On the evening of April 22, 1993, Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old aspiring architect, was assaulted by a pack of white and racist youth while waiting at a bus stop in Eltham, southeast London.
The black teenager managed to briefly free himself from the thugs, who were shouting racial slurs. He ran more than 100 meters along the road before collapsing, bleeding from two stab wounds that were fatal.
The murder, the incompetent police investigation that followed, and the cover-up that followed were all dramatized in a 1999 Bafta-winning film, The murder of Stephen Lawrence.
As ITV prepares to release Stephane – a series of sequels to the film that covers the legacy of the affair in the years since – we look back at the affair and how the story was told in 1999.
What happened in the 1993-1999 case
April 22, 1993: Stephen Lawrence is murdered while waiting at a bus stop with his friend Duwayne Brooks.
April 23, 1993: Suspects are identified after someone leaves a letter giving the names of the suspects in a telephone booth. Police surveillance begins at their home.
May 4, 1993: The Laurence family holds a press conference to complain that we are not doing enough to catch the culprits. They meet with Nelson Mandela a few days later to discuss the case.
May 7-June 23, 1993: Police arrest brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight. Neil Acourt and Knight are identified by Brooks as part of the gang and they are both charged with murder, which they deny.
July 29, 1993: The Crown Prosecution Service drops the charges, claiming that Brooks’ identification is unreliable.
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30 day free trial
Trailer for new ITV drama “Stephen”, starring Steve Coogan and Sharlene Whyte
December 22, 1993: Southwark Coroner interrupts an inquest into Lawrence’s death after family attorney said there was new “dramatic” evidence.
April 1994: The CPS says there is insufficient evidence to lay charges based on the new discovery, which would identify more suspects.
September 1994: Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, launch a private lawsuit against Dobson, Knight and Neil Acourt. All three deny the charges.
December 1994: Dobson, Norris, Neil Acourt and Knight are all filmed using racist and violent language.
April 25, 1996: The trial for the murder of Neil Acourt, Knight and Dobson begins at the Old Bailey. The case collapses when the judge decides that Brooks’ identification evidence is inadmissible. All three are acquitted.
February 13, 1997: The investigation resumes and the five suspects refuse to speak.
February 14, 1997: The Daily mail The newspaper uses its front page to name the five men it claims killed Stephen. The title reads: “The Mail accuses these men of murder. If we are wrong, let them sue us.
March 1997: An investigation into the conduct of the police in the case is opened, which concludes that there were “significant weaknesses, omissions and missed opportunities” but that there was no evidence of racist behavior .
July 1997: Home Secretary Jack Straw announces a judicial inquiry into the murder and a subsequent investigation.
March 1998: The investigation opens and the five suspects are invited to testify on pain of prosecution.
July 1998: The Lawrence family demand the resignation of Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon. He apologizes to them months later.
February 1999: The Greengrass film is released and the Macpherson report accuses the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism. It makes recommendations aimed at improving police attitudes towards racism and includes proposals for changes in the law.
How this was portrayed in the 1999 drama
The original dramatic documentary, written and directed by Greengrass (known for Bloody sunday and the Jason Bourne films) portrayed the 1993 murder and its aftermath exclusively through the eyes of the Lawrence family. It won the Bafta TV Award for Best Drama Single.
Upon release, producer Mark Redhead said The Guardian: “The truth is, for most of the last five years, the Lawrence was hardly said anything. It was, in our opinion, more truthful to see the story exclusively from their point of view and never to inform the public more than them. For us, the lack of knowledge and the Lawrence’s almost Kafkaesque struggle to uncover the truth was at the heart of the story.
It was celebrated at the time for its vivid realism: it was shot with a handheld camera, featuring actors who looked like the people involved, and it was filmed in real locations in Eltham and Jamaica.
“We will be turning through the doors,” Greengrass said during the filming of the film. “It will be like we are watching everything. Like the Lawrences, we will never have the perfect view, we will fight to see everything.
The Lawrences were involved in script development and met with Greengrass and Redhead regularly to record lengthy interviews.
Greengrass believed that the key to telling the story authentically was the actors. He chose Hugh Quarshie and Marianne Jean-Baptiste to play the parents of Stephen, Neville and Doreen, and told the stars, “Look, I’m white. You are black. I can’t pretend I really know what it’s like to be black in Britain.
Quarshie and Jean-Baptiste met with Neville and Doreen to brief their performances. The film also starred Leon Black as Stephen, along with Ashley Walters, Millicent Gezi, Joseph Kpobie, and Brian Bovell.
It showed how the Lawrence family had received threats from the accused and moved to a safe and shabby house, where the housing officer told them, “Obviously that could do a little cleaning and everything. … It’s really your responsibility. So I’ll leave it to you.
Of the accuracy of the film, Redhead said The Guardian: “It’s not exactly how it happened, but I believe Neville and Doreen Lawrence gave their blessing because the performances of the actors in the film captured what it was like to be in their shoes.
“And if the audience watching the film feels a bit like being part of a family that has been the victim of racial murder, then we will have made a small contribution to making sense of this terrible crime and its meaning for us today. “
What will the series cover?
Due to the botched police investigation, the suspects were freed in the 90s. What the film did not cover, as it only happened 13 years later, was that two of the perpetrators – Gary Dobson and David Norris – were ultimately convicted of murder in 2012.
This development and the legacy of the case should be covered in the new series.
Stephane starts on ITV at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 30.