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Lee Rigby killers found guilty of murder

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  • by TOM PETERKIN
 

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to redouble efforts to tackle extremism, after two British Muslim fanatics were found guilty of murdering soldier Lee Rigby in an attack that horrified the nation.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, ran him down in a car and hacked him to death with a meat cleaver and knives in front of terrified onlookers.

As Fusilier Rigby’s tearful family remembered a brave son, father and brother, and expressed satisfaction that justice had been done, Mr Cameron said: “The whole country was completely shocked by the murder and the whole country united in condemnation at what happened. We have to redouble our efforts to confront the poisonous narrative of extremism and violence, and make sure we do everything to beat it.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said the killing was “sickening” and “barbaric”.

Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said the murder had been “one of the most savage offences ever prosecuted”.

She said: “As a soldier, this young father had dedicated his life to keeping people safe, including from the threat of terrorism. That dedication to his country cost him his life and was in stark contrast to the appalling conduct and extremist views of the men who murdered him.”

Fusilier Rigby’s relatives, including the 25-year-old’s widow Rebecca, who sat through weeks of harrowing evidence, broke down as the jury delivered its verdicts after just 90 minutes deliberation. Mr Justice Sweeney ordered that the verdicts be heard in silence.

As the killer were taken down, Adebolajo kissed his Koran and raised it in the air. Adebowale, who in his evidence claimed he was a “soldier of Allah”, showed little emotion.

The court heard the duo, who were found not guilty of the attempted murder of a police officer at the scene, had lain in wait near Woolwich Barracks in south-east London on 22 May.

They picked 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.

Within three minutes of hitting him at 30-40mph in their Vauxhall Tigra, they had butchered the young father and were dragging his body into the middle of the road.

After the murder, Adebolajo charged at armed police officers wielding the his cleaver while Adebowale brandished a gun. Both men claimed they had carried out the murder because they were “soldiers of Allah”.

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

The eight women and four men 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 dramatic scenes captured on CCTV. Adebolajo was seen dropping the meat cleaver as he ran towards a marked police BMW, collapsing to the ground when he was shot. Adebowale, who moved along a wall to draw fire from officers, was seen folding over as he, too, was shot.

Disturbing video footage of the soldier being run over was shown during the trial, as were clips of the two murderers dragging his limp and bloodied body into the middle of Artillery Place outside Woolwich barracks.

Adebolajo pulled Fusilier Rigby’s head to the side and attempted to decapitate him, while Adebowale stabbed him repeatedly. One witness described their actions, which took place yards from a primary school, as being “like a butcher attacking a joint of meat”.

The men had armed themselves with eight knives, including a five-piece set bought by Adebolajo from Argos the previous day. Prosecutor Richard Whittam, QC, told the court they “wanted members of the public to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts”.

A number of women, including Amanda Donnelly-Martin, who was with her daughter, approached Fusilier Rigby and tried to comfort him, but he was already dead.

Adebolajo handed Ms Donnelly-Martin a handwritten letter containing a religiously fuelled rant about fighting “Allah’s enemies” and bringing “carnage” to the streets of London.

It said: “To fight Allah’s enemies is an obligation. If you find yourself curious as to why carnage is reaching your own towns, then know it’s simply retaliation for your oppression in our towns.”

The killers were also armed with a gun, and previously admitted possession of a firearm.

The rusty revolver – 90 years old and unloaded – was used partly to frighten off members of the public before the emergency services arrived.

But as a police vehicle swung into Artillery Place, both men rushed aggressively towards it, with Adebolajo raising the meat cleaver above his head and Adebowale waving the firearm. After shooting the men, police administered first aid, before they were taken to hospitals for potentially life-saving treatment.

Just 16 minutes passed from the moment the jihadists struck Fusilier Rigby to when the police started to treat the killers for their injuries.

Adebolajo espoused his extremist views throughout police interviews and when he appeared in the dock of the Old Bailey.

Under the cover of a blue blanket, he told police in interviews he was angered by western leaders such as Tony Blair, David Cameron, the Miliband brothers and Nick Clegg. He said he was a “soldier of Allah” and that he loved al-Qaeda as his “brothers”.

