Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Lee Rigby murder: The day Woolwich horror unfolded amid shocked public

By Jamie Grierson

Fusilier Lee Rigby was slaughtered in broad daylight.

Dressed in his Help for Heroes hoodie, the 22-year-old soldier was walking near Woolwich barracks, where he was based, when he was savagely attacked by two jihadist fanatics armed with a gun and eight knives in front of commuters, pedestrians and shopkeepers.

Those men were Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale - two Muslim converts, who had grown to loathe Britain, the country where they were born and raised.

After an audacious attempt at denying Fusilier Rigby's brutal murder, the extremists were found guilty of the heinous crime.

The soldier, with his Army day sack over his shoulder, left Woolwich Arsenal DLR station at around 2.10pm on May 22, walking along Wellington Street, passing the Great Harry public house and council offices.

As he walked along the border of Woolwich barracks on Artillery Place, he crossed the road, away from the barracks and towards a shop on the other side of the street.

At this point, a blue Vauxhall Tigra, travelling at 30 to 40mph, swerved across the road, striking Fusilier Rigby. The soldier was lifted on to the bonnet, hitting the windscreen, before being thrown forwards to the ground in a heap. The car crashed into a road sign and came to a halt.

CCTV footage of the collision was shown to the jury in the trial of Adebolajo and Adebowale. Those in the courtroom gasped at the image of Lee Rigby's body being tossed like a rag doll at the moment of impact.

Adebolajo, who was driving, left the car first. In a frenzy, the Greenwich University dropout took hold of the soldier's hair and repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck.

Adebowale, the passenger, leapt from the car second and stabbed the fusilier with a knife. In another horrifying act caught on CCTV, the two men dragged the soldier's body from the pavement to the middle of the road, parading the bloodied results of their barbarity.

As one witness described it, it was as if the men were throwing out the rubbish.

For a small group of innocent bystanders, the horror unfolded before their eyes.

There was Amanda Bailey, driving her blue Peugeot 206 on Artillery Place, who witnessed the crash and knife attack. "I was so shocked that all I could do was sit there and stare at what was happening," she told police.

There was Greenwich Borough Council electrician Thomas Seymour, who from his Vauxhall van saw Adebolajo slicing at Fusilier Rigby's neck. He "instantly believed that was trying to cut the victim's head off".

There was Gill Hucks, driving with colleague Gary Perkins in her red Kia Picanto, mother and daughter Michelle and Tina Nimmo, driving in a black Vauxhall Astra, and James Henegan and Cheralee Armstrong who observed the shocking events from a silver Citroen C3.

And then there was Sarah Riordan, a heavily-pregnant woman who started to experience painful contractions as chaotic scenes unfolded around her.

For the vast majority, the shocking events were drip-fed through social media - particularly microblogging site Twitter.

Witnesses immediately took to their smartphones to express their shock - talk of a beheading, crazed madmen hacking at an innocent pedestrian and bursts of gunfire all filled the Twittersphere.

The Metropolitan Police helicopter team initially posted a message to reveal they had been urgently dispatched to a "serious" incident, a mere hint at the true tragedy of the events on the ground.

As Fusilier Rigby lay bleeding in the road, his murderers stood over his body, waiting for the police to arrive.

During this time terrified witnesses took to their smartphones and filmed or photographed the hideous scenes unfolding before them.

In a number of images, a woman can be seen bravely remonstrating with Adebowale as he clutches a bloodied knife.

She was Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a French-born mother of two, who was returning from a trip to see relatives in France and, having just visited her children in Plumstead, was on her way to Victoria to catch a coach back to Cornwall.

She and two other women seen sitting by Fusilier Rigby's side - Gemini Donnelly Martin and her mother Amanda Donnelly Martin - would later be dubbed the Angels of Woolwich.

Another image caught on film shocked many to the core.

First broadcast on ITV at 6pm, footage was captured of Adebolajo, heavily bloodied and ranting: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Adebolajo, wearing a knitted hoodie, jeans and a beanie hat, is seen calmly walking towards the camera with what appears to be two large knives clasped by the handles in his bloodied left hand.

Gesticulating with both hands - while gripping the weapons - the man points to his own face as he says: "We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Speaking clear English with a London accent, Adebolajo appears to try to justify the attack, saying: "I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same."

As the man finishes addressing other members of the public, the murderer turns back towards Mr Rigby's dead body, lying in the road, where Adebowale waits.

Incredible footage also showed the moment the men were shot by police..

A marked BMW carrying three police officers swerves into Artillery Place. Adebolajo and Adebowale charge at the vehicle, the former waving a knife, the latter pointing a gun - a rusted, unloaded revolver.

Adebolajo is seen crashing to the ground as one of the officers, seated in the rear of the vehicle, shoots him through the vehicle's open window. All three officers get out of the car, one strikes Adebolajo with a Taser stun gun, while another opens fire on Adebowale who plunges to the ground.

Within seconds, the same officers are rushing to administer first aid to the men - actions that may have saved their lives.

Adebolajo, a married father of six, was taken to King's College Hospital, in south east London.

A Cobra emergency meeting, attended by the Home Secretary, Defence Secretary, mayor of London, Metropolitan commissioner and intelligence agencies, was held as security at all London barracks was tightened.

The victim was later confirmed as Fusilier Rigby, 25, from Crumpsall, Manchester, who served with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, commanding officer of the Second Fusiliers, led tributes to the father of one, whom he described as a "dedicated and professional soldier".

