As Stephen Lawrence’s parents quietly shed a tear, the killers’ families yell obscenities

By Paul Harris

Last updated at 10:24 AM on 4th January 2012

All the pain and frustration of the last 18 years was etched into their faces.

Now, at last, Neville and Doreen Lawrence were finally able to let their public composure slip.

For something like 20 seconds after the guilty verdicts were announced, they sat motionless in court, unblinking, solemn, silent.

Decency: Doreen Lawrence speaks emotionally after the verdict, flanked by her former husband Neville and their son Stuart

Disruption: Members of Dobson’s family shouting and swearing at reporters outside the Old Bailey

Suddenly, the masks dropped. Then came the tears.

After nearly two decades, the remarkable determination and quiet dignity of Stephen Lawrence’s parents was rewarded yesterday with their first taste of real justice. More…

They sat just a few feet from two men convicted of their son’s murder, members of the racist teenage mob who attacked their son that night in 1993 when he strayed innocently into their path.

They didn’t turn their heads to look at the two men in the Old Bailey dock, never uttered a word towards them – or their relatives who disgraced the public gallery in Court 16 with a display of one-arm salutes.

Murdered: Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in Eltham, South LOndon in April 1993. His parents have campaigned vigorously for justice ever since

But Gary Dobson and David Norris weren’t finished yet.

After compelling the Lawrence family to listen to their lies and excuses for the last seven weeks, they walked swaggeringly towards inevitably long prison sentences and gave thumbs-up signs to relatives and supporters.

Dobson turned to the jury and declared: ‘You’ve condemned an innocent man here today. I hope you can all live with that.’

Outside – as the Lawrences calmly gave separate statements expressing their mixed emotions of anger and relief – the defendants’ families strode off defiantly, shouting and swearing at journalists.

Someone said they looked as if they were all back on their manor in Eltham, where the mob surrounded and fatally stabbed Stephen Lawrence. They were protesting that their boys were innocent.

It had taken a jury less than 12 hours to disagree.

After all the investigations, a public inquiry, a civil prosecution and years of agonising uncertainty, the irony was that a tiny speck of blood and a collection of microscopic fibres finally secured convictions.

The dramatic finale to this giant first step in the search for the truth about Stephen’s murder unfolded from the moment it became clear that verdicts had been reached.

Neville and Doreen sat ten feet apart, estranged casualties of the immense strain that the loss of their son imposed on their marriage. Doreen was flanked by their other son, Stuart, and her lawyer Imran Khan. Neville found a seat between his cousin Beverley Sinclair and his lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn. everyone waited. It took about 20 minutes for the court to assemble and for every other available seat to be filled.

Murderers: Gary Dobson, left, and David Norris were found guilty of murdering Stephen Lawrence by a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday. Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence remained dignified as the verdicts were returned

From their demeanour, you could guess the Lawrences were steeling themselves for the worst. They had, after all, been at this stage before. Doreen sat with her hands in her lap; Neville with his hand on his chin. For a brief moment they looked anxious.

In the few minutes it took for the jury to file in through the studded oak and leather door from their deliberation room, the court fell so silent that the loudest noise was the hum of the air-conditioning. none of the eight men and four women looked at the dock when they took their seats in court. It was a young man in a casual check shirt who stood as the jury foreman. He must have been only a child when Stephen Lawrence was murdered; now, after seven weeks of evidence, he and the other 11 members of the panel were experts in the case.

How did they find each defendant, he was asked separately. ‘Guilty,’ he replied – twice.

Defendant’s family fury: Dobson and Norris’s relatives strode off defiantly, shouting and swearing at journalists. here Dobson’s family are seen leaving the Old Bailey

Fight for justice: after 19 years of campaigning to see her son’s killers convicted, Doreen Lawrence addresses the media outside the Old Bailey as her son Stuart and former husband Neville watch

Dobson shook his head melodramatically from side to side and muttered something inaudible. Norris found a spot on the floor to fix his gaze.

