Doreen and Karen – a tale of two mothers
August 16, 2013
Francis Carr Begbie
The elevation of Mrs Doreen Lawrence to Britain’s highest parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, should come as no surprise to seasoned observers of the British political elite.
For as the mother of arguably the most important murder victim in modern British history, she occupies a special place in the political firmament somewhere beside Bob Geldof and the late Princess Diana — perhaps equivalent to Rosa Parks or the parents of the sainted Trayvon Martin.
While no-one can put a name to any of the dozens of teenage Blacks murdered every year in London since then, Doreen’s son Stephen Lawrence was different — he was killed by Whites and his death was an opportunity to create the most potent weapon that has ever been aimed at the British people: mass demonization.
In an earlier age, tactical area bombing was used to deliver a relentless, sustained and never-ending barrage to cow a civilian population. But instead of the RAF this time the propaganda barrage was delivered by the media and Doreen Lawrence played a vital role as a living symbol of the evils of White racism.
So in a sense, her ennoblement is for services to the political elite, the human-rights industrial complex, the bureaucratic class, the media and for everyone else who has benefited from the murder which took place twenty years ago this year.
Several hundred miles to the north in the Lancashire seaside resort of Blackpool another mother Mrs Karen Downes could be forgiven for allowing herself a smile of bitter resignation at this latest accolade.
It is unlikely that Doreen Lawrence and Karen Downes will ever meet but the two mothers have much in common. Both had children murdered by racists and both have had to fight long battles against police incompetence and official indifference.
But there the similarity ends. For while Jamaica-born Mrs Lawrence has become a national heroine, lionised by the establishment, feted by the media and showered with honours, Mrs Downes is a shunned and marginalised figure who does not know if the killers of her daughter will ever be brought to justice.
The discrepancy in the treatment of the two cases can only be understood through the prism of the victimhood hierarchy. While Mrs Lawrence is the mother of a Black teenager, Mrs Downes and her daughter both belong to the despised White working class.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the events that followed the knifing to death of Stephen Lawrence in a random attack at a bus stop in Eltham south east London in 1993 and it could well be argued that the crime was the single most transformative event in the creation of the new settlement imposed on the country.
A botched police investigation and collapsed trial triggered a full scale judicial inquiry in 1999 led by Lord McPherson and this had two effects. The first was the branding of the Metropolitan Police in perpetuity as guilty of vague and ill-defined “institutional racism”.
The second was the demonization of the White working class as irredeemably racist and hate-filled bigots who had no more call on the sympathies of right-thinking citizens than did the German people in the aftermath of World War II.
The elevation of this blood libel to a central place in the new settlement had one overriding political purpose — it meant the objections of working class Whites to mass immigration or multiculturalism could be safely cast aside as of no account.
The case was swiftly picked up by the media, politicians and human rights lawyers and barristers who smelled a winning cause célèbre and began jostling furiously for the anticipated glory.
In their pursuit of the five suspects in the killing of Stephen Lawrence normal conventions such as the assumption of innocence and contempt of court were ignored — and it was apparent that their White working class aspect produced an additional frisson of loathing.
As the media bombardment followed — the acres of newsprint, TV documentaries the TV dramas, the feature film — one message was unmistakeable; all working class Whites had to share the blame for what happened to Stephen Lawrence.
Finally in 2011, after an estimated 16 separate inquiries and a failed trial, the House of Commons decided to overturn the centuries-old law of double-jeopardy solely for the purpose of prosecuting the Stephen Lawrence killers. Convictions were duly obtained on two of the five suspects in what was condemned as a showtrial.
But there was far too much political capital to be had from the saga to leave it at that and, like a medieval religious play, there are now frequent re-enactments of the martyrdom of Stephen Lawrence in which self-aggrandising politicians, loudmouthed race-hustlers, sanctimonious journalists and grandstanding human-rights lawyers — and Doreen Lawrence — all play their appointed parts.
This summer’s passion play has not disappointed. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee were all arguing furiously about how best to satisfy Mrs Lawrence’s demands for yet another public inquiry. They duly obliged and in July two new reviews were launched into the conduct of the police in 1993.
It is enlightening to compare all this activity with the experience of Mrs Karen Downes whose 14-year old daughter Charlene went missing on 1st November 2003 while apparently making her way home from Blackpool’s north pier after school.
She had been in the habit of hanging out at the Funny Boyz kebab shop in Dickson Road ran by Iyad Albattikhi and Mohammed Reveshi who were known to target young White girls by plying them with cigarettes and alcohol.
But initially the police were reluctant to take action or even provide the family with basic information. It was only when Karen approached the local newspaper that things began to move. The main suspects were reported boasting to friends that the body had been put into kebabs, and a proper investigation was launched. Eventually surveillance recordings produced apparently damning statements and the men were duly arrested and tried.
