Stephen Lawrence (1974–1993), Doreen and Neville Lawrence
Murdered in a racially-motivated knife attack when aged only 18, Lawrence’s death highlighted not only how much work needed still to be done to promote harmony between the different ethnic groups in Britain but also the still-widespread racism in certain sections of the police force.
Despite being given the names of five suspects within 24 hours of Lawrence’s murder, the police did not make any arrests for two weeks, allowing witnesses and evidence crucial to any trial attempts to be intimidated and destroyed.
Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville, carried out their own investigations, including finding a video made in 1994 of the five suspects holding knives and pretending to kill Black people, eventually forcing the suspects to be called to trial in 1996.
During the trial, the police intentionally denigrated the testimony of Duwayne Williams, a surviving victim of the attack; the suspects were acquitted. The Lawrences pressed for an inquiry to be held into police action during the trial, and in 1999 the result, the MacPherson Report, concluded that the police had continually acted against the legal process in both the murder investigation and trial, and caused a mass change in police training methods.
During Norfolk BHM 2009 we sought, through the seminar The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry ten years on?, to understand the extent of progress in meeting the MacPherson Report’s recommendations.
Doreen and Neville Lawrence were both awarded OBEs for their work and continue to campaign against racism; Stephen Lawrence was buried in Jamaica.