From the public gallery came the sound of a woman wailing as Dobson’s mother Pauline shouted: ‘He did not kill that man.’ some 20ft above the well of the court, it transpired, an entire row of the gallery was stacked with relatives, friends and supporters of Dobson and Norris.

Dobson gave a ‘chin-up’ sign to them and Norris caught someone’s eye for a cheery wave. Later, a forest of hands would be raised in one-arm salutes to the two men as the group shouted ‘Stay strong . . . don’t worry,’ and ‘love you, Gal’ to Dobson. someone shouted ‘Fight to the death’ to Norris.

This was despite the fact that the judge, Mr Justice Treacy, had already warned that he would not tolerate anything but absolute quiet and dignity as the verdicts were returned. Now it was underlined by the presence of three uniformed police officers in the gallery. Another two guarded the door to the court.

Out of sight below, all eyes were on the two separate figureheads of the Lawrence family. Neville and Doreen could not see each other but began to cry at exactly the same moment. Stuart, who once told me the fight for justice would continue ‘as long as there is life in my family’s body’, offered comfort to his mother as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

Press pack: The world’s media watch as mrs Lawrence reads her statement after Dobson and Norris were convicted at the Old Bailey

They had been forced to overcome a massive series of stumbling blocks from the moment their son was pronounced dead. Now they had justice, or at least partial justice, as Neville described it. No one really had to ask what he had gone through as he waited for the outcome yesterday but he volunteered it anyway.

‘I thought my heart would burst,’ he told the Daily Mail. ‘It was as though I’d been holding my breath for 18 years and I was suddenly able to breathe out. It felt as though my heart was going to fly out of my chest. On the way into court I told myself not to get too emotional, but the tears just started to flow. there was this incredible feeling of relief.’

Outside in the rain, addressing banks of TV cameras and reporters, he said in a statement read by his lawyer: ‘something has happened over the last seven weeks. I have watched justice being done.’

But he added he also knew there were five or six attackers that night, and said: ‘I do not think I’ll be able to rest until they are all brought to justice.’


Resting place: Stephen Lawrence’s mother says her son is buried in the Caribbean because Britain ‘didn’t deserve to have him’

Stephen Lawrence is buried in a remote location in the rural highlands of his native Jamaica, his mother has revealed.

The family chose to lay him to rest alongside his great-grandmother in a secluded spot near where Doreen Lawrence used to play as as a child

She told the BBC’s Panorama programme that his family feared his grave would be desecrated if it was in the UK.

However,the exact location of the grave remains a fiercely guarded secret, she said, to allow her to visit him in peace and quietly reflect.

Mrs Lawrence said: ‘Here nobody knows where he is. Then again, I don’t think the country deserves to have his body there anyway because they took his life.’

‘Ithink it’s still the best thing we did, that we brought him here so he can be next to his great-grandmother so she can look after him.’

The grave, bears a picture of her murdered son which will soon be replaced because it is fading, mrs Lawrence said.

Memorial: Flowers are laid at the bus stop in Eltham, South London, yesterday where Stephen Lawrence was knifed to death in April 1993

Beside him, Doreen Lawrence was applauded as she read a separate statement. but this wasn’t a cause for celebration, she said.

‘how can I celebrate when my son lies buried? When I cannot see him or speak to him? When will I see him grow up and go to university or get married or have children? These verdicts will not bring my son back.

‘how can I celebrate when I know that this day could have come 18 years ago if the police, who were meant to find my son’s killers, had not failed so miserably to do so?’

Of her son she said: ‘I now want people to remember him as a bright, beautiful young man who any parent of whatever background would have been proud of.

‘He was a wonderful son and a shining example of what any parent would want in a child. I miss him with a passion. hopefully now he can rest in peace.’

Murder scene: this is where 18-year-old black A-level student Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death almost 19 years ago in a racially motivated attack


As Stephen Lawrence’s parents quietly shed a tear, the killers’ families yell obscenities

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