One of two men convicted of murdering Stephen Lawrence has failed in a four-year bid to clear his name after an exhaustive review of the case.
Gangster’s son David Norris, 41, had asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2013 to investigate his case and refer it to the Court of Appeal for a new hearing.
But now, more than four years later, it has crushed his hopes of freedom, saying it has ‘not identified any new evidence or legal argument’ on which his conviction could be referred to appeal judges.
The ruling – following a detailed re-examination of forensic evidence in the case – means the snarling racist, jailed for life in 2012, faces spending at least eight more years in prison before he will be considered for parole.
Left: David Norris pictured in 2013. Right: Stephen Lawrence. Gangster’s son Norris, 41, had asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2013 to investigate his case and refer it to the Court of Appeal for a new hearing
The development will be a major relief for Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence as the 25th anniversary of their son’s racist murder nears.
Norris was one of five men accused by the Daily Mail of murdering A-level pupil Stephen, 18, in a savage and unprovoked gang attack in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993.
After failures by the police and the criminal justice system allowed the killers to escape unpunished, Norris and fellow gang member Gary Dobson were convicted of murder after a forensic breakthrough in the case. Dobson dropped an appeal against his conviction in 2013.
The 2012 trial centred around tiny fragments of blood, fibres and hair that were uncovered in a ‘cold case review’. The most important of the discoveries were 16 fibres linked to Stephen’s clothes and three tiny specks of blood.
In the debris from the original evidence bag holding Dobson’s jacket, they found three blood fragments that had less than a one in a billion chance of not being Stephen’s.
They re-examined clothing taken from Dobson and Norris, starting a process that eventually led to a guilty verdict for both men at the Old Bailey in January 2012.
Dobson, now 42, was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years and two months. Norris, who received £222,346 in legal aid to defend the murder charge, was jailed for a minimum of 14 years and three months.
Among other evidence submitted was a police surveillance video shot 20 months after Stephen’s murder in which Norris tells friends he wants to torture and kill black people.
His lawyers tried to have it dismissed, saying it did not prove he was involved in the killing. Norris is heard saying: ‘I’d go down Catford and places like that with two sub-machine guns, and I’d take one of them, skin the black **** alive, torture him, set him alight. I’d blow their two legs off and say: “Go on, you can swim home now”.’
The murderer continues to protest his innocence over the killing. An initial challenge in May 2013 ended when three judges told him that his case was ‘unarguable’ and they refused permission for him to appeal.
The Daily Mail’s front page naming Stephen’s murderers (Feb 14, 1997)
…and when Norris and Dobson were finally convicted (Jan 4, 2012)
Three months later he went to the CCRC. The Mail understands that his case focused mainly on concerns over forensic evidence used against him.
Unless he can produce new evidence which undermines his guilty conviction, he will not be able to make a fresh submission to the commission.
A source close to the Lawrence case said: ‘The CCRC decision is a crushing blow. He should now do the decent thing and admit his guilt.’
A third gang member named by the Daily Mail 20 years ago, Neil Acourt, now 42, was jailed for six years and three months earlier this year over a cannabis smuggling ring and his brother Jamie 41, who is linked to drugs crimes, is on the run.
As reported by the Mail in February this year – on the 20th anniversary of the Mail’s landmark front page – Luke Knight, 41 is the only ‘murderer’ named by this newspaper still walking free in London.
Stephen’s mother Doreen said at the time: ‘That front page made a lasting impression on our struggle for justice. It made everyone in Britain listen to us. I will be forever indebted to those that made the difficult decision to put the murderers of my son on the front page of their newspaper.’