Stephen Lawrence: Met Police name new suspect in racist murder
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Matthew White, who died in 2021 at the age of 50, has been confirmed as a major suspect following the killing 30 years ago.
Mr Lawrence was brutally stabbed to death in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack by a group of six white teenagers as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south east London, on the evening of 22 April 1993. The gang of youths did not know Mr Lawrence, who was 18 at the time, and he did not know them.
The bungled original investigation was hampered by racism and alleged police corruption which meant it took nearly 20 years for two of the 18-year-old’s five killers to be brought to justice, with three never prosecuted.
The Met on Monday (26 June) admitted that “too many mistakes were made in the initial investigation” as it confirmed Mr White as the sixth suspect in the case, who was never prosecuted in connection with the attack.
The force said Mr White first came to its attention as a witness in 1993 and was arrested and interviewed in March 2000 and in December 2013, and a file was submitted to prosecutors in May 2005 and October 2014. But on both occasions the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advised there was no realistic prospect of conviction of Mr White for any offence.
The admission came after a BBC investigation identified key inquiries had been mishandled in the initial 1990s investigation, prompting a landmark public inquiry which concluded the Met was institutionally racist. Five prime suspects were identified after the murder but the public inquiry found there had likely been up to six attackers based on eyewitness testimony.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: “The impact of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and attack on Duwayne Brooks, 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.”
The Met added in a statement: “White first came to the attention of the investigation team in May 1993 when he told officers he had visited the home address of two other suspects on the night of the murder. He was again seen by officers when he refused to attend the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. In November 1999, during the post-Inquiry investigation, White was re-interviewed.
“Between March and April 2000, White was arrested and interviewed under caution following the receipt of new information from a new witness. He denied any involvement in the murder. In May 2005, prosecutors advised that there was no realistic prospect of conviction of White for any offence.
“Following the 2012 convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris, a seven-year post conviction investigation was undertaken. In 2013 it was discovered that in 1993, a Met officer who was not involved in the investigation team sent a message regarding a relative of White who may hold information.
“The relative was not named and was subsequently misidentified. This was a significant and regrettable error. It was not until 2013 that the correct relative was identified and the new information obtained.
“In December 2013, White was arrested for the second time, based on this new information. In October 2014, a further 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. He died in August 2021. Later that year, the investigation was placed into and remains in an inactive phase.
“In 2020, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced that, following an investigation commenced in 2014, they had submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether four former police officers, who were in senior roles at various times during the first few weeks of the investigation, may have committed criminal offences of misconduct in public office.
“In May 2023, the Met commissioned a routine forensic review of key exhibits to consider whether new scientific processes could advance the case.”