British Police are shelving investigations on the infamous murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence who was killed by a group of white people in southeast London in 1993.
The Metropolitan Police in London say all “identified lines of inquiry have been completed” and are “sad” that no further leads exist. The investigation is now in an “inactive phase”.
Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who spoke on Tuesday, said: “The investigation has now moved to an ‘inactive’ phase, but I have given Stephen’s family the assurance that we will continue to deal with any new information that comes to light.”
Commissioner Dick said Lawrence’s family has been informed of the police’s decision. She described the lack of information as “deeply frustrating” but added that the investigation will be “periodically reviewed”.
On their part, Lawrence’s parents have registered their disappointment with the shelving of investigations. His mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, said she will not give up even “whilst the Metropolitan Police have given up”.
“I am very sad that a line has now been drawn into the investigation… despite this, I would still urge anyone who has any information that could help me get all of Stephen’s killers convicted, to come forward,” Baroness Lawrence said.
Neville, the deceased’s father, added that he was not surprised by the suspension of investigations. Mr. Lawrence also said he had no regrets committing his life to seek justice for his son “although the burden has at times felt too heavy for a family to bear”.
A racist murder
Young Stephen Lawrence closed from school on April 22, 1993, and spent the rest of the day at his uncle’s with his friend Duwayne Brooks playing video games. After 10 pm, the pair had to leave to catch one of the last buses home.
While waiting at a stop, Brooks walked to the nearest junction to see if a bus was coming. After he turned to walk back to Lawrence, Brooks saw a group of five or six white boys who were approaching Lawrence.
The boys circled Lawrence and Brooks recounts that he heard one of the boys ask, “What, what nigger?”. They pushed him to the ground and started kicking and stabbing him and Brooks, sensing he would also be a victim if the boys got close, ran away shouting.
Lawrence, apparently, did not die on the spot. Investigators concluded that he had crawled over 130 yards.
The murder rocked the whole of the United Kingdom and became a cause célèbre for issues on racism and violence in cosmopolitan London. An immediate inquiry was launched.
But in 1994, the Crown Prosecution Service, Britain’s criminal investigations bureau, said there was insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution. What kept the issue in the limelight was the Lawrence family’s private prosecution attempts against the five suspects who had been identified.
In 1997, an investigation by the Police Complaints Authority found out that initial inquiries had been sloppy and substandard. The Metropolitan Police was accused of “institutional racism” – they were not interested in finding the killers of a young black man.
A new investigation was prompted by the Complaints Authority’s conclusions. In 2012, two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted and given life sentences after forensic evidence was discovered at the site of the murder after years.
Further investigations were however needed to confirm the culpability of the other suspects. Two years ago, the Metropolitan Police warned that it might have to close the case if new evidence is not discovered.
Interestingly, Baroness Lawrence was open to closing the case.
Over the last 27 years since her son’s death, Baroness Lawrence has been awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE); split from her husband and also gained a life peerage recognition which conferred her title.