Baroness Lawrence calls for ‘serious sanctions’ against Met officers who failed to investigate suspect in son's murder

27 June 2023, 00:41 | Updated: 27 June 2023, 00:43

Doreen Lawrence reacted to the news that a sixth suspect had emerged in the case of the racist murder of her son.
Doreen Lawrence reacted to the news that a sixth suspect had emerged in the case of the racist murder of her son. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Baroness Lawrence has urged the Met to show that "incompetence will not be tolerated" in the force after a sixth suspect was named in the murder case of her son Stephen Lawrence.

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It comes after a sixth suspect was named as Matthew White, who died in August 2021, in the case of Stephen Lawrence's murder.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, said there should be “serious sanctions” against the officers who failed to investigate White.

"The latest revelation that a key suspect in the murder could have, and should have, been properly and thoroughly investigated is shocking but unsurprising. I have got used to the litany of failings in my son’s case," she said.

"What is infuriating about this latest revelation is that the man who is said to have led the murderous attack on my son has evaded justice because of police failures and yet not a single police officer has faced or will ever face action.

"The failure to properly investigate a main suspect in a murder case is so grave that it should be met by serious sanctions.

She added: "Only when police officers lose their jobs can the public have confidence that failure and incompetence will not be tolerated and that change will happen."

Mr Lawrence was stabbed to death in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993.

Doreen Lawrence said there should be “serious sanctions” against the officers who failed to investigate White
Doreen Lawrence said there should be “serious sanctions” against the officers who failed to investigate White. Picture: Alamy

On Monday it emerged that Scotland Yard was "reviewing" fresh information into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence after a new suspect was named.

Matthew White first came to police attention as a witness in the same year of Mr Lawrence's death - he told officers he had visited the home address of two other suspects on the night of Stephen's murder.

He was again seen by police when he refused to attend the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, police said. During the post-Inquiry investigation in November 1999, White was re-interviewed.

He was arrested and interviewed in March 2000 and in December 2013, and a file was submitted to prosecutors in May 2005 and October 2014.

On both occasions the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advised there was no realistic prospect of conviction of White for any offence.

Read more: New suspect in Stephen Lawrence case 30 years on as police admit 'too many mistakes' were made in initial investigation

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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said the force would "review" the information that has surfaced.

"At the moment, the case is inactive but forensic science develops all the time so we will continually go back and review exhibits as science develops to see if there's anything that could put it back in the active phase.

"There's very experienced people in the Met that will work through this."

He added: "Any fresh information will be reviewed" but he refused to speculate as to whether the case would be re-opened.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Andy George, who is Head of the National Black Police Association, told LBC: "I think there's certainly a case to reopen it, I don't think it should ever have been closed, and I think it's a stain on the Metropolitan Police that it was... I don't think any review by the Met will reveal anything that the community in London will believe or have faith in the investigation.

"I think it needs to be taken on by an external force, and looked at by them."

He went on to say: "The lack of follow up, the fact there were so many opportunities missed. This could not have been a coincidence.

"It calls into question everything people have been saying about the murder of Stephen Lawrence for a long time."

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David Norris leaving court followed by Gary Dobson
David Norris leaving court followed by Gary Dobson. Picture: Getty

Following the initial announcement, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: “The impact of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and subsequent inquiries continues to be felt throughout policing.  

“Unfortunately, too many mistakes were made in the initial investigation and the impact of them continues to be seen.  

“On the 30th anniversary of Stephen’s murder, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley apologised for our failings and I repeat that apology today.”  

Following the 2012 convictions, trial judge Mr Justice Treacy said: "On the evidence before the court, there are still three or four other killers of Stephen Lawrence at large."

Five men were arrested over the racist murder of 18-year-old Stephen.

Two of the gang that attacked Stephen, Gary Dobson, 47, and David Norris, 46, were brought to justice. Both were given life sentences in 2012 after being found guilty of murder.

Following their convictions, a seven-year investigation was undertaken in which it was discovered that a Met officer sent a message regarding a relative of White who may hold information.

The relative was not named and was subsequently misidentified. The correct relative was not identified until 2013.

Sangita Myska recalls the moment she heard about Stephen Lawerence's murder

In December 2013, White was arrested for the second time, based on the new information, the Met Police said.

Almost a year later a CPS advice file concluded that no further action should be taken.

In February 2020, Matthew White was seen and spoken to again by the investigation team. There was insufficient witness or forensic evidence to progress further, police said.

He died a year later and the investigation was placed into and remains in an inactive phase.

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