Eltham reflects on anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

Eltham residents have reflected on how culture has changed in the 31 years since Stephen Lawrence’s murder, claiming the area has come ‘a long way’.

Stephen was stabbed on April 22, 1993 by a group of up to six racist attackers in Well Hall Road. Now, 31 years later, people from the area are considering the ways in which a feeling of safety has been restored in the area.

Monique Oshadi, 40, moved to Eltham seven years ago and said the community has become much more accepting of ethnic minority groups.

She said: “When we first moved into Eltham it wasn’t quite as diverse. But lately, I have seen a whole lot of different people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. So that’s quite good to see.

“Initially when I first moved to Eltham I didn’t like it and I wanted to move out. Now I’m OK with it because it’s changed a lot. It’s come a long way in the last six years.”

Ms Oshadi said police often patrol the town centre but she has noticed fewer officers on foot since the police station in Well Hall Road closed in 2017. She said she didn’t feel that the crime rate in Eltham was as high as neighbouring areas such as Woolwich or Lewisham.

The mum said: “I feel safe. But I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t like it when my daughter walks home by herself, she’s 18. I don’t like her walking because sometimes there is a group of young boys walking up and down. I personally don’t feel safe for her. If she’s running late, I go and pick her up.”

Data from the Met stated 687 racist crime offences occurred in Greenwich borough in 2023. The data also showed that 502 offences relating to knife crime had taken place in the borough during the same time frame.

A teenager who lived off Well Hall Road – where the killing took place – said he had moved to the area nearly five years ago and that he had noticed police had started patrolling the area in cars more frequently. He said residents were aware of crimes but he did not feel they were racially motivated.

He said: “Recently, it’s getting a bit rowdy but generally it’s a nice place. At the end of the day there has to be a certain awareness, not only because there’s a rise in gangs and stuff like that in this area. I’ve heard about racism also which I don’t really pay attention to, but that’s what you have to keep your head up for.”

Memorial plaque in Wells Hall Road (Picture: Joe Coughlan)

A Greenwich council spokesman said the authority liaised closely with schools about the dangers of knife crime through its Let’s Live #KnifeFree campaign, developed through work with community leaders, young people and families.

They added that the McDonald’s in Eltham High Street also functioned as a safe space for people to go to in an emergency, and that the council worked with Charlton Athletic FC to engage with young people in the high street twice a week.

The spokesman said: “It’s our mission to make sure everyone is and feels safe and we’re proud to be investing in new resources to support this. We have invested £1.3million in proactive measures to improve community safety and we work closely with the police, and other key partners, to keep the borough safe.”

Brian Nottle, 69, has lived in Well Hall Road for 19 years and said he had noticed a greater sense of diversity in the road over the years, but said neighbours would appreciate more police officers on foot to be able to raise concerns.

He said: “We used to see them, but I haven’t seen a foot policeman for years. They got dropped off in a van by Greenwich [Police Station] and picked up by them and taken back when the shift was up. But now we don’t see foot patrols and that’s exactly what is needed.”

Inspector Jo Chapman, responsible for policing the Eltham area, said: “One of the priorities in the New Met for London plan is a focus on listening to the concerns of our communities and working together to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.

“In Eltham, we have increased the number of neighbourhood officers assigned to the area, and have increased our presence in the high street and surrounding streets.”

A Greenwich council spokesman said: “The murder of Stephen Lawrence in a vile racist attack 31 years ago is still felt deeply across our community. We honour his life and legacy to inspire a fairer and just society and as a reminder to stand up to discrimination.”

They added: “Eltham is a thriving centre, with a vibrant high street, mix of shops and award-winning green spaces which have greatly benefited from significant council investment over recent years, including upgrading street lighting.”

Pictured top: Eltham’s legacy from Stephen’s murder: Huge efforts to build a safer community (Picture: LDRS)




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