Neville Lawrence: Mail front 'opened the case right up'

The Daily Mail today reprised its famous “Murderers” front page as leading public figures and the parents of Stephen Lawrence paid tribute to the paper’s campaigning journalism.

Some 15 years after the Mail published the headline “Murderers” along with the names and pictures of the five Lawrence murder suspects, today the headline read “Murderers!” wiith the sub-head: “Now what about the other three…”

Inside Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville led the tributes to the Mail’s coverage of the 1993 killing of the 18-year-old schoolboy.

Noreen Lawrence said: “When the Mail first published their faces, up until that point nobody – apart from those in their local neighbourhood – really knew what these boys looked like.

“Then the whole country knew. They were no longer faceless people. That helped and also the part the media coverage played in bringing about the inquiry.

“If the Mail hadn’t been publicising what was happening around Stephen and getting it out there, a lot of people wouldn’t have known about the injustice around him as a young man.”

Neville Lawrence said: “The fact that the Mail – which is a very influential newspaper – went out on a limb for us showed how committed you were to the case. Not a lot of editors would have done that. Not a lot would have chanced it…

“And I think it was important for a lot of reasons. People started thinking, for the first time, ‘How could they say that and no one has taken action against them? Surely they would go after the newspaper if they hadn’t killed Stephen’. It opened the case right up, and after that the gang had nowhere to hide.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The determination of the Lawrences to see justice for their son was helped by the campaigning journalism of the Daily Mail, which put this issue front and centre.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband is also quoted in today’s Mail. He said: “At a time when the reputation of the newspaper industry is at an all-time low, it is important to recognise when campaigning journalism makes a difference.

“That includes the honourable role the Daily Mail has played over almost two decades in helping bring the killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice.”

Daily Mail crime editor Stephen Wright leads over 21 pages of coverage in today’s paper which includes a rare bylined article across two pages by editor-in-chief Paul Dacre.

In it Dacre recalls showing his idea for the ‘Murderers’ front page to senior sub-editors as the paper was set to go to press on 13 February, 1997.

“There was a kind of nervous laughter, but then contempt of court is drilled into every newspaper executive’s thinking. And this was contempt of a cosmic order.

“They obviously thought I was mad. Someone muttered ‘libel’ and I remember snapping: ‘The bastards haven’t got any reputation to lose.”

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7336 5327 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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