A London jury found two white men guilty Tuesday of the brutal murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. New forensic evidence helped convict the accused, who had both denied involvement in the racially motivated attack.
AFP - A jury found two white men guilty Tuesday of the murder 18 years ago of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in an unprovoked attack that became a defining moment in race relations in Britain.
Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, had denied involvement in the brutal knife attack on the 18-year-old at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London in April 1993, by a gang of white youths who had shouted racist abuse.
But on the third day of their deliberations following an emotionally-charged six-week trial, the jury at the Old Bailey court in London found both men guilty on the basis of new forensic evidence.
The verdict brings some closure to one of Britain's most high-profile unsolved murders, although London's Metropolitan Police insisted they would attempt to bring the rest of the gang members to trial.
As he was led from the court, Dobson shouted: "You have condemned an innocent man here, I hope you can live with yourselves."
The pair will be sentenced Wednesday, with the starting point for jail terms around 12 years as they were under 18 at the time of the attack. However the judge may give higher sentences as the murder was racially motivated.
Lawrence's parents wept with relief at the verdict, but his mother Doreen, who has campaigned tirelessly for justice for her son, hit out at police for taking so long to secure the convictions.
"Had the police done their job properly, I would have spent the last 18 years grieving for my son rather than fighting to get his killers to court," she told reporters outside the Old Bailey.
She added: "These verdicts will not bring my son back."
Lawrence's father Neville said in a statement read on his behalf that he was "full of joy and relief", but added: "There were five or six attackers that night. I do not think I will be able to rest until they are all brought to justice."
Scotland Yard's Acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick said the force would not give up its search for the other killers, although she admitted that there were currently no live lines of inquiry.
"If we get new evidence, if we have further opportunities, we will respond to that... We don't see this as the end of the road," she said.
The Lawrence case has remained in the public eye both for its brutality and as one of the key moments in the modern history of British criminal justice.
A major judge-led inquiry into the handling of the case in 1999 found "institutional racism" within the police and led to significant changes in the way murders involving black victims are investigated.
Duwayne Brooks, Lawrence's best friend who was with him on the night of the murder but managed to escape the gang, tweeted: "Some justice at last."
The prosecution's case hinged on new forensic evidence unearthed by a cold case team using techniques unavailable to the original detectives, which linked the suspects to Lawrence through blood, hair and tiny fibres on their clothing.
Lawyers for Dobson and Norris had unsuccessfully argued that the evidence was the result of contamination by police because it had been badly stored.
The pair were among five men arrested in the weeks after the murder, but state prosecutors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to progress with murder charges for any of them.
In September 1994, Lawrence's family began a private prosecution against Dobson and two others, but it collapsed in 1996 and the trio were acquitted.
Nine years later, the law was changed to allow suspects to be tried twice for the same crime when there is new evidence, clearing the way for a fresh prosecution of Dobson in 2011.
He was already in prison, having been jailed for five years in July 2010 for supplying and possessing drugs.
Cressida Dick said it was a "matter of huge regret" that it had taken 18 years to convict anyone for the murder, but insisted the police had overhauled the way they investigate homicide as a result of the case.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the verdict "cannot ease the pain of losing a son".
"But, for Doreen and Neville Lawrence, I hope that it brings at least some comfort after their years of struggle," he said.
Date created : 2012-01-03