On 22 April 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack, carried out by a group of white men.
His murder, and the subsequent investigation carried out by the Metropolitan Police, shone a spotlight on the racist attitudes prevalent in Britain, with his father, Dr Neville Lawrence, saying that his murder had “opened the country’s eyes” to racism.
As the 28th anniversary of Stephen’s murder approaches, his mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, appeared on Good Morning Britain to pay tribute to her son.
‘Where Stephen’s legacy lies’
Speaking to the morning talk show, Baroness Lawrence discussed how the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation works to support young people, and where her son’s legacy lies.
She said: “For me, because I say that education is quite important, and we have to educate our young, so my thing is always around education.
“How do we help support young people to live their best lives, to be tolerant of each other, to think about differences, how to respect each other, and to be friends to each other.
“So it’s basically looking at all those things, around the foundation we’re looking at the three c’s, which is [classrooms], communities and careers, so we try to help support young people through the whole package as you can see, so for me that’s where the foundation is and where Stephen’s legacy lies.”
Who was Stephen Lawrence?
Stephen Lawrence was born and grew up in south-east London, where he lived with his family - parents Neville and Doreen, brother Stuart and sister Georgina.
On 22 April 1993, at 18 years old, Stephen was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack by a group of white men.
Before his murder, Stephen had been waiting for a bus with a friend, who managed to escape unhurt, but Stephen died from his injuries.
Police began an investigation into suspects who they believed were involved in the attack, however it was the opinion of many that the police weren’t doing enough to bring the killers to justice.
Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa at the time, even met with Stephen’s family and called on the police to do more.
Only two out of Stephen’s five suspected murderers were handed jail time for the crime - Gary Dobson and David Norris were jailed for life at the Old Bailey in 2021.
Of the remaining three suspects, two have since served jail time for unrelated drug offences.
What happened to the case?
In August 2020, the Metropolitan Police labelled the investigation into Stephen’s murder as “inactive”, 27 years after he died.
Metropolitan Police Chief Creddida Dick said that all “identified lines of inquiry” had been completed, but that officers would occasionally check in on the case if new evidence is discovered.
Dame Cressida said: “The investigation has now moved to an ‘inactive’ phase, but I have given Stephen’s family the assurance that we will continue to deal with any new information that comes to light.
“The investigation into Stephen’s murder will also be periodically reviewed for any further investigative opportunities which may arise; for example, with advances in technology.”
The Police Chief added that “is it well known that other suspects were also involved in the events which unfolded that night and it is deeply frustrating that we have been unable to bring them to justice”.
When the news was announced, Baroness Lawrence said: “It is never too late to give a mother justice for the murder of her son. Whilst Metropolitan Police have given up, I never will.”
What is the Macpherson report?
The Home Secretary at the time, Jack Straw, announced the establishment of an inquiry into Stephen’s death, in 1997 - more than four years after his murder.
The inquiry followed years of campaigning by the Lawrence family and a subsequent announcement of an investigation into the case by the Police Complaints Authority.
Speaking to Parliament, Straw said that the inquiry would “inquire into the matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence on 22 April 1993 to date, in order particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes”.
Sir William Macpherson, a retired High Court judge was the chair for the inquiry, and was advised by Tom Nook, Dr John Sentamu and Dr Richard Stone.
The 350 page report found that the investigation into the killing had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”. It stated that the Metropolitan Police were “institutionally racist”.
Specific officers were named in the report, and the whole force faced criticism.
The report had a total of 70 recommendations, including measures to transform the attitude of the police towards race relations and improve accountability.
What is Stephen Lawrence Day?
Stephen Lawrence Day takes place on 22 April each year, to coincide with the day of his death and to pay tribute to his life.
Stephen Lawrence Day was first officially recognised by Theresa May in 2018, when she was Prime Minister, with the first official one taking place on 22 April 2019.
At the 25th Anniversary memorial of his death, May said that his family had “fought heroically to ensure that their son’s life and death will never be forgotten”.
Writing in a Guardian article on the first Stephen Lawrence Day, Baroness Lawrence wrote: “I hope that the first National Stephen Lawrence Day will help to drive forward an important national conversation about how we can all build a fairer and more inclusive Britain.
“But more importantly, I want this day to inspire our country’s future generation into living their best life - in the same spirit as Stephen.”
What is the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation?
The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation is a charity which was launched in 2020, and aims to give young people access to opportunities that Stephen never had.
Baroness Lawrence said that the Foundation “will be the only home of Stephen’s legacy”.
As Baroness Lawrence explained on Good Morning Britain, the Foundation operates on a structure of the “three c’s” - classrooms, community and careers.
Baroness Lawrence says: “We’ve structured our efforts around a virtuous circle of “three Cs” – Classrooms, Community and Careers.
“We want to inspire children to dream freely without barriers and to realise the absolute importance of education; we want to support and create new connections within all types of communities; and we want to work with big business to put black men from low-income families on a path towards the boardrooms of the UK’s most prestigious organisations.”