Lee Rigby’s fiancée, estranged wife and mother fled court in tears today after footage of the soldier being run down at 40mph and hacked to death was shown to the jury in his murder trial.
Fusilier Rigby was ‘mutilated, almost decapitated and murdered’ by Michael Adebowale, 22, and Michael Adebolajo, 28, who ambushed him outside military barracks in Woolwich, South East London, the Old Bailey heard today.
There were gasps in Court Two when video footage of the soldier being mown down by a car, dragged into the road and executed was shown.
Lee Rigby’s mother Lyn, fiancée Aimee West and his estranged wife Rebecca Rigby, the mother of his son, all left the courtroom sobbing.
Witnesses said Muslim convert Adebolajo held a British soldier by the hair and tried to hack off his head ‘like a butcher attacking a joint of meat’, the Old Bailey heard today.
The father-of-one, 25, almost had his head sliced off when his ‘motionless’ body was attacked in a ‘cowardly and callous’ execution, the prosecution has said.
Opening the case today, a jury was told the accused had committed a ‘heinous’ act.
Richard Whittam QC said Drummer Rigby was hit by their car at up to 40 mph as he crossed the road, leaving him helpless on the ground, before his alleged killers dragged him into the road.
‘The two men were armed with a meat cleaver and knives. They also had a firearm, a revolver, with them,’ Mr Whittam said.
‘The driver (Adebolajo) was carrying a cleaver in his hand. He knelt down by Lee Rigby and took hold of his hair. He then repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck just below the jawline.
‘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.’
Amanda Bailey saw the events from inside her Peugeot 206, the jury heard.
She saw the Tigra strike Fusilier Rigby and carry him until the car crashed into a road sign.
‘The young man flew off the bonnet and landed about two feet in front of the car,’ Mr Whittam said.
‘She (Bailey) saw that his eyes were open but they looked frozen.’
Miss Bailey says she saw the driver of the car get out with a meat cleaver in his hand and hack at Mr Rigby’s neck up to nine times with ‘considerable force.’
Shopkeeper Ibrahim Elidemir and Saraj Miah, who described the car hitting Lee Rigby at a ‘terrible speed’, the court heard.
Mr Miah told the two men ‘Don’t kill him’ but the passenger took out a gun and aimed it at him.
Greenwich Borough Council electrician Thomas Seymour, saw a man attack the neck of Fusilier Rigby.
Mr Whittam told the jury: ‘Mr Seymour ‘instantly believed that he was trying to cut the victim’s head off’.’
Another witness, Gary Perkins, described the defendant’s actions as being ‘like a butcher attacking a joint of meat’.
Mr Whittam added: ‘They wanted the members of the public present to see the consequences of what can only be described their barbarous acts.
‘They had committed a cowardly and callous murder by deliberately attacking an unarmed man in civilian clothes from behind using a vehicle as a weapon and then they murdered him and mutilated his body with that meat cleaver and knives.’
Father-of-one Mr Rigby, from Middleton, Rochdale, Lancs, died from multiple wounds after being attacked shortly after 2pm on May 22.
The victim’s mother, Lyn Rigby, got up and left Court 2 when prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said he was going to show the CCTV images to the court.
She was quickly followed by Mr Rigby’s wife, Rebecca, who also looked visibly upset.
Adebowale, also known as Ismail Ibn Abdullah and Adebolajo, also known as Mujaahid Abu Hamza, sat in the dock in silence.
The two defendants, both wearing casual clothes, were flanked by seven prison guards.
Relatives, friends and colleagues of Drummer Rigby sat a short distance from the men, screened by paper erected against the glass of the side of the dock.
Adebolajo and Adebowale deny murdering Drummer Rigby, conspiracy to murder a police officer and attempted murder.
Earlier, Mr Whittam told the jury the circumstances of Drummer Rigby’s death were ‘shocking’.
He said: ‘It is important that you do not let emotion or sympathy affect your judgement in this case.
‘The prosecution seeks only true verdicts on the evidence as you find it to be, nothing more and nothing less.’
Mr Whittam said the attack was in ‘distinct contrast’ to the ‘bravery and decency’ shown by witnesses.
He said: ‘Despite the abhorrence of the scene one woman went up 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.’
After the murder Adebolajo ‘brandished’ the gun at a lorry driver as the killers passed the weapon between them, the court heard.
Mr Whittam said that they used the gun to frighten off bystanders as they waited for police.
