Reference number
  • SL
  • Collection
  • Accumulation: 1972-2014
Extent and medium
  • 9 linear metres
  • ┆Papers of Doreen Lawrence relating to the murder of her son Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent campaign for justice. The majority of the collection relates to the various trials and inquiries, such as the private prosecution, the Macpherson Inquiry, the cold case review and retrial, and the police corruption inquiry. Papers include agendas and minutes, witness statements, reports, announcements, press cuttings, research, and correspondence. The collection also includes personal items belonging to Stephen such as photographs, school work, occasion cards, letters and sportswear. There is a sizable amount relating to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust including its foundation and launch, meetings, staffing, fundraising, and events. The Lawrence case has inspired various artistic responses, examples of which are included in the collection. There are also some publications such as _The Life of Stephen Lawrence_ by Verna Wilkins. Some sections of the catalogue are currently incomplete, particularly the papers relating to the Stephen Lawrence Trust (SL/3/B) and the correspondence of Doreen Lawrence (SL/3/C). Please contact the archives team for more information. Items from the collection are currently on display in DMU's [Stephen Lawrence Research Centre]( These will be indicated on the catalogue.
Content warning
  • The papers include descriptions of murder and examples of racism and racist language that may be upsetting.
Administrative history
  • ┆Doreen Graham was born in 1952 in Jamaica. She emigrated to England at the age of 9 to join her mother, who had already established a household. In 1972 she married Neville Lawrence, who had come to England from Jamaica at the age of 18. The couple had three children: Stephen, born in September 1974, Stuart in 1977 and Georgina in 1982. The family lived in the Woolwich area, South East London. Stephen Lawrence aspired to become an architect and was studying for A-levels in technology and physics at Blackheath Bluecoat School and English language and literature at Woolwich College. He was also a talented runner, representing Cambridge Harriers athletics club. On the evening of 22 April 1993, Stephen, then aged 18, and his friend Duwayne Brooks were waiting for a bus on Well Hall Road in Eltham. Stephen was attacked by a group of white youths who stabbed him, severing arteries and puncturing a lung. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Brook General Hospital at 11.05 p.m. Five suspects were identified, Gary Dobson, brothers Neil and Jamie Acourt, Luke Knight and David Norris. Several of these men were suspected of involvement with other racist knife attacks in the Eltham area. Police were slow to make arrests and only Neil Acourt and Luke Knight were charged, but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case citing insufficient evidence. In April 1994 the Lawrence family, represented by Michael Mansfield QC, initiated a private prosecution against all five suspects. Charges against two suspects were dropped before the trial, while the remaining three were acquitted of murder by a jury at the Central Criminal Court, again due to a lack of sufficient evidence. An inquest into the murder was concluded in February 1997 and returned a verdict of unlawful killing “in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths”. The following day newspaper The Daily Mail published a photograph of the five suspects and labelled them murderers, encouraging them to sue the paper if this was not true. In July 1997 Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a public inquiry to be conducted by judge Sir William Macpherson, officially titled “The Inquiry into the Matters Arising from the Death of Stephen Lawrence”. The Macpherson Report, published in February 1999, concluded that the original Metropolitan Police Service investigation had been incompetent and that officers had made fundamental errors. It also found that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Seventy recommendations for the reform of policing and criminal law were made. In June 2006 a cold case review was begun into the murders, which utilised advances in forensic science to re-examine physical evidence from the case. A microscopic stain of Lawrence’s blood was found on Gary Dobson’s jacket, while his hair and fibres from his clothes were found on the clothes of Gary Dobson and David Norris. Dobson and Norris were arrested and stood trial in November 2011. The prosecution was led by Mark Ellison QC. On 3 January 2012 the men were found guilty of the murder. In 1997 the Lawrence family registered a formal complaint about police conduct with the Police Complaints Authority. In 1999 most of the officers involved in the case were exonerated of racism, although one officer faced disciplinary charges for failure to follow proper procedures. In 2006 allegations surfaced of corruption within the police force including the suppression of evidence and undercover officers encouraged to ‘smear’ the Lawrence family’s credibility. In 2014 Home Secretary Theresa May ordered Mark Ellison QC to conduct an independent review which did find evidence of corruption. The Lawrence family founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT) in 1998 to promote a positive legacy in Stephen’s name. The Trust’s main focus is social justice, helping black and minority ethnic youth to achieve their full potential. In 2003 Doreen was awarded the OBE for services to community relations. She has received several awards and recognition for her campaign and charity work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Pride of Britain Awards. In September 2013 she was elevated to the Peerage as Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon. She sits on the Labour benches. Between January 2016 and 2020 she was the Chancellor of De Montfort University. In April 2020 Labour leader Keir Starmer MP appointed Lawrence to the post of race relations adviser and tasked her with leading a review into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
Access status
  • Mixed
Conditions governing access
  • The collection is available only to researchers who have secured prior permission from Baroness Lawrence. Please contact the archives team who will submit your request for access. In addition, some files may be closed due to Data Protection or sensitivity.
Conditions governing reproduction
  • Material may be copied for private research purposes only, subject to copyright law and physical condition.
Language/scripts of material
  • English
System of arrangement
  • The collection is divided into subfonds as follows: SL/01: Personal Artefacts of Stephen Lawrence SL/02: Trials, Inquiries and Campaigns SL/03: Papers of Doreen Lawrence SL/04: Press Cuttings SL/05: Papers of Mat Bickley
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
  • The papers were transferred to De Montfort University by Doreen Lawrence in August 2016.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
  • Some duplicate material has been removed.
Archivist's note
  • Catalogued by Katharine Short, Natalie Hayton, Shikha Chopra, Kyonnah Price and Steven Peachey.
Date(s) of descriptions
  • August 2016 - April 2019