The murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 transformed race relations in Britain. It was not the first time a black person had been killed simply because of his colour, but it was the first time the failings of the police investigation were exposed in close-up.
How the Metropolitan Police had failed to arrest suspects for two weeks, despite being given five names within hours; how officers were alleged to be in the pay of local gangster Clifford Norris, whose son David was one of the two eventually convicted; how the police spent more time investigating Stephen and his friend Duwayne Brooks then tracking down the killers.
In 1960 Neville came to England from Jamaica. He found racism and squalor. He was often turned down for jobs because he was black. In 1972, aged 30, he married Doreen, who was 19 and a bank worker. Life was fine for many years until that night racist thugs stabbed his son, who was studying A’Level subjects and aspired to be an architect.
After Stephen was murdered, Neville said he and Doreen never touched each other again – they’d sleep in the same bed, side by side like statues, locked into their own grief. The family went to Jamaica for six months, buried their son there, and Neville stayed on.
When Doreen asked for a divorce in 1999, he decided to return to Jamaica for good. He says that was the toughest decision a father could make, but he thinks it was the right one for him.
“If I hadn’t gone home, I wouldn’t have developed into the state where I can talk now. The first thing that ran through my mind after the death is that I wasn’t going to live very long after that. I’m not saying I was going to kill myself, but people die from broken hearts …”
In the meantime, Doreen has remained determined to keep her son’s memory alive in Britain. She promoted reforms of the police service and founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. She was appointed OBE for services to community relations in 2003, and was created a Life Peer in 2013.
And even though Neville has left Britain, he and Doreen remain steadfast in keeping Stephen’s legacy going in a country they had sought fortune…RIP Stephen.