THE family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby have thanked the public for their “overwhelming support” ahead of his funeral today and said his death had united the country.
Fusilier Rigby’s mother, stepfather and widow said good wishes had flooded in from around the globe and across all religions in the past seven weeks. The 25-year-old had become “a hero” and the intentions of his killers had “backfired”, said his stepfather.
Fusilier Rigby’s widow, Rebecca, 30, said: “There are so many kind and generous people out there. It’s just horrible that it takes something such as this to make you see how many good people there are.”
The soldier, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, was killed as he returned to Woolwich barracks from the Tower of London on 22 May.
His family spoke yesterday for the first time as they reflected on the thousands of goodwill messages they have received.
Fighting back tears, Mrs Rigby said: “It has been overwhelming. We have had masses of cards, letters and donations from everywhere. It’s unbelievable, really, the things that have been coming in.
“We have had letters from the Prime Minister, from senior politicians from all parties, the Duke of Kent, from the Sikh community. Various large mosques and interfaith groups have been in touch with letters of condolences and such.”
Fusilier Rigby’s mother Lyn, 46, said: “We have received overwhelming support from the public, friends, family. We have had thousands of cards with kind words. That basically has given us the strength to get through this time.”
Stepfather Ian Rigby, 54, said: “Everywhere we have been, people have been supporting us. They have been incredible with us. Total strangers. They have been absolutely incredible, coming up – not in your face but shaking hands and saying God bless, that sort of thing. And they have really meant what they said to us.
“At one stage, for about three weeks, we just had a garden full of flowers. We couldn’t move in the garden. There were flowers everywhere.
Mr Rigby added: “Lee has become a hero. Whatever the intention was, it’s backfired because it’s made Lee into the hero and the martyr.”
Widow Mrs Rigby tearfully recalled how two small gestures of support for the couple’s two-year-old son Jack had meant so much to her. “I was handed £1.10, two 50p coins and a 10p piece, that had been handed over by somebody at the Tower of London,” she said. “It was requested that it be passed on to the soldier’s son.
“And I have had a cheque off another lady. She sent me a lovely letter and a cheque for £10 asking me to buy something to put a smile on Jack’s face. He wanted a scooter so we got him a scooter which he absolutely loves.”
Asked about how Fusilier Rigby would like to be remembered at his service in Bury, she said: “Lee always wanted his service to be a time that people would remember him and shed the tears.
“He wanted people to enjoy that and sit and talk about happy days and happy memories they have got of Lee and the things he used to do and say because he was always so full of life. He just wanted to put a smile on everyone’s face.”
Last night, a vigil was held in Bury on the eve of Fusilier Rigby’s funeral.
His loved ones gathered around the coffin with comrades keeping a guard of honour overnight at Bury Parish Church.
Drummers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers drummed the cortege past soldiers of the regiment lining the route to the church.
Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, have been charged with the murder of Fusilier Rigby and are due to stand trial at the Old Bailey on 18 November.