Lee Rigby murder trial: Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale found guilty of murdering soldier by hacking him to death


Michael Adebolajo

The two self-confessed killers of Lee Rigby were today convicted of his murder as the family demanded that the “brainwashed” pair should never again be free after a three-week trial that publicly aired their violent Islamist philosophy.

The security services and government faced difficult questions over the radicalisation of Michael Adebowale, 22, and Michael Adebolajo, 29, and the older man’s dealings with the security services in the months before the murder.

A jury took just 90 minutes to find the pair guilty of murdering the unsuspecting soldier, the father of a two-year-old boy Jack, on May 22 as he walked back to his barracks.

As the two defendants were led down to the cells, Adebolajo looked towards the press gallery and kissed his copy of the Koran.

There was a gasp from the family of Lee Rigby after the verdict and some were in tears as they left the courtroom.

Mr Justice Sweeney told the family: “I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to the family of Lee Rigby who have sat in court with great dignity through what must have been the most harrowing of evidence for them to hear.

“I am extremely grateful to them and can only sympathise with what has happened to them and its continuing effect inevitably on all their lives.”

Lee Rigby's stepfather Ian told ITV News: “It was two individuals, it wasn’t anything to do with religion. They’re using religion as an excuse for whatever they’ve been brainwashed with.”

They will be sentenced at a later date.

The murderers, travelling together in a car, rammed the soldier breaking his back and then attempted to decapitate him. They attacked his body with knives before dragging it into the middle of a busy road in Woolwich, southeast London.

“I don’t think they should be able to come out and walk on the streets again,” the dead soldier’s mother, Lyn Rigby, told the BBC. Her husband, Ian, added: “You’d love to say you’d like to see the same thing happen to them as what they’d done, but in this country, you live in a democracy and you believe in the justice of this country.”

The pair then hung around the scene speaking with witnesses before charging the first police car that carried an armed police team. A cleaver-waving Adebolajo reached within feet of the car before he was shot and wounded and Adebowale, armed with a handgun, was also shot and wounded. The pair were also found not guilty of attempting to murder a police officer.

It emerged that Fusilier Rigby, 25, who served as a machine gunner in Afghanistan, had wanted to return to the country for another tour of duty but was talked out of it by his sister, Sara. “He was quite upset. He wanted to go back to Afghanistan and he was going to request a post and I talked him out of it and now I wish I hadn't,” she told ITV News.

Adebolajo and Adebowale had claimed to have been “soldiers of Allah” fighting a war in retaliation for British foreign policy after a long process of radicalisation, links with extremist groups and an attempt by Adebolajo to travel to Somalia to join the militant al-Shabaab group.

Adebolajo had tried but failed to call the Foreign Secretary William Hague as a witness to back his claims at the trial that he was a soldier in a continuing war because of the presence of British troops in Afghanistan.

He claimed at his trial that he had been in contact with MI5 earlier this year after he was returned to Britain.

The two men both had links with former senior figures with al-Muhajiroun, the banned group that is connected with dozens of Britons convicted of terror offences or killed fighting abroad. Its founder, Omar Bakri Mohamed, was secretly recorded talking about slicing the necks of Westerners.

Scotland Yard has handed its file on the case to the Intelligence and Security committee which is due to report next year on what, if any, lessons could be learned from the attack.

Earlier this year, the head of MI5 Andrew Parker said that knowing of individual “does not equate to knowing everything about them. “The reality of intelligence work in practice is that we only focus the most intrusive attention on a small number of cases at any one time,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, the head of counter terrorism, said: “This was a horrific attack on a young man on a busy London street as members of the public went about their daily business.

“What happened to Lee that day has shocked and sickened people in London, the UK and far beyond.

“There’s nothing that can justify those atrocious actions on that day. Lee was struck from behind without warning and was subject to the most appalling violence without the opportunity to defend himself.

“It has been a very sad case. We hope that our efforts and those of the prosecution team has brought some small comfort to Lee’s family his friends, and indeed his colleagues.”

Jeremiah Adebolajo, the brother of the convicted man, claimed that there would be similar attacks. “I suggest that it won’t be the last, simply because of the tactics of the British secret service and foreign policy... for every violent action, is a violent reaction,” he told Al Jazeera.