Anti-extremist organisations reported a surge in attacks against Muslims in the wake of the murder, while members of the BNP clashed with Unite Against Fascism during demonstrations in London.

The two killers were ultimately released from hospital and interviewed under caution by detectives from Scotland Yard's counter terrorism command.

In an at times bizarre conversation with Detective Constable Dhaval Bhatt and Detective Constable David Field, Adebolajo started to reveal the warped motivations behind the savage murder.

Covered by a blue blanket for much of the interview, the jihadist revealed his extreme interpretation of Islam. He said he was a soldier of Allah and was seeking retribution for the actions of western leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim lands.

Both men were charged with the murder of Fusilier Rigby, as well as with the attempted murder of a police officer, conspiracy to murder a police officer and the possession of a firearm.

Adebolajo's chilling first court appearance revealed an unrepentant man, corrupted by a twisted fundamentalism.

Demanding to be referred to as Mujaahid Abu Hamza, Adebolajo was argumentative and unco-operative. Regularly confronting the magistrate, he raised his arm in the air at one point, posing in a strange stance and kissing a Koran.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, both men denied all charges but possession of a firearm. Fusilier Rigby's family, including his mother, stepfather and widow Rebecca, were forced to relive some of the most horrific moments of his murder.

In one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, Adebolajo went into the witness box and gave what sounded more like a confession than a defence to the soldier's murder.

Dressed in Islamic garb, with two front teeth missing, he told the jury he loved the terrorist group al Qaida, he told them his religion was everything and he proudly claimed to be a soldier of Allah.

Apparently at peace with himself, he showed no remorse as he described attempting to decapitate Fusilier Rigby, insisting it was not a personal vendetta against the soldier but an act in which he had no choice, ordered by his God, Allah.

But the jury was not convinced. After guilty verdicts were returned within hours, the men who brought terrorism back to the streets of London are now facing a lifetime in prison for the very public murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Murder case: A timeline

May 22

:: 2.20pm - Police respond to a "serious incident" in John Wilson Street following reports of an assault. London Air Ambulance is also called to the scene.

The incident happened 200 yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks, next to Woolwich Common, the historical home of the Royal Artillery.

:: London Ambulance Service confirms a man has been found dead at the scene, while two other men have been taken to hospital, one of them in a serious condition.

:: Witnesses confirm a man wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt was attacked by two men with machete-style knives.

:: Prime Minister David Cameron describes the killing as "truly shocking" and asks the Home Secretary to chair a meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency committee. He will cut short an official visit to Paris to return to the UK to co-ordinate the Government's response.

:: 6pm - Shocking footage emerges of a man wielding a bloodied meat cleaver at the scene moments after the attack, saying: "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."

:: Troops in London are advised in the immediate aftermath of the attack not to wear their uniforms outside their bases.

:: The two suspects are held in hospital, having been shot by officers at the scene, where they receive treatment for non-life threatening injuries.

May 23

:: Scotland Yard confirms the man killed was a serving soldier.

:: Speaking outside Downing Street after another Cobra meeting, Mr Cameron says: "The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger."

:: The Ministry of Defence names the victim as Fusilier Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

:: US president Barack Obama condemns the attack "in the strongest terms" and says there can be "absolutely no justification for such acts".

May 24

:: Further footage emerges of the moment the suspects were shot as they charged police officers at the scene.

:: Two men are arrested for making alleged offensive comments on Twitter about the murder.

:: The tearful family of Fusilier Rigby speak of their pride in him. His wife Rebecca and stepfather Ian fight back tears as they speak on behalf of the 25-year-old's family at a press conference at the Regimental HQ of his unit in Bury, Greater Manchester.

May 25

:: The BNP is accused of exploiting the death of Fusilier Rigby to further its "own poisonous ends" after the far right group announces plans to demonstrate in Woolwich.

:: Hundreds of wellwishers flock to pay their respects to the murdered soldier, leaving floral tributes near the scene.

:: Downing Street announces Mr Cameron is to launch a new terror taskforce to crack down on extremism.

May 26

:: Fusilier Rigby's family visit the scene of his murder.

May 27

:: Two people are arrested following a fire at an Islamic cultural centre in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

:: It emerges Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo was arrested by Kenyan authorities three years before because they feared he was attempting to join an al Qaida-linked militant group.

:: Supporters of the English Defence League march through central London chanting "Muslim killers off our streets" and "There's only one Lee Rigby".

May 28

:: Michael Adebowale, 22, is discharged from hospital and taken into custody at a south London police station.

:: The family of Adebolajo express their "profound shame and distress" over the "senseless killing" and send their "heartfelt condolence" to Fusilier Rigby's relatives.

May 29

:: Four men are charged with various offences after Monday's EDL march on Downing Street.

:: A post-mortem examination of the murdered soldier establishes the cause of death was "multiple incised wounds".

:: The Crown Prosecution Service confirms Adebowale is to be charged with the murder of Fusilier Rigby.

May 30

:: Adebowale appears flanked by two police officers and two security guards in the dock at Westminster Magistrates' Court. He speaks only to confirm his name, date of birth and address during the short hearing.

May 31

:: Adebolajo is discharged from hospital and taken into police custody.

June 1

:: Adebolajo is charged with the murder of Fusilier Rigby and possession of a firearm.

June 3

:: Adebolajo appears at Westminster Magistrates' Court where he asks to be referred to as Mujaahid Abu Hamza.

September 27

:: Adebolajo and Adebowale plead not guilty to murder.

December 19

:: Both defendants are found guilty of murder.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph