White gang 'swallowed up' black British teen in fatal attack

15th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A black British teenager was "swallowed up" and stabbed to death by white youths shouting racist abuse in an attack 18 years ago, a prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of a high-profile murder trial.

Stephen Lawrence, 18, was chased by the five-strong gang but was unable to escape as they pounced on him at a bus stop, England's Old Bailey central criminal court in London heard at the trial of two men accused of his murder.

The college student was stabbed twice and bled to death after two arteries were severed, prosecutor Mark Ellison told the jury as the trial got under way into the murder of April 22, 1993 which rocked Britain.

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both white men from south London, deny the murder of the teenager.

Nobody has ever been convicted for the crime, which led to a major inquiry that concluded London's Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist."

The murder and the subsequent inquiry are considered by many to be landmarks in the history of British race relations.

Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville, sat not far from the accused as the jury of eight men and four women was sworn in. As the case began, the victim's father left the court.

Opening the case Tuesday, Ellison said one of the white group was heard to say "what, what, nigger?", as they charged towards Lawrence and his friend Duwayne Brooks during the night-time attack at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London.

Brooks managed to run off after shouting "Get up and run, Steve", said the prosecutor.

But Ellison continued: "Stephen Lawrence did not manage to get away. The group quickly surrounded him.

"One witness described that he was swallowed up by the weight of numbers and forced to the ground."

The gang had rushed towards Lawrence and Brooks in a "totally unprovoked" way, said the prosecutor, adding: "The only discernible reason for the attack was the colour of his skin."

Medical evidence suggested one of the two stab wounds to his upper torso was inflicted when he was standing, the other when he was on the ground.

"We know that by now he was mortally wounded," the prosecutor said.

Following the attack, Lawrence ran about 220 metres or yards and caught up with his friend. But "he collapsed on the pavement, never to get up again", Ellison said.

The prosecution is relying on new scientific evidence which came to light as a result of a cold case review that started in 2007, Ellison told the court.

Blood, fibres and hair were found on clothing seized from the defendants as part of the original police investigation in 1993, he said.

The defence maintain that the samples could have got on to the clothing through contamination during the subsequent police investigation.

Ellison said the prosecution will argue the new scientific findings suggest the defendants were members of the group that attacked Lawrence.

Before the trial got under way, judge Colman Treacy told the jury of eight men and four women to make their minds up based only on what they heard in court and not to research the case independently.

The inquiry by senior judge William Macpherson into the way that the original investigation was conducted by London's Metropolitan Police led to significant changes in the way murders involving black victims are handled.

The hard-hitting report, published in 1999, gave a damning assessment of the culture within the Metropolitan Police and policing in general.

The Met faced allegations of incompetence and racism, although two internal inquiries exonerated the force.

The trial is expected to last through December.

© 2011 AFP

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