Last night, we sat down and watched the three episodes of "Stephen" on catch-up.
This was the ITV docu-drama about the follow up to the botched investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, South London in 1994. Steve Coogan played the part of DI Clive Driscoll, who reviewed all the evidence and found how the Forensic Science Service's failures to properly examine the evidence at the time, allowed the killers to go free for more than ten years.
The programme was especially poignant for me because Stephen Lawrence was murdered not a couple of miles from where I lived at the time. I was only 10 years old then, but remember how it affected the community so deeply, and how divided people were over it. I lived in the well-to-do area of Blackheath, but in the rougher area of Eltham and Well Hall, the attitude was that Stephen Lawrence was stabbed when he got into an argument with a drugs dealer and was stabbed when he tried to rip the dealer off.
My sister was in Sixth Form at the local comp and she had friends and classmates who knew the killers personally. It really was that close to home. It really did affect the people of the area that deeply. Everybody knew who the klllers were. Everybody knew that the line being taken by the police was way off beam. And everybody knew that Doreen and Neville Lawrence would never get justice if the Metropolitan Police had anything to do with it. They didn't give a damn. Just one more black kid stabbed in a fight over drugs.
Some years later, when a plaque was placed in Well Hall Road where Stephen Lawrence died, I and a school friend placed some flowers on the stone. We never knew Stephen. We had no connection with the family. It was just something that we wanted to do.
The docu-drama is an excellent one and truly conveys the multitude of feelings that occurred over this particularly horrible racist murder. The frustration of the family at the clear indifference of the police. The determination of Doreen Lawrence. The diligence of DI Clive Driscoll and his team. The ineptitude of the Forensic Science Service in 1994 (this was addressed by the Service before I joined it in 2005. I've some of the documentation about it and it makes for shameful reading). The appalling racism prevalent in South London at that time........ and still exists, though not to the same extent.
This case changed a lot, but not enough. The shame is that it took the death of an entirely innocent, lovely young man to bring all the faults in the system out into the open.
If you haven't seen this programme, you should.