Eighteen years after Black teen Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in London, forensic evidence has finally brought his killers to justice, leading to the conviction and sentencing of two suspects.
Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were convicted of the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Lawrence Tuesday, after analysis of new forensic evidence revived the decades-old murder case. Sentenced Wednesday, both men were treated as juveniles because of their age at the time of the attack and, in addition, the sentences reflect the history of race crimes in the U.K. — in 1993, the U.K. did not yet have criminal provisions that require harsher sentencing for racially motivated attacks. Dobson is to serve a minimum of 15 years and two months, and Norris received 14 years and three months.
"I'm praying that these people now realize that they've been found out and say to themselves, 'yes I did this awful deed, but I wasn't alone in that action that night and there are other people also guilty of what I've done' and name them,” Lawrence’s father Neville said on British TV.
London police say they are still attempting to locate the other men who were involved in the killing.
"We are still investigating this case and I would just like to take this opportunity, if anybody out there has any more information or any evidence, even after all this time, please tell us, then we'll do the rest,” said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, according to the BBC.
On April 22, 1993, Lawrence and another Black teen, Duwayne Brooks, were approached by a group of white teens while waiting at a bus stop. The white teens shouted racial slurs and then descended upon Lawrence, beating and stabbing him to death. An initial investigation into the murder was abandoned by police after they allegedly discovered that the evidence provided by a key witness was unreliable. This time, however, the lid was blown off of the case when they identified a small drop of Lawrence’s blood on Dobson’s jacket and a single strand of his hair on Norris’ jeans.
Although many are relieved that justice has been served, the case has opened the lid on England’s simmering racial tensions. Immediately following the failed investigation into Lawrence’s death in 1993, an independent probe of the Metropolitan police department determined the force to be “institutionally racist.”
More recently, in August 2011, London erupted into violent and uncontrollable riots after 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a Black man, was gunned down by police during his arrest. Amid the outbreak of unrest, Black Britons began speaking out about the country’s strained race relations, citing discrimination, racial profiling among police and overall racial hostilities.
In addition, two popular English soccer players made international headlines recently when a white player became the first to be convicted of a crime after shouting a racial slur at an opposing Black player on the field. Chelsea player John Terry was formally accused of committing a “racially aggravated public order offense” under British law.
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(Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images)