A sixth suspect in the murder of Stephen Lawrence has been named following an investigation into the case by the BBC.
Following a fresh look at evidence by journalists, the Metropolitan Police has named the man as a suspect. Matthew White, who died in 2021 aged 50, was arrested twice during the initial investigation but never charged.
Duwayne Brooks, the man attacked alongside Lawrence and the primary witness to the murder, always maintained their were six attackers. Only five men were ever named, and only two, David Dobson and Gary Norris, were convicted of the racist killing.
Matthew White was only named as a witness, not a suspect, during the 2011 trial of Dobson and Norris. The BBC has now retraced witnesses, including relatives of White who say they told police at the time that he had said he was involved.
Evidence from the initial investigation showed White had a false alibi, that he matched the description of a sixth attacker given by witnesses and from CCTV footage, and that twice the Met were told he was involved by people who knew him but the lead was not followed.
He was arrested once in 2000 and again in 2013 but not charged.
In 2013 White was arrested by Clive Driscoll, the officer who helped convict Norris and Dobson. He told investigators that Cressida Dick told him not to pursue other potential assailants, even though this was the direct instruction of the trial judge. Shortly afterwards Driscoll was taken off the case and told to retire.
On both occasions the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was not a likely prospect of conviction.
Following the 2012 convictions, trial judge Mr Justice Treacy said: ‘On the evidence before the court, there are still three or four other killers of Stephen Lawrence at large.’
In February 2020 White was spoken to again by officers, but it was decided there was insufficient forensic evidence or witness accounts to progress. He died in August 2021. Later that year the investigation was wound up.
In a statement, Stephen’s mother, Baroness Lawrence said there should be ‘serious sanctions’ against those police officers who failed to investigate the murder properly.
She continued: ‘Only when police officers lose their jobs can the public have confidence that failure and incompetence will not be tolerated and that change will happen’.
Speaking on Radio 4’s The World at One on Monday, Sir Peter Bottomley said the police and the CPS have questions to answer.
The former MP for Eltham, where Stephen was murdered, said: ‘With one or two exceptions, the police have shown partly incompetence and partly bias’.
Further evidence of mishandling of the case by the Met raises even more questions about accusations of corruption and institutional racism that hindered their ability to properly investigate the murder.
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw, who initiated the McPherson report, said the police had ‘failed abysmally’, on account of a ‘toxic combination of corruption and downright police incompetence of a breathtaking kind’.
He said he was never made aware of the name of Matthew White, and criticised a system that meant even during the judge-led investigation, the police were charged with handing over the evidence that would be used to judge them themselves. Straw reiterated that this is why some crucial evidence failed to surface during the inquiry, and said this was on account of corrupt officers.
An Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation into four senior officers from the investigation commenced in 2020. They are looking into whether those investigating the case in the aftermath of the murder may have committed criminal offences or misconduct while in public office. This investigation is still ongoing.