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Lee Rigby murder sentencing: Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale dragged out of court for shouting at judge as he jailed them for life - live updates

By Claire Cromie

Soldier Lee Rigby's Woolwich killers have been jailed - with Michael Adebolajo handed a whole-life sentence to guarantee he will die behind bars for the horrific murder..

The Muslim fanatics were dragged out of the courtroom and down to prison cells after a violent outburst in the Old Bailey as Mr Justice Sweeney began his sentencing.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, has been given a whole-life jail term and Michael Adebowale, 22, has been sentenced to life with a minimum term of 45 years.

The British-born extremists mowed Fusilier Rigby down in a car before hacking him to death in the street in front of horrified onlookers near Woolwich Barracks in south east London in May last year.

They both claimed that they were "soldiers of Allah" and were motivated by the plight of Muslims abroad to carry out the killing, and have shown no remorse.

Outburst

Beginning his sentencing, Mr Justice Sweeney told them: "You each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist, espousing views which, as has been said elsewhere, are a betrayal of Islam."

The comments sparked an angry reaction from the dock, where the killers, both wearing Islamic robes, shouted at the judge.

Adebowale protested that this was a lie, ranting "You and America will never be safe", and his accomplice joined in, screaming "allahu akbar" and hurling abuse at the prison guards who grappled him to the ground.

Both men were grabbed around the face as guards struggled to control them, and taken back down to the cells.

Lee Rigby's family were visibly upset by the incident and tried to regain their composure as banging and shouting was still audible from the cells below. One relative needed medical treatment.

Justice Sweeney continued his summing up in the absence of the defendants, saying: "In order to advance your extremist cause you decided to murder a soldier in public in daylight."

Bloodbath

The judge described the scene of the killing as a "bloodbath" on the street outside Woolwich Barracks.

He said the pair's behaviour was "sickening and pitiless", and that Adebolajo had no hope of rehabilitation, before sentencing him to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Mr Justice Sweeney said the murder betrayed "the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country", and that the men had carried out the killing to show "your extremist views, to murder a soldier in public in broad daylight and to do so in a way that would generate maximum media coverage including getting yourselves killed by armed officers who were bound to arrive at the scene".

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Handout CCTV dated 22/05/13 issued by the Metropolitan Police of Michael Adebolajo (centre) falling to the floor having been shot by armed police, with Michael Adebowale (right), which was shown in court during the trial of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale who have been found guilty of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

 

Describing how the pair mowed the 25-year-old down at 30-40mph, he said: "He had done absolutely nothing to deserve what you went on to do to him."

Adebolajo tried to behead the soldier while Adebowale stabbed him in the chest.

"You both gloried in what you had done," the judge told the court, and said it had a "severe and lasting impact" on his loved ones.

Outside the Old Bailey, far right protesters had remained all day with two sets of gallows calling for the killers to face the death penalty.

Supporters of the British National Party and the English Defence League held placards which read: "Restore capital punishment".

Protesters, many from far-right political organisations, demonstrate outside the Old Bailey before the sentencing of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale on February 26, 2014 in London, England. Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale have been convicted of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby as he walked back to Woolwich Barracks in south-east London on May 22, 2013. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

 

The crowd cheered when the sentences was announced and members of the public shouted at prison vans leaving the building.

Lee Rigby's family said Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale had received the "right prison terms" adding: "We feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee."

Mr Justice Sweeney had waited for a key appeal court ruling on whole life terms before deciding the men's fate.

In a statement read by family liaison officer Detective Inspector Pete Sparks, the soldier's family said: "We would like to thank the judge and the courts for handing down what we believe to be the right prison terms.

"We would also like to thank everyone who has supported us in the last nine months.

"It has brought us a lot of comfort and we feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee. We now ask to continue to grieve in private."

Fusilier Lee Rigby. Loving and gentle to his family, good humoured and dependable to his fellow soldiers, he had already survived a bloody and gruelling tour of Afghanistan, from which seven of his comrades did not return.

Barbaric

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who heads Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, said: "Today's sentence reflects the true horror of their actions in taking this young man's life in such a barbaric way.

"Our thoughts remain with Lee's loved ones, who have shown dignity and strength throughout the judicial process."

Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, acknowledged that the soldier's family had found the whole court process distressing.

She said: "Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale revelled in one of the most appalling terrorist murders I have seen whilst head of counter terrorism at the CPS.

Revenge

"Not only was the attack brutal and calculated, it was also designed to advance extremist views. As a solider, Fusilier Lee Rigby was targeted in a clear act of revenge, deliberately carried out in full view of members of the public for maximum impact.

"Under the law, terrorism is committed by a defined act designed to influence a Government, the public or an NGO for the purpose of advancing a religious, political, ideological or racial cause. This attack was always going to fail in that purpose as it served only to bring people together in shock, sympathy and solidarity.

"In December, the two defendants were convicted of a savage murder. Following strong argument from the prosecution, they have today been sentenced for carrying out that murder during an act of terrorism.

