foundation and the work that we do gives a sense of hope and hope that we can transform Stephen’s legacy that continues to deliver change for the next 30 years.”

She said the teenager’s legacy is one of “hope and change”.

She added: “He was an ordinary young man whose life and death has inspired extraordinary change in the fabric of British society and so his legacy is one of hope and change and inspiring other young people like him to fulfil the breadth and depth of their potential.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in