WHEN two men were jailed for life for the murder of Stephen Lawrence it felt like his family’s fight for justice had ended – but for the cop who nailed them it was just beginning.
Det Chief Insp Clive Driscoll led the investigation which saw Gary Dobson and David Norris locked up in 2012, and he is sure he was set to catch his other killers when the Met Police forced him into retirement.
Now a new ITV drama, Stephen, will chronicle the incredible story, and it’s one which the detective hopes might finish the work which he was prevented from completing.
Clive said: “I’m hoping this drama will convince someone to come forward with a bit of the jigsaw that we’ve all waited for. Because people are out there who know what happened and I hope they are watching.
“Somebody might watch this for entertainment and realise they’ve got that bit of information which might help. And loyalties do change with time and I hope that their conscience might remind them, give them confidence, whatever it takes.
“I just hope someone can find it in their heart. Seeing it like this, that allows you to feel it. They were just a family that was absolutely destroyed by a mindless act of violence.”
Clive, played in the three-part drama by Steve Coogan, finally brought the Lawrence family some peace when Dobson and Norris were jailed for murdering Stephen in 1993.
But it was a bittersweet victory because he did so using new evidence which should have been uncovered during previous investigations.
The drama, the sequel to a 1999 ITV drama, The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence, shows how the simplest of inquiries proved that the “brief” attack on Stephen was in fact relatively prolonged.
That meant there was ample opportunity for DNA evidence to be exchanged between the attackers and their victim.
Clive’s team also carried out tests which had previously been deemed unlikely to succeed, such as looking for strands of material from Stephen’s clothes on those of his murderers. Clive’s forensic experts found them.
Stephen was just 18 when he was targeted by a gang in Eltham, South East London, on April 22, 1993. He had been waiting for a bus with his friend Duwayne Brooks when the thugs left him with fatal stab wounds.
The names of the suspected killers were given to police. But it was nearly two weeks before brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, Norris, Dobson and Luke Knight were arrested and their homes searched.
Neil Acourt and Knight were eventually charged with murder, but both deny it and within weeks the charges were dropped, with the Crown Prosecution Service calling evidence from Duwayne unreliable.
For Stephen’s parents Neville and Doreen, played in the drama by Sharlene Whyte and Hugh Quarshie, it was a crushing end to an investigation botched from the start. It would take Clive’s new probe in 2007 to reach the truth.
He said: “We certainly made mistakes in the previous investigation, definitely. There were times when I used to look at the evidence wall and think, ‘How on earth did that happen?’
“If you’re saying to me, ‘Was it indifference?’ it could have been. If you’re saying to me, ‘Could it have just been that they got it wrong?’ yes. In regards to racism, I’ve always thought of asking a white bloke, it’s very difficult.
“I think if you spoke to Doreen Lawrence or Duwayne and some of the other witnesses, they would say it was racism, because that’s what they thought. They felt they weren’t getting a fair crack at the whip.”
Then in 1997 an inquest ruled that Stephen had been unlawfully killed and in 1999 the Macpherson public inquiry concluded that the Met Police was “institutionally racist”.
But in 2004 the CPS said there was still insufficient evidence to bring a case.
Clive said: “Because of the allegation, the finding of institutional racism, I think the Met became very, very conscious — whereas young Stephen’s murder, it wasn’t more important, it was less important.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re checking every box and not just going, ‘Here, look, we’re doing all of this to show we’re doing our bit’, which was all very valuable but there was still young Stephen in the middle of it. He deserved an investigation.
I’m hoping this drama will convince someone to come forward with a bit of the jigsaw that we’ve all waited for.
“Doreen Lawrence calls it razzmatazz. That’s about right, we didn’t focus on the razzmatazz around it, we focused on the murder.”
One of Clive’s greatest achievements in the investigation he launched in 2007 was regaining the trust of both the Lawrence family and Duwayne, who felt he had been badly treated by police previously.
That was crucial because Neville and Doreen — now Baroness Lawrence — had been the dignified driving force behind keeping the story in the spotlight. Stephen’s plight was also a turning point in race relations in the UK, which Clive believes was our “George Floyd Moment”.
He said: “I was a PC during the Brixton riots, and the rioters admitted they threw petrol bombs, and that it didn’t change anything.
“But if you look at what Baroness Lawrence and her family have done, they never even threw a tantrum.
“If you look how they’ve managed to change the law, they’ve managed to police better, they got better police training, greater structure and boundaries, then 100 per cent, Stephen Lawrence was our awakening.
“If I was a young boy or girl that was really fed up and thought society wasn’t giving me a fair call, I know who I’d follow, and it wouldn’t be the people throwing petrol bombs. It would be people like the Lawrences.”
On being made to retire, Clive said: “I really don’t want to be bitter, because I loved my police career. But if you’re asking me that part of the ending, it doesn’t make sense.
“I was over retirement age but I would have stayed and I never asked to go. I think the Lawrence family were hurt by it, they were witnesses, and so for that alone, I felt that didn’t help the investigation.
“I felt we had some good leads, we had some witnesses that were up for it and wanted to help, but now they won’t talk to the police.
"I just think if you spoke to the family, they feel now how they felt before 2006. And that, just for me, can’t be right.
“With me and a few others being compulsorily retired, that trust changed, and with it, I think the help we were getting from certain witnesses went.”
Now Clive’s hopes lie with the drama, which he feels accurately tells the highly emotive story of the conviction of two of Stephen’s killers.
He said: “It stuck to what happened and they are the best actors. My admiration for them is so high, making something that was so interesting. It will really hold people’s imagination — which is great, because it tells such an important story.”
- Stephen starts on ITV at 9pm on August 30.
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