Met chief apologises to Stephen Lawrence’s mother over handling of sixth suspect

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The Metropolitan police commissioner has apologised to the mother of Stephen Lawrence for not fulfilling a promise to explain why his force failed to properly handle evidence against one of the suspects in the teenager’s murder.

A BBC investigation in 2023 identified Matthew White as the sixth suspect in the case, where only five had previously been known. The broadcaster said Doreen Lawrence had been promised answers to her questions about the way police handled the investigation.

Despite initial correspondence with the deputy assistant commissioner Matt Ward, none has been given. The Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has now apologised, saying: “On top of the failures over the decades, this is totally unacceptable.”

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in April 1993 by a racist gang in Eltham, south-east London, as he ran to catch a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks. Only two of the 18-year-old’s killers – Gary Dobson and David Norris – have been brought to justice.

The original investigation into his death was hampered by institutional racism in Scotland Yard and claims corrupt officers had sought to protect Norris, whose father, Clifford Norris, was a notorious drug dealer.

Last June, the BBC named White – who died aged 50 in 2021 – and outlined the poor handling of the evidence against him. Two witnesses said White had confessed to being present during the attack, one of whom, his stepfather, was not spoken to by police until 20 years after the murder because officers had previously misidentified him.

The Met said White was arrested twice in connection with the case but on both occasions there was not enough evidence for a prosecution. Lady Lawrence told the BBC that White was “probably the key one who probably caused Stephen’s murder, and [the Met] did nothing about it”.

She added: “I’m not sure what they’re hiding behind, why they can’t come and tell me exactly what they knew then.”

Rowley has said: “We recognise this is a particularly difficult time for the Lawrence family and Duwayne Brooks. I am sorry our failure to respond in a timely fashion has added to this.

“On top of the failures over the decades, this is totally unacceptable. Restoring trust in the Met is one of my top priorities and that includes how we work with those affected by the failures of the past.

“I apologise to Baroness Lawrence, who must have answers to all her questions. I have written to her and offered to meet.”


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