The family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby said last night they are “satisfied that justice has been served” after a judge sentenced one of the Muslim fanatics who killed him to die behind bars and jailed the other for at least 45 years.
The pair were sentenced yesterday at the Old Bailey by Mr Justice Sweeney, who had waited for a key appeal court ruling on whole life terms before deciding the men’s fate.
After sentencing began the two men shouted at Mr Justice Sweeney in protest at his remarks and had to be pinned to the ground by several security guards.
Mr Justice Sweeney was forced to sentence the men in their absence after they were bundled out of the courtroom and taken to the cells after their outburst.
Fusilier Rigby’s family sobbed as the killers shouted across the courtroom, with Adebolajo shouting “allahu akbar”, and Adebowale calling out “that’s a lie” and “it’s not a betrayal of Islam” as the judge told them they had been radicalised.
The judge said the pair’s behaviour was “sickening and pitiless”, and that Adebolajo had no hope of rehabilitation.
“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 challenged what you had done and said,” he said.
Adebolajo was given a whole life term, while Adebowale, 22, was jailed for life with a minimum of 45 years.
Later the family welcomed the sentence as “justice for Lee”.
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.”
The British-born extremists Adebolajo and Adebowale mowed down Fusilier Rigby 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”, motivated by the plight of Muslims abroad, and have shown no remorse.
“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,” said the judge. As he spoke, Adebowale began ranting about America and Britain, and his accomplice joined in, screaming “allahu akbar” and hurling abuse at the prison guards who grappled him to the ground.
The soldier’s family were visibly distressed, with one relative needing medical treatment.
Once the hearing resumed, Mr Justice Sweeney described how the pair mowed down the 25-year-old at 30-40mph.
He said of the soldier: “He had done absolutely nothing to deserve what you went on to do to him.” Adebolajo tried to behead Lee Rigby, while Adebowale stabbed him in the chest.
“You both gloried in what you had done,” the judge said, which had a “severe and lasting impact” on his loved ones.
There were also dramatic scenes outside the Old Bailey as roads near the court were closed and members of the public shouted at prison vans leaving the building.
A number of far right protesters had remained outside the court all day, with two sets of gallows, calling for the killers to be executed.
Speaking afterwards, 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 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, 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.
“Not only was the attack brutal and calculated, it was also designed to advance extremist views. As a soldier, 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 judge: ‘Sickening and pitiless’
AMONG remarks from judge Mr Justice Sweeney:
“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.”
“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.”
“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 bloodbath.”
“Your sickening and pitiless conduct was in stark contrast to the compassion and bravery shown by the various women at the scene.”
The family: ‘My son will see images of his dad no son should endure’
The son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby will be forced to see “images of his dad that no son should ever have to endure”, his widow has said.
A moving victim impact statement written by Rebecca Rigby was read to the Old Bailey yesterday before her husband’s murderers Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were sentenced.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC read excerpts of the statement, in which Mrs Rigby described the effect of the brutal killing. She 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.”
The pair hit Fusilier Rigby, 25, in a car before hacking him to death near Woolwich barracks in London.
Mrs Rigby said she had accepted her husband would be at risk when he went to Afghanistan, but not in Britain, where he was based when he died. She said: “When you wave someone off you accept that there is a chance you will never see them again. You do not expect to see this on the streets of the UK. Lee will never be forgotten. We will love him and miss him every day.”
The court also heard part of a statement from the soldier’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.”
Mr Whittam said the family’s lives had been devastated.
The protests: Rowdy demonstrators arrested
Three people were arrested outside the Old Bailey yesterday as far-right protesters gathered ahead of the sentencing of two Muslim fanatics who murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered by the court, waving Union flags and chanting.
A City of London Police spokesman said two men were arrested, one on suspicion of actual bodily harm and one for affray. A woman was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly. The spokesman said there was a “significant police presence” in the area.
The street was closed in both directions outside the court.
Supporters of the British National Party and English Defence League gathered around gallows which had been constructed in the street and many held placards which read: “Restore capital punishment.”
The crowd cheered when the sentences were announced.