The murder of Stephen Lawrence, an 18 year old young black student stabbed to death in a racist attack in 1993, was one of the defining moments in the British 20th Century.
A public inquiry later concluded that “institutional racism” from London’s Metropolitan Police bungled the case and let the men suspected of killing Lawrence walk free.
Today, 18 years later, two men were finally convicted of the murder. And one man played a huge role in that eventual result. The Daily Mail’s editor in chief, Paul Dacre.
It was Dacre’s decision to put the photos of those accused of murder on the front page in 1997, possibly in contempt of court, under the headline “MURDERERS: The Mail accuses these men of killing. If we are wrong, let them sue us”.
Not one of the men ever sued, and public opinion swung wildly against the accused and the police who had mishandled the case. Eventually, in 2007, police began re-investigating the case, and in 2011 charges were brought against two men.
It was certainly out of character for Dacre, often characterised as a right wing populist with little time for concerns of racism — in his book Flat Earth News, Nick Davies writes that the group changed its coverage after a personal link to the family was suggested (reports suggest that Lawrence’s father had at one time worked on Dacre’s house). But even Dacre’s detractors have to accept his huge role in getting the case reopened and an eventual guilty verdict.
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