Who killed Stephen Lawrence? When were killers Gary Dobson and Davi Norris convicted - and what happened

ITV’s new docu-series, Stephen, is a sequel to 1999 drama The murder of Stephen Lawrence

 Gary Dobson (L) and David Norris (Getty)  Gary Dobson (L) and David Norris (Getty)
Gary Dobson (L) and David Norris (Getty)

ITV drama, Stephen, follows the real life investigation into the alleged racially motivated murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

Thirteen years after the teenager’s death in Eltham, London, police still hadn’t convicted anyone of his murder.

The botched investigation into his death shocked the UK, ultimately leading to changes in attitudes to racism, as well as law and police practice.

But what happened to Stephen Lawrence, and when were his killers David Norris and Gary Dobson finally convicted? Here’s what you need to know.

What happened to Stephen Lawrence?

On 22 April 1993, Stephen Lawrence was out in Eltham, south-east London with his friend Duwayne Brooks when they were attacked by a group of white youths at a bus stop.

Stephen was stabbed multiple times and managed to run just 100 metres from the scene before he collapsed and died. Brooks escaped uninjured.

In the days which followed Stephen’s murder, the police received several tip-offs from the local community about a gang who were believed to have been involved.

Who were the suspects?

The suspects were Gary Dobson, brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, Luke Knight and David Norris.

Norris was already suspected to have been involved in other racist attacks in the local area.

Brooks was able to serve as a witness in the incident and identified Neil Acourt and Luke Knight as attackers - the two men where then charged with murder within two months of Stephen’s death.

However,the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stated in July 1993 that Brooks’ identification was insufficient and the case was dropped.

The following year, Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence launched a private prosecution against Neli Acourt, Knight and Dobson.

In 1996, the private case was dismissed after the judge ruled that Brooks’ ID evidence was inadmissible.

On 13 February 1997, almost four years after the murder, the five suspects appeared at the inquest into Stephen’s death and refused to answer questions.

Nelson Mandela called for more to be done to get justice for the Lawrence family.

Following the five suspects’ failure to participate in the inquiry, the Daily Mail printed the famous “Murderers” front page, displaying the five men’s faces with the sub-heading: “The Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us”.

In July 1997, home secretary Jack Straw launched The Macpherson inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder, and the subsequent police investigation.

It found that there had been negligence on the part of the Metropolitan Police, with the 350-word Macpherson Report, released in 1999, stating that the investigation was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership.”

Of its 70 recommendations, mostly aimed at improving police attitudes to racism, 67 led quickly to changes in working practices or the law.

One of the biggest changes made subsequent to the report was the abolishing of double jeopardy in 2005 - a law that prevented an accused person from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following an acquittal in the same jurisdiction.

Who was convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence?

In 2006, some 13 years after Stephen had been stabbed to death, the police were able to reopen the case into Dobson and Norris.

By this time, the group of former suspects had been charged for other crimes and new evidence had emerged related to their involvement in Stephen’s death.

Crucially, a blood spot on Dobson’s jacket was identified as Stephen’s, as were hairs found in David Norris’ bedroom. Norris had also been heard referring to ‘skinning’ black people, in a covert video taken in 1994.

Their trial began at the Old Bailey in November 2011, and after six weeks in court, Dobson and Norris were found guilty of murder in January 2012, both receiving life sentences.

The police investigation has since been made ‘inactive’ with the force admitting it was unlikely that any other suspects would be identified in the future.

What is ITV series Stephen about?

The three-part series tells the story of the Lawrence family’s campaign for justice, beginning in 2006.

According to ITV’s synospis, the series “tells the story of the ongoing struggle by Doreen and Neville Lawrence to achieve justice and how a detective, DCI Clive Driscoll – working closely with the Lawrences – puts together an investigation that finally – more than 18 years after his death – secures the convictions of two of the gang who committed the murder of Stephen.”

ITV told RadioTimes: “The production team are producing this sequel with the full support of the Lawrence family, most notably Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Dr Neville Lawrence, who have given the drama their blessing.”

Where can I watch Stephen?

Episode one of Stephen aired on Monday 30 August, all episodes are available on ITVHub.

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