Stephen Lawrence: BBC investigation names new suspect in UK’s notorious racist murder
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A new BBC investigation has publically named a major suspect in the Stephen Lawrence murder. The suspect is named Matthew White, and he died in 2021 aged 50.
The BBC found that the Met Police seriously mishandled key inquiries related to White. The evidence found raises questions about Scotland Yard’s 2020 decision to stop investigating the case and implicates other suspects who remain free.
Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at the age of 18 by a gang of young white men in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993. Lawrence was waiting for a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks.
The murder has become the UK’s most notorious racist killing, and the handling of the first police investigation into the murder prompted a landmark public inquiry which concluded the Met was institutionally racist.
David Norris and Gary Dobson were given life sentences for the murder in 2012. However, the other three suspects, Luke Knight and brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, have not been convicted of the crime.
In 2020, Commissioner Cressida Dick declared the case "inactive", saying that all identified lines of inquiry had been followed. At the time, the commissioner said she assured Stephen’s family that any new information would be investigated. This prompted the BBC to re-examine the case and piece together 30 years of evidence.
The BBC investigation revealed new evidence of White’s, initially known as Witness K, central role in the case. White was named publicly for the first time in 2011 as a witness in the trial of Norris and Dobson.
However, the BBC found evidence to suggest that White’s alibi was false saying: “White lied to police about where he had first heard about the attack and his alibi was false, but detectives accepted his claims”
The investigation found that in 1993 White looked like the prominent unidentified attacker described by Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks, but the Met failed to share the description with all investigators. The force said the handling of the approach by White’s relative in 1993 was "a significant and regrettable error".
Additionally, the report revealed the Met’s failings in the case, with one example stating: “Clive Driscoll, the officer who convicted two of Stephen’s killers, said Cressida Dick suggested in 2012 he should not bother going after the other suspects, even though the trial judge had urged police to pursue them. Mr Driscoll went on to arrest White, but was then made to retire before he could complete his investigation”
Scotland Yard said in response to the investigation: "Unfortunately, too many mistakes were made in the initial investigation”. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: "The impact of them continues to be seen.”
Responding to the BBC’s revelations, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, said it was “infuriating” that the man said to have led the attack on her son had evaded justice due to police failings, but not a single officer had faced consequences. She said: “The failure to properly investigate a main suspect in a murder case is so grave that it should be met by serious sanctions. 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.”