Soldier was victim of “cowardly and callous murder”

Fusilier Lee Rigby
Fusilier Lee Rigby
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Soldier Lee Rigby was the victim of “a cowardly and callous murder” by two men who wanted witnesses to see “the consequences of their barbarous acts”, a jury has heard.

The Fusilier who married in Southowram was hit by a car and attacked with a knife and a meat cleaver as he walked back to Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told jurors at the Old Bailey that Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, drove a Vauxhall Tigra “straight at” him, at around 30mph to 40mph.

He said: “Both men then dragged his body into the middle of the road. They wanted members of the public to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts.

“They had committed, you may think, a cowardly and callous murder by deliberately attacking an unarmed man in plain clothes from behind, using a vehicle as a weapon, and then they murdered him and mutilated his body with that meat cleaver and knives.”

Adebolajo tried to decapitate the soldier while Adebowale stabbed and cut him, the jury heard.

Mr Whittam said: “They both attacked the motionless body of Lee Rigby. He was repeatedly stabbed and it appears it was Michael Adebolajo, the first defendant, who made a serious and almost successful attempt to decapitate Lee Rigby with multiple blows to his neck made with the meat cleaver.

“At the same time as Michael Adebolajo used the meat cleaver, Michael Adebowale was using a knife to stab and cut at Lee Rigby’s body.”

Mr Whittam told the jury that members of the public showed “bravery and decency” in the aftermath of the alleged attack.

“Such heinous behaviour is in distinct contrast to the bravery and decency shown by some of the members of the public present. Despite the abhorrence of the scene, one woman went to the lifeless body of Lee Rigby and stroked him to provide some comfort and humanity to what had unfolded. Others went to see if they could provide first aid.

“Another woman engaged Michael Adebolajo in conversation despite the fact that he was still holding the meat cleaver and his hands were covered in blood.”

The court heard that the two men were also armed with a gun.

Mr Whittam told the jury of eight women and four men that the firearm was part of the plan the pair had made, and was used partly to frighten off members of the public before the emergency services arrived.

As a police vehicle swung into Artillery Place, both men moved towards it, Mr Whittam said, and Adebolajo raised the meat cleaver above his head.

Adebolajo and Adebowale are both accused of attempting to murder a police officer, and conspiracy to murder a police officer on or before May 22.

Armed officers shot both defendants and they were arrested, the court heard.

Mr Whittam said: “Lethal force can only be used where there is a real danger to life, as clearly there was here.”

The events took place within yards of the Mulgrave Primary School, Mr Whittam said, to which children were returning from a visit to the library. Members of the public turned them back to avoid the “awful” scene.

Young and old people, as well as a heavily pregnant woman, did witness what happened, he added.

The court heard details of Fusilier Rigby’s career with the armed forces.

Mr Whittam said he joined the Army in 2006 and after his training was selected to be a member of the Corps of Drums and posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

He was posted to Cyprus and Jordan, and was deployed on operations for the first time in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

After spending time in Germany, he returned to London in 2011 and was based at the barracks in Woolwich.

Adebolajo was born in Lewisham and had been using a flat in Oakwood Close, south-east London, the jury was told.

Adebowale, who was born in Eltham and had been living in Greenwich, was brought up in the Christian faith and converted to Islam when he was 17, the court heard. After his conversion, he adopted the name Ismail.

Jurors were told that both men have admitted possesion of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Mr Whittam told the court the defendants had been together for five hours before the attack and added “it was clear” there had been an agreement to attack the police when they arrived.

He said: “It was a joint attack; Michael Adebolajo got very close indeed to the driver’s side of the police vehicle and had he not been shot it is difficult to think that he would not have succeeded in killing a police officer.”

The jury was shown images including maps indicating where Adebolajo and Adebowale each lived, and an aerial photograph of the barracks.

Mr Whittam then explained the movements of the defendants on the day Fusilier Rigby died.

Adebowale last saw his father on May 19 and they arranged to meet the following day but Adebowale failed to show up at Charing Cross station, the court heard.

Mr Whittam added: “The next time his father was to see him was when he watched the news on May 22.”

The Vauxhall Tigra was seen in Lewisham at 1.52pm on May 21, and at 2.01pm Adebolajo went to the Lewisham branch of Argos where he purchased a five-piece set of kitchen knives in a block and a knife sharpener, the jury was told.

The vehicle was seen leaving the area around his home at 8am on May 22 with Adebolajo driving, the court heard.

Adebolajo filled up with petrol but told the shop he did not have any money or identification, Mr Whittam said, and produced a Koran, but did not want to leave the book there.

He offered his phone as security and told the shop assistant not to answer if it rang, the jury heard.

After a trip home, Adebolajo returned and paid for the petrol and then headed towards Adebowale’s address at around 9.30am. It is alleged this is when the two men came together and that at about 1pm they set off for Woolwich.