When a police vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, both men moved ‘immediately’ towards it.
Adebolajo moved more quickly, raising the meat cleaver above his head and getting ‘very close’ to the officers.
Adebowale, who was running along a wall, raised the gun–which was not loaded–and aimed it at police.
Mr Whittam said: ‘The vehicle contained armed police officers who were forced to engage with both defendants with live ammunition.’
Both men were ‘shot and detained’ before police started first aid which saved their lives, the jury was told.
The court heard the risk to the public was ‘very real’ and the attack took place ‘within yards’ of Mulgrave Primary School.
Children returning to school from the library were turned back by members of the public so they did not see the ‘awful scene’.
‘Others did see what happened, the young, old, and a heavily pregnant woman took refuge on a bus once she heard gunshots,’ Mr Whittam said.
Michael Adebolajo was born in Lewisham and is aged 28, the Old Bailey heard.
At the time of the attack he was living at the time in Forest Hill, south London.
Michael Adebowale was born in Eltham, South London and is aged 22. He lived in Greenwich.
The court heard he was brought up a Christian and converted to Islam when he was 17.
His parents continued to call him by his middle name, Tobi, even after his conversion to Islam when he adopted the name Ismael.
Mr Whittam told the jury that both men ‘planned to kill Drummer Rigby and took weapons to the scene.
He said they also conspired to kill a police officer, waiting at the murder scene for officers to arrive.
‘It is clear there was an agreement to attack police when they arrived,’ he said.
Mr Whittam said the pair also attempted to kill a police officer and almost succeeded.
He said: ‘What would have happened if the police officers had not been armed, or that the police officer in the rear seat had not acted as swiftly and effectively as he did?’
He added that Adebolajo may claim he was trying to force police to shoot him.
Mr Whittam said: ‘It matters not that he might have caused a police officer to shoot him or that he might have lost his life in the process.’
The trial continues on Monday.
A number of women went to the scene to comfort the soldier, the jury heard
One of the women was Amanda Donnelly Martin, who was with her daughter.
Another woman, Vikki Cave, approached the body to see if she could help, Mr Whittam said.
She heard the taller of the alleged killers talking about ‘religion’, the jury was told.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam said he was ‘saying things about religion such as ‘these soldiers go to our land, kill/bomb our people–so an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’.
The court heard that Adebolajo handed a letter containing religious references to Ms Donnelly Martin.
It said: ‘Fighting Allah’s enemies is an obligation’, and went on: ‘Do not spend your days in endless discussion with the cowardly and foolish. It means that it will delay your meeting Allah’s enemies on the battlefield. Sometimes the cowardly and foolish can be those dearest to you. So be prepared to turn away from them.’
The handwritten note suggested ‘carnage reaching your town’ was ‘simply retaliation for your oppression in our towns’.
It said when the ‘heat of battle’ came, ‘it is unlikely that any of your so-called politicians will be caught up in the the crossfire, so I suggest that you remove them.’
The letter continued: ‘Muslims will trade with you on fair terms. Understand that the days of your international armed robbery are drawing to a close.’
Jurors were also shown a video clip of Adebolajo speaking with blood on his hands, suggesting that the attack was ‘an eye for an eye’.
Mr Whittam told the jury: ‘There are limits to the concept of self-defence. It justifies, makes lawful, only what is reasonably necessary to meet an imminent attack or threat of attack. If the attack or threat of attack is gone it is pure speculation.
‘To seek out and to kill political opponents on the grounds that you say that they have oppressed your countrymen or people of your religion is still murder. Disputes have to be settled by lawful means, not retaliation.
‘Killing to make a political point, or to frighten the public to put pressure on the Government, or as an expression of anger, is murder and remains murder whether the Government in question is a good one, a bad one, or a dreadful one.
‘Equally there is no defence of moral justification for killing just as there is no defence of religious justification. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth suggests revenge or retaliation, and in the context of this case, murder.’
Jurors were shown footage of Adebolajo and his accomplice Michael Adebowale, 22, 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.
He 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.’
At hospital he told doctors he did not want to be touched by any women. He made no reply to being arrested on suspicion of murder.
The following day Adebolajo told another officer: ‘My intention was never to harm civilians. There were women and children around. My intention was to hurt military only.’
He added: ‘The reason that we are fighting is because we believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We hope that one day Great Britain will replace those corrupt politicians with men, or women, who truly care about the security of their citizens by withdrawing from affairs of Muslims, including their lands.’