Doreen Lawrence tells of the night she learned her son Stephen had been attacked and the search to find out what happened
In 1998 Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen, gave an extended statement on how she found out her son had died on 22 April 1993.
It was prepared for a public inquiry into the death of the talented teenager. In this extended extract she tells of the confusion as she learned her firstborn child had been attacked, and the desperate search to find out what had happened.
"By 1993 I was at college doing my first degree in humanities. In April 1993 I went on a field trip.
"The last time I saw Stephen alive was on the Tuesday morning. I was leaving early because I had to be at Woolwich by 8.30am and he came down for breakfast. You just don't think about it at the time. If you knew that it was the last time you were going to see somebody, the things that you would say to them and all that. I told him I was going to be away for a couple of days, that I would ring him that night to tell him if there was a telephone number or any way that he could get in contact with me and that was it. I just said that I would see him when I got back.
"When I rang on the Tuesday night Stephen wasn't home yet, so I didn't speak to him. I arrived back in London on the Thursday night at about 9pm. Neville picked me up and we went back to the house.
"Neville said that Stephen wasn't home yet and Georgina was asleep. It wasn't unusual that Stephen wasn't home. He had to be home between 10 and 10.30. I said that because I felt that, being at school and studying, it is quite a reasonable time; but then again, Stephen was 18, so even though we said that, if he didn't get home by then, there is not a lot you can do because of his age.
"We sat and watched ITV news, because it was 10pm, followed by the local news. At that time I was thinking: 'I wish that Stephen would hurry up and come home,' because I was really tired and I wanted to go to bed, and I didn't want to go to bed until I knew that he was home. I watched the news, and then the local news and, just as that finished, I remember getting up to go to the bathroom and the door knocked, and I thought: 'OK, Stephen is home'. I could hear voices downstairs and I heard Stephen's name mentioned, so I went down.
"As I got to the front door I couldn't see who was at the door, because I couldn't see past Neville who was in the way. I moved Neville aside and I saw the family from around the back ? Joey Shepherd and his father and brother. He had come to tell us how Stephen had been attacked. He didn't know how seriously Stephen had been hurt. All he said was it was at the bus stop and the Welcome Inn pub. That is all he said. Then the father said to get some information perhaps it would be best to phone the police and see what they could tell us.
"They were at the door for just a short time. So I went inside and dialled 999, because I didn't know the local police station number.
"What they told me over the phone was: 'It is news to us, we don't know of any sort of incident.' I said to the operator that I had just been told that my son had been involved in an accident down the road and I wanted to know if they could tell me anything about it. I gave them the name of the road and the pub and all of that and they said it was news to them. They hadn't heard of any incident and they couldn't give me any information.
"We decided to leave. I wasn't dressed, but I suppose just the thought of something having happened to Stephen, I just put on my overcoat and I went out.
"Neville was driving and at that time of night there is hardly any traffic. We went over the lights, past the pub and the bus stop. The bus stop is further down there on the left-hand side. We passed there.
"There is a road, I'm not sure of its name, but I think it is the first turning on the left after the bus stop. We got as far as there but we still couldn't see anything.
"We couldn't see anything on the Thursday night. We went right as far as that road but we couldn't see anything. We turned around and I said to Neville, 'They must have gone to the hospital,' because Brook hospital is not far away. I thought: 'Well, that is where they will have gone.'
"We turned around and we just thought: "Well, probably they had gone to the hospital under their own steam. We didn't think anything serious had happened because we couldn't see any evidence of it. I thought that Stephen was hurt but I didn't think anything as serious as it was.
"I know that for a long time beforehand I used to talk to Stephen about the dangers of being out and the dangers of the police as well because of stories that you hear that used to frighten me. The stories that you would hear would be about walking on the street on your own with your friends or whatever and the police would stop you and bundle you into the back of the van and beat up the kids. That is the story that would be going around, especially with black children.
"I would tell Stephen that when he was walking down the road he should do so with the traffic going into the opposite direction so he could see when cars were coming and if there was any traffic and then there was more chance of getting away. That is the sort of thing I would tell him.
"He had never been in any sort of trouble. He had never been in any sort of trouble with the police. He had never been arrested or even spoken to the police. He never had any dealings with them at all.
"By 1993 there had been three murders in our area. I wasn't aware of them all. I was aware, of course, of the Rolan Adams one because Stephen knew Rolan and that was a big thing for him ? I felt really frightened that Rolan had been killed for no reason but I presume at the same time you hear it, and until it happens to you, it doesn't really sink in. The fear has always been there.
"Going back to that night we turned to go to Brook hospital. We drove to the hospital ? Neville dropped me outside the accident & emergency department. It is a hospital that I know ? I walked through the doors and I turned right.
"I walked down to the casualty place and I think there were just one or two people sitting there, nobody that I knew, because all I was looking for was Stephen. When I first came through the door I could see a black boy standing in front of me and I saw a police officer standing there. I didn't recognise the black boy, but now I know it was Duwayne [Brooks, friend of Stephen at the time of the attack]. At the time all I was looking for was Stephen, so I wouldn't have noticed. I would have passed anybody by. I didn't have to pass them to go to the casualty department, though, because they were further down. I walked down and I looked in the waiting area but I couldn't see Stephen.
