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The Lasting Impact Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence, 21 Years Ago Today
April 22, 2014
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(Photo: AP Photo/Family Handout/PA)

On April 22, 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered while waiting for a bus in London. He was 18. His murder would lead to one of the most infamous criminal cases in British history — one that would make waves around the world — as details of the attack's racial motivation (and the racially charged mishandling of the case by police) came to light. 

Stephen Lewis was stabbed by a group of young white men in south-east London for no discernible reason other than the colour of his skin. Five arrests were made after the initial investigation, but none of those suspects were convicted. The murder went unsolved for almost 20 years, until two of the original suspects — Gary Dobson and David Norris — were found guilty of murder in January 2012.

Lawrence's murder helped bring the conversation about racism into the mainstream — and as a direct result of the case, changes were made in regard to the way in which police investigate complaints and liaise with the families of victims. A series of investigations would span decades, each one brining with it new revelations about racism and obstruction of justice. The most famous is the public inquiry held in 1997, overseen by Sir William Macpherson. The report stated that the original police investigation was tarnished by "institutional racism," and that the police mishandled many elements of the investigation. It also recommended that the double jeopardy rule (which prevented the accused from being tried twice for the same crime) be disposed of in murder cases so that prosecutors could use new evidence to convict two of the suspects. The recommendations became law in 2005. And in 2006, the cold Lawrence case was reopened, partly because of these new revelations, and partly because the tabloids — especially the Daily Mail — never let the case go. 

For a complete timeline of events related to Lawrence's murder, check out this piece on And for an insightful look at the Daily Mail's contributions, check out this piece in the New Statesman

Today, the Lawrence case remains in the public eye in Britain. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust is an organization that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering opportunities and bursaries to help them pursue architecture, one of Lawrence's interests. 

Lawrence's mother, Doreen, has spent much of the last two decades campaigning for police reforms and fighting for an end to racism in Britain. She now sits in the House of Lords as a member of the Labour party, and she carried the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. She's even being considered as a mayoral candidate in London. 

For a comprehensive look at the lasting impact of the Stephen Lawrence case on modern Britain, we recommend this piece by Hugh Muir in The Guardian or this piece about the 20-year memorial by the Daily Mail's Stephen Wright, who was honoured in 2012 with a Paul Foot journalism award for his work covering the case.


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