Socialist Worker

Stephen Lawrence killers “walked off, quite casually” after fatal attack

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2278

Eyewitnesses to the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence say they saw a group attack Stephen after shouting at him across a street.

They described how the group then forced Stephen to the ground and appeared to punch and kick him.

David Norris and Gary Dobson are accused of murdering the 18-year old as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south London, in 1993. Their trial began at the Old Bailey in London this week.

One witness said that, after Stephen managed to wriggle free, the gang walked away “quite casually” before Stephen collapsed and bled to death.

One bystander who saw what happened said to another: “Looks like he got it because he was black.”

Mark Ellison QC gave his opening address for the prosecution yesterday, Tuesday.

He said the “way in which the attack was executed” suggested the killers “were a group of like-minded young white men who acted together in the execution of this attack: they reacted together, as one, on seeing two young black men.

“A racist comment was the precursor to their swift and totally unprovoked rushing at them.

“The one that did not manage to run away, Stephen Lawrence, was forced down and stabbed.

“The only discernible reason for this attack was the colour of his skin.

“The nature of this attack indicates that the group shared the same racial animosity and motivation, and that its members must have each realised that violence of the kind that did result.”

Joseph Shepherd lived near Stephen at the time and knew him by name. Joseph was at the bus stop when Stephen and his friend Duwayne Brooks walked down the road to see if any buses were coming.

Charged

He said that a “group of youths” appeared on the opposite side of the road, then “something was said and basically they charged at them”.

The court has heard that one of the gang allegedly shouted “What, what, nigger?” at Stephen and Duwayne before running at them.

Shepherd said the gang broke into “a sprint” and chased Stephen and Duwayne. He said, “They bundled in on top of them, they were shouting and cheering as they were running and attacking.”

Shepherd saw “punching and kicking” but no weapons, in an attack that was “pretty quick” and lasted around 10 seconds.

Stephen collapsed shortly afterwards as he bled from two wounds to the torso, both of which severed arteries.

Shepherd gave police brief descriptions of what he thought was a four-strong gang. But he said he had been unhappy when police produced a photofit of one of the attackers, because “it didn’t look like what I had seen”.

Under cross-examination he added that he felt he had been “pushed into coming up with a picture”.

Royston Westbrook, a hospital worker, was also at the bus stop. He said the attack was “completely unprovoked”.

Westbrook said that Stephen “went down through sheer weight of numbers, in the middle. He was completely surrounded”.

He added, “nothing was said” by the gang during the attack. “They just stood there for a few seconds then they walked off. They didn’t run, they just walked off, quite casually.”

Moments after the attack a bus arrived, which Westbrook boarded. He said a fellow passenger remarked to him, “Looks like he got it because he was black, doesn’t it?”

The forensic evidence

In 2007 a review of the case discovered new evidence. Prosecutor Mark Ellison QC said that this “does prove that these two men are guilty of murdering Stephen Lawrence.”

He said textile fibres, blood and hair linked to Stephen had been found on clothes seized from the defendants in 1993.

In total, 16 fibres matching fibres from Stephen’s clothes were found on a bomber jacket and a jumper taken from the home of Dobson. A speck of Stephen’s blood was found on the collar of the jacket.

Two fragments of hair matching Stephen’s hair were found in a paper bag containing a pair of jeans belonging to Norris. Seven fibres matching fibres from Stephen’s clothes were found on a blue sweatshirt belonging to Norris.

The new evidence did not, the prosecutor said, prove that either Dobson or Norris “inflicted the fatal wounds” or that either of them held the knife. But he said that “it does prove that they participated in a joint attack on him in the realisation that one of their group might use a weapon to cause serious injury”.

Dobson and Norris deny murder. The trial continues.


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Features
Wed 16 Nov 2011, 19:23 GMT
Issue No. 2278
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