LONDON – British police spied on the family and friends of the victim of the country’s most notorious racist murder to find “dirt” to “smear” them, The Guardian newspaper reported Sunday.
The paper said on its website that former undercover officer Peter Francis had told them he was part of an operation to spy on relatives of teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death at a London bus stop on April 22, 1993. The killing sparked an overhaul of British policing after an official report found that “institutional racism” tainted the original investigation.
Francis posed as an anti-racist activist to try to obtain information that would discredit the campaign for a more thorough investigation, according to The Guardian. “I had to get any information on what was happening in the Stephen Lawrence campaign,” Francis said. “They wanted the campaign to stop. It was felt it was going to turn into an elephant. Throughout my deployment there was almost constant pressure on me personally to find out anything I could that would discredit these campaigns.”
Two white men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of the murder in January 2012 on the basis of new forensic evidence. They lost an appeal against their life sentences in August.
They were among five suspects arrested within days of Lawrence’s murder, and police say that the investigation into possible accomplices remains “live.”