Stephen Lawrence murder: capturing evil on camera?

“They came across as exactly the type of person they are – evil,” said Doreen Lawrence on the BBC this week as she remembered the day in 1998 when five young men suspected of murdering her son Stephen taunted and baited an angry crowd outside the Macpherson inquiry.

This photograph captures what she was talking about with bristling, menacing power. No wonder it has been republished in this week’s newspapers to mark the conviction for murder of two of the people in this picture. Eighteen years after Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death by a racist gang, Gary Dobson and David Norris (in the blue check shirt) have been found guilty of murder.

The more you look at this photograph, the less adequate that delayed justice feels. The most menacing posture – simply to describe the photograph – is that of Jamie Acourt, pulling back a fist for a threatened punch and tightening his lips in fury, his shades worn not for protection, but to discomfort. His white shirt and black trousers add to the sense of sharply dressed danger. On the other side of Norris, the face of Acourt’s brother seems to actually look directly at the camera, the most aware that what they are doing is being photographed for posterity.

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