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Court chaos as Rigby killers jailed


Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale are to be sentenced today.

Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale are to be sentenced today.

Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale are to be sentenced today.

The fanatics who murdered soldier Lee Rigby brought chaos to a courtroom today as one of the killers was condemned to die behind bars.

Heartbroken relatives of the 25-year-old Fusilier said "justice has been served" after Michael Adebolajo was given a whole life term for the barbaric killing and Michael Adebowale was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 45 years.

In an emotional victim impact statement read to the Old Bailey, the soldier's widow Rebecca said: "Of all the feelings I have, the one thing that overrides everything is that I know my son will grow up and see images of his dad that no son should ever have to endure, and there is nothing I can do to change this."

Dressed in Islamic robes, the British-born extremists erupted with rage as Mr Justice Sweeney told them they had been radicalised and had betrayed their religion.

The judge was forced to sentence the "sickening and pitiless" killers in their absence for butchering the father of one in broad daylight near Woolwich barracks on May 22 last year.

As Mr Justice Sweeney began his sentencing remarks, Adebolajo, 29, screamed " allahu akbar" as he and Adebowale, 22, were pinned to the ground and bundled down to the cells by several prison officers in a shocking outburst.

The judge had told them: "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."

Adebowale shouted "that's a lie" and "it's not a betrayal of Islam" and ranted about Britain and America, as the judge was forced to stop speaking.

After the killers were removed from the courtroom, as Fusilier Rigby's sobbing relatives looked on, he continued: "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."

Adebolajo and Adebowale chose the young soldier as their victim because he was wearing a Help for Heroes hooded top, mowing him down in a car before hacking at his limp body with a meat cleaver and knives in an attempt to decapitate him.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "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."

Explaining his decision to give Adebolajo a whole life term, he said the 29-year-old, who has two children and four stepchildren, was the leader of the murderous plot and had "no real prospect of rehabilitation".

However, Adebowale's younger age, mental health problems and "lesser role" meant that he escaped spending the rest of his natural life behind bars.

Relatives of the soldier including his widow, his fiancee Aimee West, mother Lyn and stepfather Ian were all in court as the pair were jailed.

Some had arrived at the Old Bailey with T-shirts adorned with images of Fusilier Rigby and the words Justice for Lee Rigby.

Following the dramatic scenes inside court, family liaison officer Detective Inspector Pete Sparks read a statement on the family's behalf that said: "We would like to thank the judge and the courts for handing down what we believe to be the right prison terms."

With far-right protesters, who had put up two sets of mock gallows, waving flags and chanting in the background, he continued: "It has brought us a lot of comfort and we feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee."

Earlier in the hearing, Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC also read parts of a statement from the Afghanistan veteran's stepfather, Ian Rigby.

He said: "After all he had been through in Afghanistan, all Lee was doing was just walking through London. Just seeing on the television and seeing the violence of it you just can't comprehend. You take it all in and it doesn't click in your head, it is like being somewhere else.

"You're watching it without being actually there."

Reacting to the sentencing, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Extremist behaviour of any kind will never be tolerated in Britain. While nothing can reverse the appalling crime committed on the streets of Woolwich last May, the significant sentences handed down today reflect this.

"Our thoughts are of course with Lee Rigby's family, who have endured unimaginable heartbreak over the last nine months. I hope they will take some comfort from this judgment."