"I know the court process has been particularly distressing for Lee Rigby's family. I hope they can take some small comfort from the sentences imposed today and can begin to move on."

The family of Lee Rigby (L-R) stepfather Ian Rigby, mother Lyn Rigby, sister Sara McClure and fiancee Aimee West talk to reporters at the Old Bailey on December 19, 2013 in London, England. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale have been found guilty of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby as he walked back to Woolwich Barracks in south-east London on May 22, 2013. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

 

Mr Justice Sweeney's sentencing speech in full

Michael Adebolajo (also known as Mujaahid Abu Hamza) and Michael Adebowale (also known as Ismail Ibn Abdullah) you have both been convicted, on overwhelming evidence, of the barbaric murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Artillery Place in Woolwich in the early afternoon of Wednesday 22 May last year.

You are British citizens, aged 29 and 22 respectively. Adebolajo you are married with four step children and two children of your own.

Having presided over your trial I am sure of the following facts.

You each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist - espousing a cause and views which, as has been said elsewhere, are a betrayal of Islam and of the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country.

Media

You decided, between you, and in order to advance your extremist cause, to murder a soldier in public in broad daylight and to do so in a way that would generate maximum media coverage, including getting yourselves killed by armed officers who would be bound to attend the scene in the aftermath of the murder - thereby expecting that you would become martyrs and each gain a place in paradise.

The planning took place over a period of time. You Adebolajo acquired an old handgun which, although it did not work, was to be used at the scene to keep the public at bay and to threaten the armed officers with when they arrived. The day before the murder you Adebolajo bought five knives and a knife sharpener - which you used to sharpen some of the knives in preparation for their use in the murder.

On the day of the murder the two of you met up some hours in advance. Eventually Adebolajo drove you both to Woolwich in his car, where you parked up in Wellington Street and waited to spot a soldier to murder. You had with you a total of eight knives and the gun. It was whilst you were waiting that Lee Rigby walked past. He was instantly recognisable as being a soldier as he was wearing a "Help for Heroes" top and carrying his Army day sack.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: A soldier stands in the rain as security is tightened around Woolwich Barracks on May 23, 2013 in London, England. A British soldier was murdered by suspected Islamists near London's Woolwich Army Barracks yesterday in a savage knife attack. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the 'appalling' attack appeared to be terror related. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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He was 25 years old, had joined the army in 2006, and amongst other postings had seen active service in Afghanistan in 2009. An outgoing and popular personality, he was by the time you saw him in a recruiting post dealing with young people and involved in other duties at his Regimental HQ at the Tower of London. Indeed, he was on his way from his HQ to the Woolwich Barracks when you saw him. He had done absolutely nothing to deserve what you went on to do to him.

You stalked him in the car as he walked along Wellington Street, crossed the South Circular Road and went into Artillery Place where he crossed the road in front of you.

Seizing your opportunity Adebolajo, and once he was no longer looking in your direction, you accelerated hard to 30-40 mph and ran him down from behind. The impact carried him up onto the bonnet of the car breaking five vertebrae in his back and five ribs. The speed of the car was such that it carried up onto the pavement and crashed into the support of a road sign and stopped, depositing Lee Rigby in the area between the front of the car and an adjacent wall. He was unconscious and certainly unable to defend himself.

Decapitate

You both exited the car armed with knives and over a period of around 2-3 minutes you butchered Lee Rigby - going, as you were well aware, far beyond what was needed to murder him. You Adebolajo concentrated on his neck - hacking at it repeatedly with first a substantial cleaver type knife and then another knife, all in an attempt to decapitate him for maximum horrific effect. In the end you failed but in the process you caused horrendous injuries as shown in the materials before the court.

You Adebowale concentrated on Lee Rigby's torso stabbing him a number of times in the chest in frenzied fashion and with severe force. It is no exaggeration to say that what the two of you did resulted in a blood bath. Aspects of all this were seen, as they were intended to be, by members of the public.

Once you had finished, and again in order to achieve maximum effect, you then carried and dragged Lee Rigby's body into the road in Artillery Place and dumped it there - thus eventually bringing the traffic to a halt.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 26: A group of people and soldiers gather outside the Royal Artillery Barracks, close to where Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was killed, on May 26, 2013 in London, England. Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was murdered by suspected Islamists near London's Woolwich Army Barracks. His family visited the scene of his murder today and left floral tributes whilst it was confirmed by the Foreign Office that one of the suspects, Michael Adebolajo, was arrested in Kenya in 2010. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

Gloried

In the thirteen minutes that passed between then and the arrival of the armed officers, the number of members of the public at the scene grew. You both gloried in what you had done. Each of you had the gun at one point or another and it was used to warn off any male member of the public who looked as though he might intervene.

Those who saw the gun believed that it was real and loaded.

You Adebolajo handed out a pre-prepared written statement seeking to justify your joint cause and actions. In addition, carrying the bloodied cleaver in your equally bloody hands, and knowing that you were being filmed, you made a political statement. Images of that filmed statement were broadcast around the world. The effect of the two statements was to seek to justify your joint actions as being retaliation for deaths in Muslim lands, and to incite the removal of the Government in this country.

