‘Another shocking failure’ as Met chief Sir Mark Rowley issues apology to Stephen Lawrence's mother

Baroness Doreen Lawrence  (PA )
Baroness Doreen Lawrence (PA )

Scotland Yard was today accused of a “shocking level of failure” after Sir Mark Rowley was forced to apologise to the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence for breaking a promise to update her on an aborted probe into a sixth suspect.

The Met Commissioner said the failure to keep a pledge by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward to explain to Baroness Lawrence why Matthew White was not brought to justice before his death in 2021 was “totally unacceptable”.

The apology by Sir Mark follows a BBC investigation last year which revealed major failings in the police investigation into White despite evidence that he was one of six people involved in Stephen’s fatal stabbing.

The racist murder occurred in Eltham 31 years ago today when 18-year-old Stephen was attacked by a group of young white men as he ran to catch a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks.

Only two men, David Norris and Gary Dobson, have been convicted over the killing after police investigations were marred by corruption, racist attitudes and multiple failures.

The BBC’s investigation reported that independent witnesses had said that White was present at the murder and that he also matched the description of the main attacker given by Mr Brooks, but that evidence of his involvement was not pursued adequately.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of five or six racist attackers in south-east London in 1993 (PA Media)
Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of five or six racist attackers in south-east London in 1993 (PA Media)

At the time of the report, Mr Ward promised to explain to Baroness Lawrence why White had not been prosecuted. But Sir Mark was today forced to apologise after it emerged that the explanation has not been provided. He said: “On top of the failures over the decades, this is totally unacceptable.” Baroness Lawrence said that White was “probably the key one who probably caused Stephen’s murder, and [the Met] did nothing about it. I’m not sure what they’re hiding behind, why they can’t come and tell me exactly what they knew then”.

Mayor Sadiq Khan paid tribute to Baroness Lawrence’s fight for justice and said today’s anniversary of

Stephen’s murder commemorated a “watershed moment in the history of race relations in our country”. He added: “It is vital that any new lines of inquiry are properly investigated.”

The original investigation into Stephen’s death was hampered by institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police. Two witnesses said White had confessed to being present during the attack, one of whom, his stepfather, was not spoken to by police until 20 years after the murder because officers had previously misidentified him. The Met said White was arrested twice in connection with the murder, but on both occasions there was not enough evidence for a prosecution.

Three other named suspects, Luke Knight and brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, have all escaped conviction and have denied any involvement.