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Doreen Lawrence addresses West Belfast festival

Category: England

Published: 7th Aug 2012 19:08:52

Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, is to address the West Belfast festival on Tuesday evening.

Her 18-year-old son was killed by white youths in a racist attack in London in 1993. She led a high-profile campaign to bring his killers to justice.

The landmark case made headlines around the world and had major impact on race relations in the UK.

She has been invited to give the annual PJ McGrory humans rights lecture at Feile an Phobail (the people's festival) in the west of the city.

Mrs Lawrence said she will talk about her decision to "take the first step" and challenge the UK justice system.

I've not been able to grieve properly because you're constantly fighting a battle.”

Stephen was attacked and stabbed as he waited at a bus stop in south-east London on 22 April 1993.

In the months and years immediately after the killing, the Metropolitian Police were severely criticised for their handling of the murder investigation.

In 1997, the Labour government ordered a public inquiry into the case and 18 months later, the Macpherson inquiry concluded that London's police force was "institutionally racist" and had made "fundamental errors" during the Stephen Lawrence investigation.

In January this year - 18 years after her son's death - two men were convicted of the racist murder and were both given life sentences.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme on Tuesday, Mrs Lawrence said she did not feel hatred for her son's killers but could not consider forgiving them because both men still denied the murder.

"Yes, if they said they were sorry and really asked for forgiveness, then you start thinking about that but the mere fact that that they've never ever said that they're guilty - so until they say they're guilty I don't see how I can forgive them."

She also spoke about the toll the long battle for justice has taken on her physically.

"I think personally my body has suffered. I suppose I didn't realise that until after January (when the trial ended) that I'd lost so much of my hair. Most of my hair is gone - so the stress has affected that part of my body.

"There are times when you have this empty feeling you feel as if you have to fill it - there's a void that you think by eating you'll fill it, but it doesn't.

"The void is there so you have to carry that around with you all the time, not knowing if there is something wrong with you," she said.

Mrs Lawrence said she took the opportunity to spend some time alone after the trial because during 18 year campaign, she felt she had not been able to mourn her son.

"I've not been able to grieve properly because you're constantly fighting a battle. We as a family haven't had a chance to sit back and go through the motions of grieving."

Asked what message she had for parents who lost children during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Mrs Lawrence said she would talk about how her faith had helped her to cope with her son's murder.

"I had to find a way to try and understand, or for me to feel that Stephen's life was not in vain, and over the years I've used my faith in order to get me through or to give me some comfort," she explained.

Doreen Lawrence will address the West Belfast festival on Tuesday in St Mary's University College at 19:30 BST.

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BBC News, 2012. Doreen Lawrence addresses West Belfast festival [Online] (Updated 7th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1444996/Doreen-Lawrence-addresses-West-Belfast-festival [Accessed 1st Sep 2014]

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