Friday 24 February 2017

Gang cheered before savage '10-second' attack on teen

Witnesses tell court how group of men charged and punched Lawrence

Gordon Rayner and Mark Hughes in London

A gang of white youths "shouted and cheered" as they stabbed Stephen Lawrence to death in an attack lasting just 10 seconds, a jury has heard.

Eyewitnesses to the murder of the black teenager in 1993 described how the assailants "collided" with Mr Lawrence after shouting at him across a street, then forced him to the ground and appeared to punch and kick him.

After the 18-year-old managed to wriggle free, the gang walked away "quite casually" before Mr Lawrence collapsed and bled to death, a court heard.

The first witnesses to give evidence at the Old Bailey murder trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris recalled Mr Lawrence and his friend Duwayne Brooks waiting at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, before the attack on April 22, 1993.

Joseph Shepherd, who lived near Mr Lawrence at the time, was also at the bus stop when Mr Lawrence and Mr Brooks, after a long wait, decided to walk down the road to see if any buses were coming.

As they walked back towards the stop, a "group of youths" appeared on the opposite side of the road, then "something was said and basically they charged at them".

Mr Shepherd said the gang broke into "a sprint" and chased Mr Lawrence and Mr Brooks. Mr Brooks was grabbed by the gang but "shook himself free" and ran up the road, but Mr Lawrence was "brought down to the ground".

Mr Shepherd saw "punching and kicking" but no weapons, in an attack that was "pretty quick" and lasted around 10 seconds, he said.

Collapsed

Mr Lawrence managed to get up and ran past the bus stop.

But Mr Lawrence collapsed shortly afterwards as he bled from two wounds to his torso.

Mr Shepherd was able to give police brief descriptions but said he had been unhappy when police produced a photofit of one of the attackers, because "it didn't look like what I had seen".

Royston Westbrook, a hospital worker, was also at the bus stop on that "cold, clear night", and described the decision taken by Mr Lawrence and Mr Brooks that put them in the path of the gang. He said Mr Lawrence and Mr Brooks sat behind him on a bus from Eltham town centre, "bantering" about whether to stay on the bus or catch another.

They decided to get off the bus in Well Hall Road, Eltham, as did Mr Westbrook, but the buses were running late.

He said the attack was "completely unprovoked".

Mr Westbrook saw no weapons, and said: "It was so quick and my impression was that they had managed to punch him and that was it."

Afterwards "he ran for his life up the hill".

Unlike Mr Shepherd, Mr Westbrook said that "nothing was said" by the gang during the attack.

Moments after the attack a bus arrived, which he boarded. He said a passenger remarked to him: "Looks like he got it because he was black, doesn't it?"

The attack seemed no more than a "scuffle" at the time. The prosecution claims Mr Dobson (36) and Mr Norris (35) were part of the gang, which was linked by a common "racial animosity and motivation".

Mr Dobson and Mr Norris deny murder.

The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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