Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Vigil on eve of soldier's funeral

Fusilier Lee Rigby, 25, a drummer in the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed as he returned to Woolwich barracks on May 22 (MoD/PA)

Hundreds of well-wishers have honoured murdered soldier Lee Rigby at a vigil on the eve of his funeral.

Comrades, forces veterans and members of the public lined the route to Bury Parish Church where soldiers will keep a guard of honour over the body of Fusilier Rigby overnight before his funeral on Friday.

The 25-year-old's heartbroken loved ones attended the event in Bury, just a couple of miles from his hometown of Middleton, Greater Manchester, which came to a standstill as pubs and shops around the church closed as a mark of respect.

The father-of-one, a drummer in the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), was killed as he returned to Woolwich barracks from the Tower of London on May 22. He had served in Afghanistan as a machine gunner and was attached to the regimental recruiting team when he was hacked to death in broad daylight on a street in south London.

The horrific killing led to nationwide shock and revulsion and Friday's funeral is expected to be attended by hundreds of mourners following a groundswell of support for his family from the public.

Twenty Fusiliers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers lined up at the end of the street leading up to the church, as the cortege emerged driving slowly past lines of members of the public lining the route applauding.

Ahead of the hearse were a corps of two dozen drummers in scarlet tunics marching to a beat ahead of the hearse. Further up the street elderly veterans proudly wearing their campaign medals and blazers formed a group of standard bearers their flags held aloft then dropped in honour as the cortege passed.

Inside the church grounds waited 16 Fusiliers from the dead soldier's own unit who will act as the honour guard overnight.

As the cortege arrived at the church members of the corps of drummers acted as pall bearers carrying inside Fusilier Rigby's coffin - draped in the union flag.

The family's wishes are for a private military funeral with the public and media asked to pay their respects outside the church for Thursday's vigil and the funeral on Friday.

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