Socialist Worker

Stephen Lawrence murder: The gangster of Eltham

Issue No. 2285

The attack on Stephen was part of a spate in the area carried out by racists.

Gurdeep Bhangal was attacked with a kitchen knife outside his father’s Wimpy franchise in Eltham on 11 March 1993 in the weeks before Stephen Lawrence’s murder.

He had confronted a group of abusive white youths that included David Norris. In the notorious video of the gang, Norris celebrates the attack. No charges were brought.

Rolan Adams, 15, was killed in February 1991. A group of 15 racists attacked him and his brother but only one, Mark Thornborrow, was convicted of murder.

In July 1992, Rohit Duggal was stabbed to death by Peter Thompson. Thompson was part of the Acourt gang.

Kevin London, a black teenager, was confronted in November 1992 by a gang of white youths, including Gary Dobson. Dobson threatened him with a large knife. No charges were brought.

In March 1993, Darren and Terry Witham were stabbed in Eltham High Street, with witnesses describing members of the Acourt gang. No charges were brought.

The following week, a white man, Stacey Benefield, was stabbed in the chest. He identified David Norris as the attacker and Neil Acourt as being with him. Norris was the only man tried. He was acquitted.

Bribe

The reason was Clifford Norris, David’s gangster father.

Clifford attempted to bribe Stacey Benefield. He handed him £2,000 and said, “This is how I sort people out by not shooting them.”

Norris was also suspected of nobbling an Old Bailey jury when his son David stood trial.

At the trial, Benefield changed his story, saying he now could “not remember” who had stabbed him.

It’s hard to know just how far Clifford Norris’s influence extended into the Metropolitan Police. But he had a close relationship with a number of officers, notably Detective Sergeant David Coles.

The day after they were seen together by undercover officers, in June 1988, Norris and his brother Alexander went on the run, so evading arrest.

One of the senior officers in charge of the Stephen Lawrence case, Detective Sergeant John Davidson, was accused of taking bribes from Clifford Norris.

A former corrupt police officer turned whistle-blower said, “Davidson told me that he was looking after Norris and that to me meant that he was protecting him, protecting his family against arrest and any conviction.”

The officer named 21 officers as being corrupt in a series of cases. Twenty were dismissed from the force—but one wasn’t.

Davidson was quietly allowed to retire. He argued that the killing of Stephen Lawrence wasn’t racist, and that he wasn’t corrupt.

He retired and opened a bar called The Smuggler in Menorca.


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