Violence broke out in the Old Bailey dock yesterday after Lee Rigby’s murderers began hurling abuse at the judge and fighting with prison guards during their sentencing.
Michael Adebolajo, 29, was given a whole-life term, while Michael Adebowale, 22, was jailed for life with a minimum of 45 years–meaning he could be back on the streets by the age of 67.
In extraordinary scenes, the two Muslim extremists yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘You (Britain) and America will never be safe’ during their sentencing at the court in Central London.
The British-born extremists 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’ and were motivated by the plight of Muslims abroad to carry out the killing, and have shown no remorse.
After sentencing began, the two men shouted at Mr Justice Sweeney in protest at his remarks and were pinned to the ground by several security guards and taken back to the cells.
The judge was forced to sentence the men in their absence after they were bundled out of the courtroom following their violent outburst.
The killers had to be pinned to the ground by nine security guards and Rigby’s family began sobbing as they watched the incident in horror, being handed tissues by court staff.
The relatives were forced to get up from their seats, cowering away from the violence which was happening just feet away, according to reporters in court.
Adebolajo shouted Allahu Akbhar, and Adebowale called out ‘that’s a lie’ and ‘it’s not a betrayal of Islam’ as the judge told them they had been radicalised.
The prisoners were dragged down to the cells–one head first–and could be heard banging on the ceilings below after being taken down as the judge condemned their ‘barbaric’ murder.
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.’
The struggle in the dock was triggered when the killers, both wearing Islamic robes, reacted angrily to comments that Mr Justice Sweeney made about their extremist beliefs.
He told them: ‘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.’
Both men had sat in silence for more than an hour after Adebolajo refused to stand for the judge, which he also did throughout his trial.
Dressed all in black, he sparked the sudden violent outburst, first saying ‘liar’ and then jumping in the air to shout ‘that’s a lie’ directly at the judge.
Adebowale ranted 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.
Both men were grabbed around the face as guards struggled to control them, and taken down to the cells. The soldier’s family were visibly distressed, and one relative needed medical treatment.
The judge made sure that the family were okay before starting his sentencing remarks again. He said that the murder also betrayed ‘the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country’.
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 face the death penalty.
Adebolajo is already appealing his conviction on technical legal grounds, using public funds to pay his legal fees.
Earlier, the bereft widow of Rigby told the judge who sentenced his killers that their child will grow up seeing images of his dead father that ‘no son should have to endure’.
Rigby, 25, was ‘mutilated, almost decapitated and murdered’ by Adebowale and Adebolajo, who ambushed him outside his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, on May 22 last year.
His widow Rebecca Rigby, 30, said in her victim impact statement: ‘The one thing that overrides everything is that I know my son (Jack) 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.’
She spoke out after her husband’s family arrived at the Old Bailey wearing matching t-shirts demanding justice for the murdered soldier.
In her statement, read by the prosecution, Mrs Rigby, with whom the soldier has a three-year-old son, went on: ‘I felt like I didn’t want to go on.
‘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 always love him and miss him every day.’
In December the two fanatics were found guilty of butchering the father-of-one but their sentencing was delayed until yesterday after Strasbourg judges said that whole-life tariffs are unlawful.
But last week senior British judges defied the European Court of Human Rights ruling, leaving judge Justice Sweeney free to decide whether Adebolajo and Adebowlale should die behind bars.
Adebolajo’s QC told the court that sentencing his client to life without parole would make him a ‘martyr’, while Adebowale’s legal team said a whole-life term would be ‘inhuman’ for a man that age.
Adebolajo’s defending barrister David Gottlieb argued against his client being handed a whole-life order, with no hope of parole. Mr Gottlieb said: ‘He should not in these circumstances be deprived of any hope of release.’
The barrister said Adebolajo was ‘not someone incapable of change without proper encouragement’.
Adebolajo, who has two children and four stepchildren, did not intend to physically injure anyone other than the victim, he said.
Adebolajo had admitted they executed the father-of-one but claimed they were not murderers because they are ‘soldiers of Allah’ at ‘war’ with Britain over its foreign policy.
Witnesses to his death said Muslim convert Adebolajo had held the British soldier by the hair and tried to hack off his head ‘like a butcher attacking a joint of meat’.
The father-of-one almost had his head sliced off when his ‘motionless’ body was attacked in a ‘cowardly and callous’ execution.
The two men, armed with a rusty ‘cowboy’ revolver, then dragged his body into the road so everyone could see their ‘barbarous acts’, the court heard.
After the soldier was dead Adebolajo ranted at bystanders about how the murder of Rigby was ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth’.
The Islamic extremist launched a series of tirades at bystanders, police and medics, even handing a note to one trying to justify his ‘heinous behaviour’.
Mobile phone footage was shown to the court of Adebolajo clutching a meat cleaver and with his hands dripping in blood, making his speech as the motionless, ‘almost decapitated’ body of Rigby lay nearby.
In the clip, he says: ‘The only reason we’ve killed this person is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.
‘It’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. These soldiers go to our land, kill, bomb our people.
‘Remove your governments–they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die?
‘No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them–tell them to bring our troops back so we can all live in peace. Leave our land.’
Meanwhile women raced to the side of the lifeless soldier even as his bloodied killers stood over his body.
CCTV footage showed the women, later dubbed the ‘angels of Woolwich’, kneeling at Rigby’s side.
Jurors were shown footage of them being gunned down by armed police when the defendants tried to attack them.
Adebolajo is seen to fly across the road as shots are fired at him and received a gunshot wound to his upper left bicep.
The court heard as he lay in the road he said to paramedics: ‘Please let me lay here, I don’t want anyone to die, I just want the soldiers out of my country.
‘Your government is wrong, I did it for my God. I wish the bullets had killed me so I can join my friends and family.’
Adebolajo later told officers: ‘I am a Muslim extremist, this may be the only chance you meet one. Your people have gone to Afghanistan and raped and killed our women. I am seeking retribution I wouldn’t stoop so low as to rape and kill women.
‘I thank the person who shot me, because it is what Allah would have wanted.’
Adebolajo added: ‘I love Allah more than my children.’
The first armed officer on the scene, named only as E48, said Adebowale was shot in the leg and stomach, and when he raised his arm holding the gun they fired twice at his hand and blew off a digit.