The distraught family of Lee Rigby left court in tears today as one of his remorseless killers smiled and kissed the Koran after he was found guilty of his murder.
Muslim fanatic Michael Adebolajo, 28, made the incendiary gesture to the Old Bailey courtroom before he was taken down to the cells by prison guards.
Fusilier Rigby, 25, was ‘mutilated, almost decapitated and murdered’ by Michael Adebowale, 22, and Adebolajo, who ambushed him outside his barracks in Woolwich, South East London on May 22.
During their trial Lee Rigby’s bereft family were forced to watch footage and hear gruesome accounts of the soldier being run down at 40mph and hacked to death in the street.
The jury, who will be offered counselling, took just 90 minutes to find the killers guilty of the Fusilier’s murder, but not guilty of the attempted murder of police.
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.
Fusilier Rigby’s family broke down in tears as the verdicts were given and Aimee West, his fiancée, stood alongside his estranged wife Rebecca Rigby and sobbed outside the Old Bailey as a tribute to him was read.
Through Detective Inspector Pete Sparks, his loved ones 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.’
David Cameron said the nation had to confront the ‘poisonous narrative of the extremism’.
Speaking after the verdicts were announced, the Prime Minister told reporters in Brussels: ‘The whole country was completely shocked by the murder of Lee Rigby and the whole country united in condemnation of what happened, and I’m sure everyone will welcome these verdicts today.
‘I think it also shows that we have to redouble our efforts to confront the poisonous narrative of the extremism and violence that lay behind this and make sure that we do everything to beat it in our country.’
Home Secretary Theresa May said his death ‘united the entire nation in condemnation’.
Speaking outside court building, Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who leads Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism teams, said: ‘Of course we utterly respect the court’s decision in finding the two men not guilty of attempted murder of a police officer.
‘But I would also like to pay tribute to those firearms officers who were faced with a terrifying situation and displayed extreme courage and professionalism’.
Judge Justice Sweeney had earlier expressed his ‘gratitude and admiration’ for the soldier’s family and told jurors: ‘It’s no doubt a case that is going to stay with us all for a long time.’
His mother also said in a television interview released today that her ‘brave’ son has ‘become a figurehead to unite the country and bring people back together’.
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, 25, 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.
Father-of-one Mr Rigby, from Middleton, Rochdale, Lancashire, died from multiple wounds after being attacked shortly after 2.20pm on May 22.
Mr Rigby was seen returning home to the barracks by train and on foot from his work at the Tower of London.
As he crossed the road he was suddenly hit from behind by a Vauxhall Tigra driven by Adebolajo, leaving him helpless on the ground. Adebowale was in the passenger seat holding the weapons.
He was then mutilated and ‘almost decapitated’.
One bystander said Adebolajo had ‘pure evil’ in his eyes as he hacked the 25-year-old soldier to death with a meat cleaver.
Another described how the men behaved like ‘animals’ as they mutilated their victim.
After the soldier was dead Adebolajo ranted at bystanders about how the murder of Fusilier Lee 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, 28, 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 Lee Rigby’s side.
Throughout their trial Adebowale, also known as Ismail Ibn Abdullah and Adebolajo, also known as Mujaahid Abu Hamza, were flanked by up seven prison guards.
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.
‘He raised one of his arms up. I’ve still got a distinct image in my mind of him holding a black revolver in his hand,’ he told the court.
‘The next two shots shot his thumb off. The hand holding the weapon’.
The court was told of the preparations for the murder.
CCTV images showed Michael Adebolajo buying kitchen knives and petrol in the hours before the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.
The suspected Islamic terrorist, wearing a black beanie hat, was filmed the day before the killing as he paid £24.99 for a set of five knives at Argos.
He also bought a knife sharpener. The next day, he was filmed as he filled his car with petrol.
Jurors and the pathologist who examined the Fusilier broke down today as the Old Bailey heard the injuries the soldier suffered when he was killed.
He died of multiple knife wounds and was almost decapitated in the attack, the prosecution said.
But it is believed although the car did not kill him he may not have been conscious when the pair murdered him, the jury was told.
Pathologist Dr Simon Poole examined Fusilier Rigby’s body for six hours during the post mortem on May 23.
He said all the injuries were consistent with being hit by a car and attacked with bladed weapons and the cause of death was multiple incised wounds.
Jurors were shown graphic representations of the numerous injuries Fusilier Rigby sustained in the fatal attack.
They included fractures to the left side of his back, consistent with a single high-energy blunt force impact which could have been the impact with the car and stab wounds to the body, neck and head.
The jury then saw videos of Adebolajo as he was interviewed by police after he was released from hospital after he was shot after charging armed officers.
He told them: ‘It brings me little joy to approach anyone and slay them.’
During heated exchanges at Southwark Police Station, he attempted to justify the attack on Fusilier Rigby.
‘Can you believe me, It gives me no little joy’, said Adebolajo, clutching a copy of the Koran in his left hand.
‘I am not a man who gets enjoyment in horror movies, seeing blood and gore across the camera lens.’
A forensic psychiatrist who watched said he showed ‘no regret or remorse’ after the attack but was ‘not mentally ill’.
Adebolajo’s younger brother says the attack on the soldier was ‘inevitable’ and the justification for his death was ‘obvious’.
Jeremiah Adebolajo, who like his now-convicted brother Michael is a Muslim convert, predicted another Woolwich-style attack due to Britain’s foreign policy.
The 26-year-old, who was banned from some of his brother’s trial for security reasons, also said that Fusilier Rigby was a violent man like his sibling.
‘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’s Investigations Unit.