Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Rigby's family grieve after verdict

Lee Rigby

The devastated family of Lee Rigby have said they will "never forget" the young soldier as two Muslim extremists were convicted of his barbaric murder.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, showed no remorse as he kissed his Koran after he and fellow killer Michael Adebowale, 22, were told they face life behind bars for the atrocity.

Fusilier Rigby's relatives, including mother Lyn, widow Rebecca and fiancee Aimee West, wept as the verdicts were given at the Old Bailey, and Mr Justice Sweeney praised their "great dignity" in sitting through harrowing evidence.

British Muslim converts Adebolajo and Adebowale mowed the young father down in a car before hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives in a frenzied attack, and dumping his body in the middle of the road near Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22.

The verdicts, which took the jury just 90 minutes to reach, provoked widespread condemnation of the attack from high-profile figures including the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May.

Questions remain over why police and intelligence agencies did not monitor the Muslim fanatics more closely, and an inquiry is being carried out by MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee into how much they knew and whether the killers could have been stopped.

In a statement read by Detective Inspector Pete Sparks outside court, Fusilier Rigby's tearful relatives said: "No one should have to go through what we have been through as a family.

"We are satisfied that justice has been done, but unfortunately no amount of justice will bring Lee back.

"These people have taken him away from us forever but his memory lives on in all of us and we will never forget him.

"We are very proud of Lee, who served his country, and we will now focus on building a future for his son Jack, making him as proud of Lee as we all are."

In stark contrast to the family's grief, Adebolajo's brother Jeremiah told reporters the attack on the soldier was "inevitable" and the justification for his death was "obvious".

Adebolajo, a married father of six, and Adebowale lay in wait near Woolwich Barracks and picked 25-year-old Fusilier Rigby to kill after assuming he was a soldier because he was wearing a Help for Heroes hooded top and carrying a camouflage rucksack.

After driving into the soldier in their Vauxhall Tigra, the killers - who had armed themselves with eight knives, including a meat cleaver and a five-piece set bought by Adebolajo from Argos the previous day - butchered him in the street in front of horrified onlookers.

One witness described their actions, which took place just yards from Mulgrave Primary School, as being "like a butcher attacking a joint of meat".

As the jurors were thanked for their service, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "It's no doubt a case that is going to stay with us all for a long time."

The eight women and four men had sat through weeks of evidence including shocking footage of Adebolajo with bloodied hands confessing to the killing and claiming his actions were "an eye for an eye".

Both men were shot by police in more dramatic scenes to be captured by CCTV. Adebolajo was seen dropping the meat cleaver as he sprinted across the road towards the marked BMW, collapsing to the ground when he was shot.

Similarly, Adebowale, who moved along a wall to draw fire from the officers, was seen folding over as he too was shot by one of three armed officers.

Both men asked to be called by their adopted Islamic names in court, Adebolajo as Mujahid Abu Hamza, and Adebowale as Ismail Ibn Abdullah, and claimed they had carried out the murder because they are "soldiers of Allah".

Ultimately the jury was told this was no defence in law to the charge.

Speaking outside the court building, Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who leads Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism teams, said: "This horrific attack and murder which took place in broad daylight on the streets of London shocked the whole country.

"It was intended to divide our communities, it has had largely the opposite effect and in fact brought people together."

The men were both cleared of the attempted murder of a police officer, and had previously admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The whole country was completely shocked by the murder and the whole country united in condemnation at what happened."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "This was a violent and despicable murder of a proud member of our armed forces.

"Our servicemen and women constantly put themselves in harm's way, protecting us not just abroad on the battlefield, but also here at home. This verdict sends a strong message that the extremists will not succeed."

Mr Justice Sweeney said he will sentence the pair in the new year, after a key appeal court ruling on the use of whole-life jail terms.

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