A former undercover police officer has claimed he was part of an operation to "smear" the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Peter Francis said he was told to find "dirt" that could be used against members of the Lawrence family, shortly after the 18-year-old was killed in a racist attack in April 1993, the Guardian reported.

He was also asked to target the friend who witnessed the murder and campaigners angry at the failure to bring his killers to justice, the newspaper said.

stephen lawrence

Stephen Lawrence was killed age 18


Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "deeply concerned" by the claims, and has called on Scotland Yard to launch an immediate investigation.

"The prime minister is deeply concerned by reports that the police wanted to smear Stephen Lawrence's family and would like the Metropolitan police to investigate immediately," Downing Street said on Monday.

Mr Lawrence's mother, Doreen, told the Guardian that there was no justification for efforts to discredit her family following her son's murder.

Scotland Yard said it recognised the seriousness of the allegations and shared the concerns of the Lawrence family.

The claims have surfaced as a result of a joint investigation into undercover policing by the Guardian and Channel 4's Dispatches programme, to be broadcast on Monday night.

stuart lawrence

Stuart Lawrence, Stephen's brother

Mr Francis, who reportedly posed as an anti-racist activist in the mid-1990s, said he came under "huge and constant pressure" to "hunt for disinformation" to undermine those arguing for a better investigation into the murder.

He told the Guardian: "I had to get any information on what was happening in the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

"They wanted the campaign to stop. It was felt it was going to turn into an elephant.

"Throughout my deployment there was almost constant pressure on me personally to find out anything I could that would discredit these campaigns."

doreen lawrence

The mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen

Mr Lawrence, an aspiring architect, was stabbed to death by a group of up to six white youths in an unprovoked racist attack as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London.

In January 2012 Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of being involved in the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment, after a forensic review of the case found significant new scientific evidence on clothing seized from their homes following the murder.

Responding to Mr Francis's claims, Mrs Lawrence told the Guardian: "Out of all the things I've found out over the years, this certainly has topped it."

She added: "Nothing can justify the whole thing about trying to discredit the family and people around us."

Mr Francis said he was also involved in a failed effort to discredit Stephen Lawrence's close Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night he was killed and the main witness to his murder.

He found evidence that led to Mr Brooks being arrested and charged in October 1993, before the case was thrown out by a judge, the Guardian said.

A Met Police spokesman said: "The claims in relation to Stephen Lawrence's family will bring particular upset to them and we share their concerns."

He added: "The Met must balance the genuine public interest in these matters with its duty to protect officers and former officers who have been deployed undercover, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

"We are therefore not prepared to confirm nor deny the identity of individuals alleged in the media to have been working undercover, nor confirm nor deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations.

"At some point it will fall upon this generation of police leaders to account for the activities of our predecessors, but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth."

Mr Francis was a member of the covert unit known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), the Guardian said.

The past practices of undercover police officers are the subject of an investigation called Operation Herne, which is being overseen by Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon.

A Met spokesman added: "Operation Herne is a live investigation, four strands of which are being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and it would be inappropriate to pre-judge its findings.

Mr Francis claimed senior officers deliberately chose to withhold his role spying on the Lawrence campaign from Sir William Macpherson, who headed a public inquiry to examine the police investigation into the death.

Senior officers were also afraid that anger at the failure to investigate the teenager's killing would spiral into disorder on the streets, and had "visions of Rodney King", the Guardian said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described Mr Francis's claims as "shocking and appalling" and called for Home Secretary Theresa May to seek a faster investigation into his specific allegations.

"Victims need to be able to have full confidence in the vital work the police do each day to keep them safe and get them justice. That is why any suggestion that undercover policing could have undermined victims or justice should be taken so seriously and the truth pursued now."

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  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    (front row from 2nd left) London Police Comissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin in the Field, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson makes a speech during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence and her son Stuart (right) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Home Secretary Theresa May reads from the Gospel during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson makes a speech during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Labour Leader Ed Miliband during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Labour Leader Ed Miliband during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Beverley Knight performs during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Dr Elizabeth Henry gives a speech during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Bishop of London, the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Dr Richard Chartres during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Beverley Knight performs during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    London Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (right) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence makes a speech during a memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Hugh Quarshie during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    London mayor Boris Johnson during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence during a memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence, stands with Home Secretary Teresa May at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-MURDER-RACISM-ANNIVERSARY

    British Prime Minister David Cameron poses for photographs with Doreen Lawrence, mother of killed teenager Stephen Lawrence, outside St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in central London on April 22, 2013 as they attend a memorial marking the 20th anniversary of his death. Lawrence, 18, was murdered by a gang of racists who stabbed him as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London on April 22, 1993. PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence, meets with Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence meets with Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence meets London Mayor Boris Johnson at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence meets singer Beverley Knight at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prime Minister David Cameron (C) walks across Trafalgar Square to attend a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in 2January 012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-MURDER-RACISM-ANNIVERSARY

    British Prime Minister David Cameron poses for photographs with Doreen Lawrence, mother of killed teenager Stephen Lawrence, outside St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in central London on April 22, 2013 as they attend a memorial marking the 20th anniversary of his death. Lawrence, 18, was murdered by a gang of racists who stabbed him as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London on April 22, 1993. PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-MURDER-RACISM-ANNIVERSARY

    British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in central London on April 22, 2013 to attend a memorial marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack. Lawrence, 18, was murdered by a gang of racists who stabbed him as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south-east London on April 22, 1993. PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence, waits for guests to arrive at a memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Footballer Sol Campbell arrives at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: (L-R) Doreen Lawrence meets with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at a memorial service for her son Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: An order of service is shown at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: A picture of Stephen Lawrence is displayed inside St Martin-in-the-Fields Church ahead of a memorial service on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student, was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Singer Emeli Sande arrives at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: An order of service is shown at a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church on April 22, 2013 in London, England. Stephen Lawrence, a black A-level student was stabbed to death at a bus stop twenty years ago by a gang of white youths in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, south-east London, on April 22, 1993. Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of his murder in January 2012. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron gives a reading during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson (left) and home secretary Theresa May (right)during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence lights a candle with her son Stuart (left) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Labour leader Ed Miliband (right) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Labour leader Ed Milliband (right) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen, makes a speech during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Doreen Lawrence during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    London Mayor Boris Johnson lights a candle during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen, makes a speech during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (centre), Labour leader Ed Milliband (right) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2nd left) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Labour Leader Ed Milliband gives a reading during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron (centre), Labour leader Ed Milliband (right) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2nd left) during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.

  • Stephen Lawrence Memorial Service

    Prime Minister David Cameron during a memorial service for Stephen Lawrence at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London.