Stephen Lawrence murder: Woman's DNA discovery gives detectives new lead in hunt for killers

Scotland Yard hopes new lead could provide crucial witness to the notorious crime in 1993

Sally Guyoncourt
Monday 12 September 2016 08:34
Stephen, 18, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop on 22 April 1993
Stephen, 18, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths as he waited at a bus stop on 22 April 1993

Detectives investigating the murder of Stephen Lawrence have found a new clue in the hunt for his attackers with the discovery of a woman’s DNA near the scene of the killing.

It is the first time a female has been linked to the scene of the murder of the 18-year-old A-level student 23 years ago – and Scotland Yard is hoping it could provide a crucial witness to the notorious crime in 1993.

The fresh DNA clue was recovered from a dark leather strap found yards from Stephen Lawrence’s bag near a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London, where he was stabbed to death, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The strap was inside one of 540 crates of material being re-examined as part of a fresh investigation into evidence taken from the scene, taking advantage of advances in forensic science.

Officers are hoping an appeal on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme on Monday will provide them with a new key witness in the case.

A source close to the Lawrence family told the Sunday Times: “I hope and pray this could be a breakthrough for the family.”

Lawrence was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in April 1993 as he waited at the bus stop in Eltham with his best friend Duwaye Brooks.

It was an unprovoked attack on the student, who had ambitions of becoming an architect.

Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight were arrested in connection with the murder in 1993, but only Neil Acourt and Luke Knight were charged with murder.

The case was dropped the same year due to questions over the reliability of witness evidence; a subsequent private prosecution by the family of the murdered teen also failed.

A public inquiry by Sir William Macpherson in 1998-99 into the Met Police’s handling of the initial investigation into the murder found the force to be “institutionally racist”.

A new inquiry into evidence gathered by officers at the scene, led by Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll and a team of officers, began in 2007, eight years after the Macpherson Report.

And in 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, after the Government dropped the principle of suspects being tried more than once for the same crime.

The following year Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he had no plans to close the investigation and warned the remaining suspects, “We are after you.”

This latest breakthrough in the investigation will feature in Monday’s Crimewatch programme, along with an appeal to identify another mystery witness known as “V man”, due to a distinctive pattern on the back of his jacket.

He was spotted on CCTV footage at a nearby off-licence two hours before the murder and officers want to establish if it’s the same man described by a witness near the crime scene in a green jacket with a V-shape on the back.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris le Pere, who is leading the investigation, will make the television appeal.

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