Thursday, 5 January 2012
Britain is no country for an old man called Neville Lawrence, father of Stephen who was murdered because he was black
This is Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack at the age of 19, sixteen years ago, on a road in Eltham South London. I know the road, since I went to school in the area 50 years ago.
This is Stephen's father, Neville, as he was 16 years ago and as he is today at the age of 69. Like his remarkable wife, Doreen, he has had to wait all this time to see two of his son's five murderers, tried and found guilty of the murder of their son.
Neville came to Britain from Jamaica at the age of 18 over 50 years ago and found it racist and unwelcoming. He became a builder and decorator by trade and met his future wife, Doreen, when she was 17 and he was 26 and they married in 1972, lived in Woolwich, South East London and raised a family of three.
Outside the court yesterday, Neville said that the sentencing was "only one step in a long, long journey" and that the two convicted "were not the only ones responsible for the death of my son" :
The facts of Stephen's death, police investigation and subsequent court action are that :
* he was murdered in a knife attack in 1993, by a gang of at least 5 white youths, chanting racist slogans.
* all five suspects were arrested, questioned and released on police bail and two were charged with murder and appeared in court but the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued its case arguing that there was 'insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction.'
* in 1994 Neville and his wife brought a 'private prosecution' all five suspects and depite the fact that they used a 'fighting fund' to pay for the analysis of forensic evidence and the cost of tracing and re-interviewing witnesses, the case failed.
* a Public Inquiry held in 1999 examined the original Police investigation and concluded that :
- the Force was institutionally racist
- the investigation had been incompetent
- officers had committed fundamental errors, failing to :
- give first aid to Stephen when they reached the scene
- follow obvious leads during their investigation
- arrest suspects
* by 1999 Neville's marriage was beyond repair, his estrangement from his wife had been gradual, born of an inability for them to confide and seek comfort in each other and Doreen said that : "Separation was not an idea that was ever there before Stephen's death. People say it either brings you together or tears you apart. That is what it did. When Stephen died it was not just him, it was my marriage as well."
* in 2003 Neville was honoured by the Queen when he received an OBE for services to community relations and said : "It is such a pity that I had to get something like this for such a tragic thing in my life. I feel a little bit of sadness."
* in May 2011, following a cold case review, it was announced that two of the original suspects were to stand trial for the murder in the light of 'new and substantial evidence' becoming available and it was from this that the 'guilty' verdicts came forth.
After the verdict Neville said:
" My life was torn apart by the senseless murder of my son" and that he was "full of joy and relief that two of my son's killers had been convicted" . Nevertheless, knowing that three other murderers are still free said that that he didn't think he would "be able to rest until they are brought to justice".
Little wonder that Neville has returned to live in Jamaica where he was born.