Jamie Acourt, one of the men suspected of killing Stephen Lawrence, has been jailed for his part in a £4million drugs plot
A suspect in the Stephen Lawrence murder is finally behind bars after he was prosecuted and jailed over a drug smuggling plot.
Jamie Acourt, 42, was at the centre of a £4million cannabis trafficking operation, but fled to Spain before police could corner him.
After he was tracked down living under the name of ‘Simon Alfonzo’ in Barcelona, he was jailed for nine years at London’s Kingston Crown Court this morning.
Both Acourt and his brother, Neil, were arrested after the stabbing of Stephen Lawrence by a gang of white men in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993, but were never convicted.
Jamie Acourt’s lawyer cited the notorious killing as he pleaded with a judge to take pity on his client today.
Michael Holland QC said: ‘This is an instance of a man who was overwhelmed by events, events that have followed him since he was 16.
‘He could not face the idea of coming into court again and face the amount of press coverage he would face.’
He told the court that Acourt had sought legitimate work as a tradesman over the years but had struggled due to his name.
Jamie Acourt, left, in custody in Barcelona after his arrest and, right, fighting with crowds after a public inquiry into Stephen’s death in 1998
Acourt’s brother Neil has already been jailed for more than six years over the plot. The pair were described as ringleaders of a gang that couriered up to four tons of cannabis from London to the North East.
Acourt’s guilty plea means four of the five suspects in Britain’s most notorious racist killing are now behind bars.
Jailing Jamie today, Judge Peter Lodder QC told him: ‘Over a period of just over two years there were at least 34 instances – generally a round trip of 600 miles or so in the same day.
‘Whenever any money was collected on returning to south-east London the delivery men would hand the money over to either you or your brother Neil.
‘That you played a leading role is beyond doubt. The delivery men took most of the risks, you and your brother remained in the background receiving the money. From this alone it is clear you were a ringleader.
‘You now accept that over a eight month period 25 return journeys took place and 500kg of cannabis resin was supplied.’
The judge said he thought the sentence given to Acourt’s brother was lenient and he could not grant the same leniency to the defendant, who had run off to Spain rather than face justice.
Jamie’s brother Neil (pictured, left, after his arrest in 2016 and, right, after the 1998 public inquiry) also ran the drugs gang and was jailed last year
The racist murder that shocked the nation
Stephen Lawrence’s murder in Eltham sparked outrage in 1993
Acourt and his brother were teenagers when Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993.
Two of the other suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of murder in 2012 and jailed for life following a DNA breakthrough.
But the Acourt brothers have never been convicted.
At the time of Stephen’s death, the Acourts described themselves as the Krays, modelling themselves on the brothers who dominated London’s criminal underworld in the 1960s.
The gang they were in is believed to have been responsible for a string of violent attacks, invariably featuring knives.
The Acourt brothers were arrested after the stabbing of Stephen by a gang of white men in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993 but were never convicted.
Two others accused of murder, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of the murder and jailed for life in 2012 – nearly two decades after the 18-year-old was killed as he waited at a bus stop.
Luke Knight, who has denied involvement in Stephen’s killing, is the only suspect still walking the streets.
Yesterday Jamie Acourt’s partner Terri-Anne Dean, the mother of his two children, appeared shocked as she had the news of his guilty plea broken to her.
Speaking at the baby clothes business she runs in south-east London, she said: ‘Really? I don’t want to say anything.’
The couple lived in a smart terraced house in Bexley until detectives raided the property in February 2016 and busted the gang’s cannabis plot.
Jamie fled to Spain in 2016 after police arrested several suspects, including Neil’s father-in-law Jack Vose, 65, in South Shields, jurors heard.
When officers went to Jamie’s home in Bexley, southeast London he had already vanished.
Officers broke down the door to get in and while they were there his partner Terri-Ann Dean arrived at the flat.
She was told to get Acourt on the phone and he was told by the officers he should either come to the flat or turn himself in at a police station.
But Acourt disappeared and went on the run in Spain.