Adebowale chose not to give evidence. His counsel told the jury his client shared the views of his accomplice: he, too, believed he was a “soldier of Allah”.

Adebolajo, who was born in Lewisham, had been using a flat in south-east London, while Adebowale, who was born in Eltham, had been living in Greenwich.

Fusilier Rigby’s death raised questions about whether the security services could have done more to prevent the crime. The murderers had been known to MI5 for some time. At Westminster, the intelligence and security committee has started an investigation into events surrounding the murder and will scrutinise the actions of the intelligence and security agencies, as well as counter-terror police.

Cressida Dick, the leader of Scotland Yard’s anti- terror team, said it was up to the committee to find out if the agencies could have done more. She said: “There may be something that, when we look back, looks like a missed opportunity.”

She condemned the “completely perverted ideology” that led to the targeting of soldiers.

“Lee was struck from behind without warning and subjected to the most appalling violence with no opportunity to defend himself. All that occurred in a very public place with a real threat to the public,” she said.

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 the extremists will not succeed.”

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

Profile: Haunted by voices, high-risk prisoner hit out at his jailers

Michael Adebowale attacked three police officers in his first 24 hours in custody, it can now be reported.

The 22-year-old, who was confronted by “Woolwich Angel” Ingrid Loyau-Kennett in the aftermath of Fusilier Rigby’s murder, was said to be “very unpredictable” while held by police.

As a teenager, he was victim of a knife attack in which his best friend was killed, and he told psychiatrists that he was haunted by the voices of his would-be killers.

He was discharged from hospital six days after Fusilier Rigby’s murder, and was formally charged on 29 May, appearing in court for the first time the next day.

There, the rare step was taken of allowing him to be handcuffed while in the dock because of the risk to police, prison and security officers.

It emerged that he had attacked three police officers in 24 hours. The first incident was when he was in his cell picking out his stitches, and when a police officer came in to stop him, he punched him in the face with his right hand.

Then, when he was interviewed for the first time, he spat in an officer’s face; and in a third incident he spat in a glass of water and threw it in a police officer’s face.

While in prison Adebowale told psychiatrist Dr Neil Boast that he would hear voices in the morning for about ten minutes.

Dr Boast said: “People he doesn’t know and people who took part in an assault on him when he was injured and a friend was killed; he hears people he doesn’t know speaking in a Nigerian accent about him.”

Experts said Adebowale had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being a victim of the knife attack at the age of 16. Police said he was “quite a troubled young man” who had gone missing from home more than once.

Former bare-knuckle fighter Lee James was found guilty of murdering 18-year-old Faridon Alizada in 2008 at a flat in Erith, south east London, and wounding Adebowale and a 16-year-old friend.

Adebowale – who was known as Tobi – was the son of Juliet Obasuyi, reportedly a probation officer, and his father Adeniyi, who works for the Nigerian High Commission.

He was raised as a Christian in south-east London, and went to school in Kidbrooke. As he moved into his teens, he became involved in drugs and was linked to the Woolwich Boys gang – as was Adebolajo.

His concerned mother appealed for her friend Richard Taylor, the father of tragic Damilola who was killed at the age of ten in a knife attack, to mentor her son, but he later fell into extremism.

Mr Taylor said that he was “terribly shocked” to see Adebowale involved in the brutality, having spoken to him only two months before the murder, but that he felt there was nothing that could have changed the 22-year-old.

In an interview, he said: “Having seen how my own son was stabbed to death, it made me feel that … at the end of whatever happens, they will still be alive, they will still be on the street or maybe they will take them away from the public and go and change their faces. They don’t deserve to live.”

Adebowale, who asked to be called Ismail Ibn Abdullah in court, ultimately chose not to give evidence and refused to explain his horrific actions to the jury or Fusilier Rigby’s family.

Profile: He showed no emotion, except when talking about his beliefs

Michael Adebolajo horrified millions of people by appearing on camera with bloodied hands clutching a knife and a meat cleaver, moments after killing Lee Rigby.

