Police Halt Probe Into 1993 Murder of Black Teenager That Exposed Racism In Ranks

London’s Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday they had exhausted all lines of inquiry into the 1993 murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, a case that exposed racism in the force and led to sweeping reforms.

Lawrence was 18 when he was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in Eltham, southeast London. Police quickly identified five suspects but bungled the investigation. Two of the suspects were eventually convicted in 2012, three remain at large. “It is well known that other suspects were also involved in the events which unfolded that night and it is deeply frustrating that we have been unable to bring them to justice,” said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

After relentless campaigning by Lawrence’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, the failed police response to the murder was exposed in a public inquiry that became a watershed moment in the history of race relations in Britain. The inquiry, published in 1999, found the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist” and recommended 70 reforms to the force and other institutions in an effort to combat racism in society as a whole.

It also led to the scrapping of the double jeopardy legal principle, which prevented a suspect from being tried twice for the same crime. This allowed police to renew their efforts to prosecute suspects after failed attempts in the 1990s. After a forensic breakthrough, two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were tried in 2011 and convicted in 2012.

In 2013, police began a new phase of the investigation to try and prosecute the remaining suspects. Tuesday’s announcement brought the active investigation to an end. From now on, detectives will review any new information that comes to light, and assess every two years whether any advances in forensic techniques could allow them to make progress.

Since the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, allegations of racism in policing in London have once more come into focus. Black people are over nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, according to civil rights group Liberty.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison. Thomson Reuters Foundation

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