"I was turning around to go back through the front door again when Neville came walking in. I was going to tell Neville that Stephen was not there, I had decided in my mind that he was not there. I didn't see any medical people about, or anyone. All I was looking for was Stephen. I didn't go to the enquiries counter, I didn't even notice whether there was one or not.
"When Neville walked in he recognised Duwayne straight away. He walked up to Duwayne and said something to him and it was then that I recognised him. I went over to Duwayne and asked him what happened and where Stephen was. At that point some people from the medical team came out. There was a man, someone in green, I think. The medical team came out with him. I'm not really certain, I think they came out of the examining rooms opposite where Duwayne was standing and walked over to Duwayne and I think the man in green asked what they hit him with. I'm not certain if the iron bar was mentioned by Duwayne, but I can remember hearing about an iron bar. That was what they asked him about.
"I started asking them questions like: "Where is Stephen? Can we see him?" They said they were working on him. I must have asked three or four times if we could see him and they kept saying they were working on him. We were shown into a room, a family waiting room or something and I remember not sitting down. I was quite anxious and that was when I went off to phone my sister. In the room at the time it was just me and Neville. I don't think Duwayne came into the room at that point. I know eventually he came in but not at first.
"Neville and I didn't speak to each other much. I said to them that I couldn't just sit there so I went and got some change to phone my sister. That was the only phone call I made. I told her that we were at the hospital and that Stephen had been attacked. I couldn't tell her anything because I didn't know anything and she said that she would come down. By the time I put the phone down and went back to the room Neville had gone to phone his cousin so I stayed in the room on my own.
"When Neville came back I think Duwayne was shown in then. I remember when he sat down. I asked him what was happening and what was going on. He was very confused and didn't make any sense. He said that they had been coming from my brother's place and that it was not long after that, but I couldn't make any sense of anything else. Half the time he wasn't talking anyway. He was just extremely anxious. He couldn't sit still. He wasn't with a police officer in the room. The police didn't come into the room. The police officer that was near Duwayne as we came in was standing outside.
"Neville, Duwayne and I stayed in the room but we weren't there for very long. I think it was about five or 10 minutes, it didn't seem that long. At that stage I thought Stephen was seriously hurt, but not fatally. As for being stabbed, that's the last thing I expected.
"We were waiting still in the family room and two people came in, one was a ginger-haired woman. She was a staff nurse and the other woman I presumed was the doctor. They said that Stephen was dead. I looked at them as if to say: 'How do you mean he's dead? He can't be dead.' I don't remember what I did then. I can't remember whether I cried out or anything. That was it.
"I was sitting at the time when we were told and asked if we could see him. I didn't believe that he was dead and I was saying: 'No, he is not dead. He is not dead. He can't be.' I don't remember how Neville reacted. I remember Duwayne because he was sitting next to me. He let out a cry. While we were sitting there the wall was next to us. There were three seats and they were flush to the wall. Duwayne was on the end by the door. Neville was in the corner. Duwayne was by the entrance and he was literally climbing the walls when he heard that Stephen had died. Nobody did anything to comfort him and not long after that the police took him away. I don't remember him going to see Stephen with us at all. We were told Stephen was dead and we asked to see him. The doctor said we had to wait because they were preparing him or something. By that time my sister had arrived with her husband.
"We told them that Stephen had died while we were in the family room.
"We all sat there for a while. A few other members of the family arrived. At the time I didn't know, but my sister had phoned my brother and nephew. I remember my brother turning up so there was myself, Neville, my sister, her husband and my brother. They were the only ones that were there when we went to see Stephen. There were no police officers.
"The next thing I remember was us seeing Stephen. We were shown into the room where he was, the examination room, Neville, myself, my sister and her husband. The nurse took us in and I'm sure she had her arms round me and my sister was on the other side. I don't remember anyone else being in the room. When we got in we saw Stephen lying there. He looked as though he was just sleeping. He was covered from his neck downwards and I didn't move the covers. I just kissed him and more or less cuddled him. I remember the cut on his chin but I didn't take the cover off him. We stood there for a while and then went back into the family room and that's when the other family members arrived.
"After we had seen Stephen, my nephew came and his sister and both my brothers arrived at the same time. We were in the family room but there was nobody from Neville's side of the family there.
"Even at this point it hadn't hit me what had happened. I was completely numb. I don't remember thinking anything. I suppose eventually what came to me was the fact that Stuart [Stephen's brother] and Georgina [his sister] were at home. Neville drove us home, just the two of us in the car. My sister couldn't follow because they had left their children on their own. We got home by about midnight because I remember checking the time. It was either midnight or just before.
"Stuart was still awake and I told him. I told him that Stephen had died, what else can you say? Stuart just cried and cried. Georgina was asleep and I suppose it was at that stage that I took the decision not to wake her."