Jury finds pair guilty of murder of Lee Rigby

Jury finds pair guilty of murder of Lee Rigby

Two British men have today been found guilty of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Muslim converts Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were convicted at the Old Bailey after running Fusilier Rigby down in a car and then hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives in front of horrified onlookers.

They lay in wait near Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22 and picked the 25-year-old to kill after assuming he was a soldier because he was wearing a Help for Heroes hooded top and carrying a camouflage rucksack.

Within just 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.

Neither Adebolajo nor Adebowale had been able to offer any real defence for the barbaric attack during their trial, which was beset by legal delays.

The jury took little more than an hour to convict them of murder.

The pair were cleared of the attempted murder of a police officer.

After the murder, Adebolajo had charged at a marksmen wielding the cleaver while Adebowale brandished a gun.

The jury took around 90 minutes to come to their decisions.

Relatives of Fusilier Rigby broke down in tears as the verdicts were given.

Mr Justice Sweeney ordered that the decisions be heard in silence.

He said he will pass sentence after a key appeal court ruling on the use of whole life terms in January.

As the jurors were thanked for their service, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "It's no doubt a case that is going to stay with us all for a long time."

As the defendants were taken down, Adebolajo kissed his Quran and raised it in the air.

The judge expressed his "gratitude and admiration" for the soldier's family.

He said they had "sat in court with great dignity throughout what must have been the most harrowing of evidence".

The judge added: "I'm extremely grateful to them and can only sympathise with what has happened to them and its continued effect ... upon all their lives."

Fusilier Rigby's family and friends, including his widow Rebecca, sat through weeks of harrowing evidence on the final movements of the soldier and his killers.

Disturbing video footage of the soldier being run over by the Vauxhall Tigra, driven by his murderers at 30-40mph, was shown, as were clips of the two extremists 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 just yards from Mulgrave Primary School, as being "like a butcher attacking a joint of meat".

The men had armed themselves with eight knives, including a meat cleaver and a five-piece set bought by Adebolajo from Argos the previous day.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the court the fanatics "wanted members of the public to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts".

A number of women - such as Amanda Donnelly-Martin, who was with her daughter - approached Fusilier Rigby and attempted 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'' and went on: "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."

In another shock video clip aired on television on the day of the attack, Adebolajo is seen speaking with blood on his hands, suggesting that the attack was "an eye for an eye".

He said: "The only reason we've killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers."

The murderers were also armed with a gun, and previously admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

The rusty revolver - 90 years old and unloaded - 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.

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.

Both men were shot by police in more dramatic scenes to be captured by CCTV. Adebolajo was seen dropping the meat cleaver as he sprinted across the road towards the marked BMW, collapsing to the ground when he was shot.

Similarly Adebowale, who moved along a wall to draw fire from the officers, was seen folding over as he too was shot by one of three armed officers.

Police then administered first aid on the two men before they were taken to hospitals in south London 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 detectives in interview that he was angered by Western leaders such as Tony Blair, David Cameron, the Miliband brothers and Nick Clegg.

He told jurors he was a "soldier of Allah", he said he loved al-Qaida as his "brothers", and said he was "obeying the command of Allah".

But Mr Justice Sweeney ultimately told the jury nothing he said was a defence in law to murder.

Adebowale chose not to give evidence. His counsel told the jury that his client shared the views of his accomplice - he too believed he was a "soldier of Allah".

Fusilier Rigby, who joined the Army in 2006, had left Woolwich Arsenal DLR station and was making his way to the barracks when he was set upon by the two men.

The soldier, who was posted on operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009, was dressed in a Help For Heroes hoodie and was carrying an Army day sack.

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

Both men requested to be called by their adopted Islamic names, Adebolajo as Mujahid Abu Hamza, and Adebowale as Ismail Ibn Abdullah.

Fusilier Rigby's family said they were satisfied that justice had been done.

In a statement read by Detective Inspector Pete Sparks, they said: "No one should have to go through what we have been through as a family.

"We are satisfied that justice has been done, but unfortunately no amount of justice will bring Lee back.

"These people have taken him away from us forever but his memory lives on in all of us and we will never forget him.

"We are very proud of Lee, who served his country, and we will now focus on building a future for his son Jack, making him as proud of Lee as we all are.

"Lee will be sorely missed by his siblings, nieces, nephew and all of those who loved him.

"We now ask that we are left alone to grieve through our loss."

Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The murder of Fusilier Rigby was brutal and its perpetrators carried out one of the most savage offences ever prosecuted by our counter-terrorism lawyers.

"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.

"The Crown Prosecution Service will be asking the court to find that this murder was motivated by terrorism when the defendants come to be sentenced, so that all options under counter-terrorism legislation are available to the judge.

"The police firearms officers showed tremendous courage and professionalism in putting a stop to further atrocities that day.

"On the surface, this case was evidentially straightforward. But beyond the footage that was beamed across screens at the time of the murder, the CPS has fought hard to ensure that the defence arguments in respect of that charge were dismissed.

"I would like to pay tribute to and thank my team and the police for their dedication and hard work in bringing these men to justice.

"We recognise that this trial has been exceptionally difficult for Lee Rigby's family but I hope they can take some limited comfort from the justice achieved today and the fact that both defendants now face a very long stay in prison."

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