After 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop, his killers appeared in court, but they walked free. Laws at the time prevented anyone being brought to trial again. But Stephen's family never gave up hope...
Even at a young age Stephen Lawrence showed promise. At school he excelled at art and mathematics and hoped to become an architect. His mum, Doreen, knew he was destined for big things…
Then on 22 April 1993, Stephen, then 18, and his friend Duwayne Brooks went to Stephen’s uncle’s house in Plumstead, east London.
They played video games together before making their way home just before 10pm. But while they waited for a bus in Eltham, a gang of five men approached them.
‘What, what, n****r?’ they shouted, before launching a brutal attack. Duwayne managed to escape, but Stephen was attacked before he could get away. He was stabbed twice in his upper torso and his arteries were severed.
He was rushed to hospital, but pronounced dead before midnight. Doreen and her husband, Neville, were distraught. Their innocent son had been brutally murdered in an unprovoked attack. And it seemed for no reason, other than the colour of his skin…
In the coming weeks, five suspects were arrested. David Norris, 16, Gary Dobson, 17, and three other teens all denied killing Stephen. In the July, the CPS dropped the charges against the men, so Doreen and Neville launched a private prosecution against them. And, in April 1996, Dobson and two others stood trial at the Old Bailey.
The men were acquitted and walked free again due to insufficient evidence. The case against Norris and the fifth man collapsed before reaching court. British law prevented the men facing trial again.
The rule of double jeopardy meant no one could be tried twice for the same crime, even if new evidence emerged. Desperate, Doreen and Neville continued to campaign. Then in April 2005, there was a breakthrough…
After a review, the double jeopardy law was finally scrapped. It meant people who’d previously been cleared of a crime, could face a retrial if there was new or compelling evidence.
A year later, in June 2006, a cold case review into Stephen’s murder took place. New techniques were used to examine Stephen’s clothing and that of his suspected killers.
Blood on the collar of Dobson’s coat was believed to match Stephen’s. Two of Stephen’s hairs were also found on Norris’ jeans.
No longer protected by double jeopardy, Dobson, then 36, was brought to court again in November 2011, along with Norris, 35.
They both denied any involvement in the murder. During the trial secret surveillance footage from 1994 filmed in Dobson’s flat was shown. It captured the men’s hate-filled, racist outlook on life.
The jury soon delivered their verdict. Guilty!
The judge sentenced them both to life in prison. Due to them being juveniles at the time of the crime, Dobson was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years and two months. Norris was given a minimum of 14 years and 3 months. No new evidence against the other men was discovered.
Finally, after 18 years of fighting, Stephen’s family had justice. It was Stephen’s murder that prompted the British law change. And since then, there have been several cold case reviews and retrials.
Doreen always knew her son would do big things. But she never expected his life to be sacrificed in order for him to make such an impact.