The 29-year-old, who was raised as a Christian, became a committed Islamic extremist who tried to join jihadis in east Africa, and then brought terror to the streets of the UK.

In the shocking footage, he was seen ranting about how Muslims in other countries had to witness similar horrors to that which he and Michael Adebowale had wreaked in south-east London.

Another film clip showed him charging towards police clutching a knife and a meat cleaver, then flying through the air after he was shot by marksmen.

In court, he showed emotion only when talking about his religious beliefs and remained calm when describing his chilling attempts to decapitate Fusilier Rigby.

He told jurors he had converted to Islam in 2002 or 2003, when he was a student at the University of Greenwich, and chose to take the name Mujahid Abu Hamza. Adebolajo said he wanted to be called Mujahid, meaning fighter, after he learned “how much Allah loves the mujahideen”.

He was born to Nigerian parents at King’s College Hospital in south-east London on 10 December, 1984, and later went to Marshalls Park School in Romford, where he made friends with Kirk Redpath, who become a lance-corporal in the British Army and was killed in an explosion in Iraq.

Adebolajo told jurors most of his friends growing up were white British and that he blamed former PM Tony Blair for Mr Redpath’s death.

His father Anthony, a nurse, and mother Tina, a social worker, had tried to dissuade him from having anything to do with Islamic extremism, but in 2010 he was arrested in Kenya, apparently trying to get to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Adebolajo said he wanted to get to the African country so that he could live under Sharia law.

His friend Abu Nusaybah claimed Adebolajo had been asked to work for the British security services after he was caught, and Adebolajo told police MI5 had visited his home.

Parliament’s intelligence and security committee is looking at what security services knew about the suspects before the murder, and is expected to make at least some parts of its findings public.

During police interviews and throughout his court appearances, Adebolajo rambled on about his political and religious motivations.

Before his defence case began, a hearing took place to establish ground rules for what would happen in court to try to stop him using the Old Bailey as his soap box.

Mr Justice Sweeney told his barrister, David Gottlieb: “In the light of what we all saw in the [police] interviews, what needs to be clearly understood is that in the court arena at least, a question is not a cue for a speech, it’s a cue for an answer.”

Adebolajo was held at high security Belmarsh prison after he was charged with the murder of Fusilier Rigby, and there he claimed he had been attacked by a group of prison officers and lost his front teeth when they put him under restraint.

Five members of prison staff were suspended after the incident, but the Prison Officers’ Association insisted that only approved restraint techniques had been used.

‘It was as if Allah marked soldier for death’

Surreal police interviews with Michael Adebolajo in the days after Lee Rigby’s murder highlighted the fanatic’s warped interpretation of Islam.

Covered by a blue blanket throughout the interviews with Scotland Yard detectives, Adebolajo frequently threatened to leave, denounced “jobsworths” and at times talked for more than an hour without interruption or hesitation.

After being treated at London’s King’s College Hospital, Adebolajo was taken before Dc Dhaval Bhatt and Dc David Field.

What transpired was a religiously-inspired rant against western leaders and a candid recap of what he had done on 22 May in Woolwich.

And in one of the most chilling moments in the interviews, Adebolajo calmly explained the fusilier was killed just because he was ‘’the soldier that was spotted first’’.

Adebolajo told officers there was a “war between the Muslims and the British people” and he was a ‘’soldier of Allah’’.

Asked what happened to Fusilier Rigby, Adebolajo calmly explained: “He was struck in the neck with a sharp implement and it was sawed until his head, you know, almost detached and may Allah forgive me if I acted in a way that is displeasing to him.”

Occasionally, revealing his face to the camera’s view, Adebolajo said: “It’s for those people who have not yet understood the nature, the nature of the war that’s ongoing and has been ongoing for some many years between the Muslims and the British people.”

Describing the day of the killing, he said: “By the command of Allah, we waited to find a soldier because between us we decided that the soldier is the most fair target because he joins the army with kind of an understanding that your life is at risk.’’

He said it was “almost as if Allah had chosen” Lee Rigby, and that he had tried to cut his jugular because that was the most humane way of killing.

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