Stephen Lawrence murder suspect Neil Acourt spotted working as a cook on day release

A PRIME suspect in the knife murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence is to walk free from prison next week.

Thug Neil Acourt, 43, will be released on Monday — with the nation in the grip of a bloody blades crisis — after serving less than half of a six-year drugs sentence.

Stephen was stabbed in a racist attack in Eltham, South East London, in 1993.

Last night a source said: “The timing of Acourt’s release back into society couldn’t be worse.”

Acourt is being prepared for freedom — by working as a cook in a canteen.

The racist thug was once filmed threatening to “chop up n***ers” while miming a stabbing action with a kitchen knife

Acourt has been prepping food in a canteen four days a week while on day release from jail.

Photos show him stirring a pot on a stove and serving grub — although sources last night claimed his duties were mainly limited to “food presentation”.

He works closely with at least one other colleague in the open kitchen and was understood to use his mother’s maiden name, Stuart, to disguise his identity. It was unclear if “colleagues” know his real name.

Acourt, of Eltham, South East London, was jailed for six years in February 2017 for his role in a £4million cannabis ring plot.

He spent a year on remand and is being freed on lic­ence after two years of his sentence.

His release comes as police and politicians face a surge in knife crime. There have been at least 27 knife murders in the UK so far this year.

Last night a source said: “You’ve got people dying from knife crime all over the country and suddenly one of the Stephen Lawrence stab gang is released back on to the streets.”

Acourt — who police believe led the “Firm” that murdered Stephen, 18, at a bus stop in Eltham — works at a conference centre open to the public.

The centre, which we are not naming for security reasons, recently hosted a “Black History Month” event to “celebrate the achievements of Black and Ethnic minority groups”.

Dad-of-one Acourt is being held at Hollesley Bay open jail near Woodbridge, Suffolk, ahead of his release. He was accused of Stephen’s murder but charges were dropped because of lack of evidence in 1993.

In 1994 cops covertly filmed him spouting vile racial hatred with fellow gang member Luke Knight.

He was filmed saying: “I reckon every n***er should be chopped up, mate, and should be left with nothing but f***ing stumps.” Last December his brother, Jamie, 42, got nine years over the cannabis plot after going on the run.

Two members of the gang suspected of murdering Stephen have been brought to justice. Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted and jailed for life in 2012.

The Acourts, Knight, Dobson and Norris were pelted with eggs in 1998 after a public inquiry into police handling of the case.

The Prison Service said: “No offenders are let out to work on day release until they have undergone a thorough risk assessment. They are subject to strict conditions.”