Bad Punctuation May Have Hindered Murder Case
Newly discovered error reopens line of inquiry in 1993 British killing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2016 1:48 PM CDT
Undated family handout photo of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.   (AP Photo/Family Handout/PA)
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(Newser) – A newly discovered punctuation error regarding a piece of evidence may help British police zero in on accomplices in a notorious murder now 23 years old. The case is that of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager beaten to death in 1993 as he stood at a bus stop. Two white men are serving time for the murder, but police think three or four others took part in the attack. Now the leather strap of a bag found at the scene has provided a DNA sample from a woman, and if police can track her down, it could lead to more arrests, reports the Telegraph. Authorities think the strap was part of a homemade weapon used to kill Lawrence—perhaps with the head of a hammer attached—but it was disregarded for years after being mistakenly cataloged as having been found 300 feet from the body.

It turns out the strap was actually less than 15 feet away. The gaffe happened because "the punctuation [from the scene examiner’s notes] hadn’t been read correctly," explains the new lead investigator. The exact error isn't revealed, but whoever typed up the examiner's notes grouped the strap with something that was found 300 feet away. Police don't necessarily think the woman who owned the bag took part in the killing, but she might have given it to a relative or friend. Police have asked female relatives of all suspects to provide DNA, but so far most have refused, reports the BBC. Police are now offering a $26,000 reward for information. Inquiries into the original high-profile investigation raised allegations of institutional racism and police corruption, notes the Independent.