Your sickening and pitiless conduct was in stark contrast to the compassion and bravery shown by the various women at the scene who tended to Lee Rigby's body and who challenged what you had done and said.

The armed police officers arrived in a marked police vehicle. At that time, you Adebolajo were still armed with the cleaver and the other knife, and you Adebowale (by agreement between the two of you) were armed with the gun and a knife. You Adebolajo sprinted towards the officers jettisoning the knife and carrying the cleaver above your head as if intent on attacking one or more of them, whilst you Adebowale went down the adjacent pavement and pointed the gun at the officers.

Shot

The officers shot you both. They were clearly entitled to do so. It is thanks to their professionalism, including the speed with which they rendered First Aid, that neither of you was killed - especially in your case Adebowale, given that you pointed the gun at them again even after you had been shot for the first time.

As is clear from their moving Victim Personal Statements, and unsurprisingly, the consequences of the murder, its brutality and the publicity, have had a severe and lasting impact on those close to Lee Rigby.

You Adebolajo were the leader of this joint enterprise - albeit that Adebowale played his part enthusiastically. It was you who provided much, if not all, of the equipment and the car, and you were the mouthpiece on the day.

That said, neither of you, I am sure, has any real insight into the enormity of what you did, nor any genuine remorse for it either - only regret that you did not succeed in your plan to be shot dead, which has resulted in you being brought to justice before the courts.

Equally you, Adebolajo, who I have observed at length, have (I am sure) no real prospect of rehabilitation.

Sentence for murder is mandatory - it must be one of life imprisonment. But I must also identify the minimum term that you must serve.

The prosecution assert that, in each of your cases, this was (in the terms of paragraph 4(c) of Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003) a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

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Michael Adebolajo

Terrorist

The prosecution equally assert that, in each of your cases, and in accordance with the provisions of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, this was a murder with a terrorist connection.

Hence the prosecution submit that this is an offence the seriousness of which is exceptionally high, and that thus my starting point should be a whole life term.

The prosecution also submit, obviously correctly, that in the light of the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Attorney General's Reference (No.69 of 2013) [2014] EWCA Crim 188 it is open to me to go on to impose a whole life term in relation to each defendant. They draw my attention, in particular, to the public nature of what happened, to the fact that there was a significant degree of planning or premeditation, that Lee Rigby was providing a public service or performing a public duty, and to the treatment of his body.

As to the starting point it is submitted, amongst other things, on your behalf Adebolajo that I should not be bound by the reasons that you yourself have given for your actions, but should regard this offence as being one motivated by simple religious hatred actions, or the equivalent of the murder of a police officer, and thus the equivalent of an offence requiring a starting point of less than a whole life term. It is urged, although it is accepted that there is not much evidence to support it, that you are someone who can be rehabilitated in time.

As I have already indicated, I am sure that is wrong. It is urged that I should be flexible in my approach to the provisions of Schedule 21 - which I am. It is further submitted that it is of significance that there is no evidence that you were part of a wider group, that there was no intention to physically harm more than one victim who was chosen purely at random because of his profession, and that there is no evidence that the plot was part of a wider network or support group, and that thus this is not a case to take the sentence of last resort as my starting point.

Ideological

Similar points are urged in relation to you, Adebowale, together with other points which in my judgment come more appropriately into consideration in deciding what the appropriate actual sentence is in your case. I am sure that this was (in the terms of paragraph 4(c) of Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003) a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

I am equally sure that, in each of your cases, and in accordance with the provisions of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, this was a murder with a terrorist connection - though I am careful to avoid double counting in that regard.

I equally have no doubt that this is an offence the seriousness of which is, in fact, exceptionally high, and thus my starting point in relation to it should be a whole life term.

Whilst I agree with Mr Lakha that there are three aggravating features, namely a significant degree of planning and premeditation and planning, the fact that the victim was performing a public duty, and the way that the body was treated, I have included all of these in the overall facts that I have found.

I must however go on to consider my actual sentence.

Whole life

In your case Adebolajo there is no mitigation, and whilst to state the obvious, this is not a case of mass or repeated murder it is nevertheless one of those rare cases where not only is the seriousness exceptionally high but the requirements of just punishment and retribution make such an order the just penalty. Accordingly in your case I propose to impose a whole life term.

In your case Adebowale I am persuaded that the combination of your lesser role, your age and your pre-existing and continuing mental condition mean that it is not appropriate in your case to impose a whole life term. Nevertheless in your case there must still be a very substantial minimum term. The term that I propose to impose is one of 45 years less 272 days spent on remand.

Michael Adebolajo I sentence you to life imprisonment with a whole life order.

Michael Adebowale I sentence you to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 45 years less 272 days spent on remand. In both your cases I make a Notification Order for the maximum of 30 years.

In each of your cases there will be an appropriate victim surcharge.

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