In Brief

Stephen Lawrence murder: Police search for mystery woman

Investigators follow lead of DNA on bag strap found at the scene of the 1993 racist attack

Twenty-three years after Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack by a group of white men, police are appealing for a woman they believe may have witnessed the incident to come forward.

Female DNA has been found on a leather strap, probably from a handbag, found near the bus stop where the 18-year-old was beaten and stabbed to death on 22 April 1993.

London's Met Police are asking the female owner of the strap to contact them – though they admit there have never been any reports of any women being near the scene at the time of the attack.

Stephen Lawrence's friend Duwayne Brooks, who was with him that night but escaped the unprovoked attack, has never said that a woman was involved, notes Sky News.

Two men – Gary Dobson and David Norris – were convicted of murder and jailed in 2012 but police believe at least six men took part in the attack. They are still seeking the other four.

Judge Sir William Macpherson labelled The Met "institutionally racist" after its original inquiry failed. It later emerged that the force had used an undercover officer to spy on Lawrence's parents as they campaigned for justice in an attempt to discredit them.

The killers were "named within hours by locals", says The Guardian, but "incompetence, prejudice among some investigators and possibly even corruption" meant it took 19 years to convict anybody for the murder.

The Guardian says the bag strap was first identified as being of interest during a review of the forensic evidence in 2007. The Met have not said when DNA was first found on it.

A source told the newspaper the strap might well be unconnected to the crime but the Met may be hoping to use it to generate publicity and jog the memories of witnesses, several of whom failed to come forward.

The source said: "It could have been there a minute before the attack, a month, a year. It is an opportunity... to regenerate impetus into the investigation."

Lawrence's parents credit a campaign by the Daily Mail with keeping the case alive. Neville Lawrence, the boy's father, had once been employed as a decorator by Mail editor Paul Dacre, who took a personal interest in the murder inquiry as a result.

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