LONDON — More than 20 years after the murder of a young black man became a symbol of Britain’s troubled race relations, an inquiry published Thursday disclosed that undercover officers spied on the victim’s parents as they campaigned for a thorough investigation into their son’s killing.
Among a series of findings described by Home Secretary Theresa May as “deeply troubling,” the report also concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a detective on the team investigating the murder of the young man, Stephen Lawrence, had a corrupt relationship with the father of a suspect.
The report said evidence of possible police corruption was concealed and documents were shredded, leaving much unclear about a deeply flawed investigation into one of the country’s most notorious racially motivated crimes.
Lawrence was stabbed to death by a group of white youths as he waited at a bus stop in southeast London in 1993. It was not until 2012 that two men were convicted of his murder.
A previous investigation accused the Metropolitan Police of “institutional racism” in the case. The victim’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, received widespread praise for their persistence and dignity as they campaigned to see their son’s killers jailed. Last year, Doreen Lawrence was appointed to the House of Lords.
However, in the aftermath of her son’s murder while she was pressing for a thorough investigation, she was the object of surveillance by an undercover officer, known as N81, from a unit called the Special Demonstration Squad. The report said that N81 was, at the time, a “spy in the Lawrence family camp.”
“Information reported back to the SDS as a result of that deployment included personal details about Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence,” the report said. “It included discussion of the progress, reasons, and details of the decisions made by the Lawrence family connected to the inquiry.”
The document also highlights suspicions about a relationship between one of the original investigating officers, Detective Sgt. John Davidson, and the father of one of the murder suspects.
The report says there is “evidence providing reasonable grounds for suspecting” that Davidson acted corruptly. Failure to mention those suspicions to a subsequent inquiry was a “significant failure” by the police, the report added.
The inquiry found no grounds to suspect the conduct of other officers involved in the initial investigations.