In one conversation Mr Reveshi was reported to have said to Mr Albattikhi: “Well, hopefully I [done] it properly you know . . . he thought he saw me cutting her body up…
“Do you remember she was bleeding to death?” “Yes,” replied Mr Albattikhi. “So that she made a mess,” Mr Reveshi allegedly added. Later in the transcript Mr Reveshi allegedly says: “The last one then, it was the last deep one and then it was the [heart] . . . that finally killed her.” …
At one point Mr Reveshi said: “I’m so worried and you was the one who killed her.” …
But the case sensationally collapsed in court because the prosecution had botched the presentation of the evidence. The jury were unable to reach a unanimous decision, and instead of requesting a re-count with a majority decision, the judge dismissed the case.
The two Muslims received half a million pounds in compensation for their ordeal but despite this the police have admitted there are no other suspects in the frame.
Since then there has been no movement in the Charlene Downes case despite reports of compelling fresh evidence, new witnesses, allegations of jury-tampering and the fact that the double-jeopardy law is no longer an obstacle to another prosecution of the same men.
Meanwhile, down south Mrs Doreen Lawrence is still receiving more accolades and awards to add to the OBE she received in 2003 for her services to community relations.
The gleaming £10 million Stephen Lawrence Centre was opened five years ago and is the base for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, set up by Doreen in 1998. This body, of which Doreen is a director, has become one of London’s largest training providers, not least because of the millions poured in by local and national government and corporate sponsors.
For Baroness Lawrence — as we must learn to call her — the awards, the accolades, the public appearances and the praise just never seem to stop rolling. Last summer, in front of an international television audience of millions, she was an Olympic flagbearer, alongside Muhammad Ali and former UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon.
And then she received the lifetime achievement award in the UK media’s nationally televised “Pride of Britain Awards” to a standing ovation in November 2012. Her portrait “No Woman No Cry” rendered by one of our most fashionable modern artists, hangs in the Tate Gallery.
The Stephen Lawrence Trust has become one of the biggest brands in the charity sector. There is the Memorial Service — attended by the Prime Minister — the Woman of the Year Award, the star-studded concert at London’s largest venue, the O2 Arena — all in the name of Stephen Lawrence. Not to mention the Memorial Lecture which has been given by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
For any ambitious young politico on the make a photo-opportunity with Doreen is not to be passed by. There is every possibility thanks to the Stephen Lawrence Legacy black tie gala dinners which have become prime networking events for the great and good.
The Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane will be the venue for the next one. Recent dinners have featured the Home Secretary, the Leader of the Opposition, the editor of the Daily Mail and the editor of the Mirror not to mention the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police again.
As if all this did not keep Doreen busy enough, she has been awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of East Anglia, Bradford, Staffordshire, Greenwich, York, East London and Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln. She also received an Honorary Fellowship from Goldsmith’s College.
She has a seat on important government panels and charity boards. Her autobiography is called, without irony, And Still I Rise.
Despite being nominally above the political fray, Mrs Lawrence has waded in when it suits her, and her statements that the police are still institutionally racist are guaranteed to dominate the headlines. In fact her supposed special insights into every subject from schooling to knife crime are given special weight by an ever doting media.
It is educational to compare this with the disappearance of Charlene Downes. It could hardly have happened at a more sensitive time. Despite undeniable evidence of organised grooming of White underage girls by Muslims in towns across the north of England the authorities refused to act or even speak out on the matter.
Instead the mainstream parties together with the police, the BBC, local papers and social services, closed ranks and refused to discuss the matter. The only politician speaking out was the British National Party’s Nick Griffin, and it was on the back of this issue that the BNP won four local elections in Bradford.
Then only months after Charlene disappeared, the BBC broadcast secretly recorded public speeches by the BNP leader and his colleague Mark Collett in which they vociferously spoke out against Muslim grooming gangs and the authorities refusal to act on the matter.
The BBC handed footage to the police and the two were duly charged with “using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred,” only to be sensationally acquitted after a retrial at Leeds Crown Court in 2006.
As for Karen Downes and her family, it would be fair to say that the intervening years have not treated them kindly. Karen has been on the receiving end of a campaign of vile abuse mounted by local left-wingers who crowed their delight at the collapse of the trial of the men accused of killing her daughter. A commemorative bench inscribed to Charlene and placed in her favourite park was thrown into a pond, and the police do not even return her phone calls any more.
She has taken to mounting ad hoc protests outside the kebab bar in Dickson Street but the police have issued her with a harassment order banning her from approaching the takeaway and warning her if she does not stop she could be jailed for racial harassment.
Most weekends Karen Downes can be found forlornly searching among the arcades of the north pier in a vain attempt to catch sight of the daughter she last saw ten years ago this November.