‘Unarmed. Attacked from behind. Butchered like a joint of meat’: Jurors gasp as they are shown footage of Lee Rigby murder
A court sketch by Elizabeth Cook of of the two men accused of the murder of soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale (right) at an earlier hearing
The Independent | Friday 29 November 2013
Jurors told that Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale drove car straight at him at around 30mph to 40mph
The final moments of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s life are captured in a series of CCTV images – some still, others moving, all apparently mundane. Wearing a “Help for Heroes” hoodie with a camouflage bag slung over his shoulder, he is filmed as he heads up the escalator at his local station. He is then pictured passing through the ticket barrier and starting his walk home to Woolwich Barracks. One shot shows him passing the Great Harry pub; two more the council offices and the library.
Then he is caught on film, a small figure in the distance walking along Artillery Place. From the footage it is clear he glances at the Vauxhall Tigra coming his way as he crosses the road. But he had turned his back by the time it veers over the central line and accelerates towards him. The 25-year-old is thrown on to the bonnet; the car then disappears off-screen.
In a split second the horrifying details of Lee Rigby’s death were revealed at the Old Bailey yesterday, leaving the courtroom in silence.
The car was just the beginning. Like a “butcher attacking a joint of meat”, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, then set about the unconscious man with a cleaver and knives in a “serious and almost successful” attempt to saw off his head, Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the jury.
The attack is hidden from the sight of the camera fixed to the outside of a shop. But two small figures soon come back into shot, dragging the body of the dead 25-year-old into the road where he is dumped as a double-decker bus drives past. “They wanted the members of the public present to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts,” said Mr Whittam. “They had committed, you may think, a cowardly and callous murder by deliberately attacking an unarmed man in civilian clothes from behind using a vehicle as a weapon. Then they murdered him and mutilated his body with that meat cleaver and knives.”
The court was told that Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale killed the soldier in retaliation for the British military presence in Muslim countries.
As Mr Adebolajo was being taken away after being shot and injured by police, the court was told that he said to paramedics: “I did it for my God.” Both Mr Adebolajo – who held a copy of the Koran in the dock – and Mr Adebowale deny murder.
The killing and its aftermath – caught on mobile phones and security cameras – was too much for some members of Fusilier Rigby’s family. His widow, Rebecca, and his mother Lyn both left in tears before the footage was played.
Lee Rigby was killed on 22 May as he returned to barracks in south-east London from the Tower of London, where his regiment has its headquarters. His Army career included tours of duty in Cyprus, Germany and Afghanistan, the court was told.
Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale had been driving around the area and had parked up when they spotted the soldier, it was alleged. When they hit Fusilier Rigby they were travelling around 40 mph, the jury of eight women and four men was told.
Pictures shown to the jury reveal that the car smashed into a sign at such a speed that its front was destroyed. Fusilier Rigby was thrown off the bonnet and lay motionless two feet away. His eyes were open but he did not move, and he did not make a noise, witnesses told police.
Fusilier Lee Rigby captured on CCTV footage in the last minutes of his life; the film was played to the Old Bailey (PA)
The court heard that Mr Adebolajo, the driver, was seen getting out of the car with a cleaver, Mr Adebowale with a pair of knives. Saraj Miah, who was having a cigarette outside a shop, told the men: “Don’t kill him,” but they did not listen, the court heard.
Amanda Bailey, who was driving past, saw Mr Adebolajo kneel down by Lee Rigby and grab his jaw, the court was told. He is then alleged to have repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck just below the jawline.
Mr Whittam told the jury: “As she put it: ‘I was so shocked that all I could do was sit there and stare. He was determined and he wasn’t going to stop. He didn’t care.'”
Ms Bailey told police that she saw the man hack at Fusilier Rigby’s neck at least nine times. She drove off and spotted two classes of children from Mulgrave Primary School heading towards the area, and persuaded their teacher to take them away. The car immediately behind her was driven by electrician Thomas Seymour. He “instantly believed” that one of the attackers was “trying to cut the victim’s head off”, the court was told. Another car pulled up and the two people inside got out to see if they could help, before they realised that Fusilier Rigby was being attacked.
James Henegan and Cheralee Armstrong shouted at the men to stop. “They looked up as if neither were there … and carried on,” Mr Whittam said. As Mr Henegan and Ms Armstrong remonstrated with them, one of the men went to the car and pulled a 1920s revolver which he pointed at them. They jumped back into the car and drove a short distance, the court was told. The footage shows another driver setting his hazard lights and starting to get out of the car, before retreating when he realises what is going on.
People gathered at the scene, some believing that they were simply attending the aftermath of an accident, the court was told. In scenes of “bravery and decency”, one woman, Amanda Donnelly Martin, who was with her daughter, went to the body of Lee Rigby and stroked him to “provide some comfort and humanity to what had unfolded”, said Mr Whittam.
Another woman engaged Mr Adebolajo in conversation even though he was holding a meat cleaver and his hands were covered in blood, the jury heard. Viki Cave, a trained first aider who was driving nearby, saw Mr Rigby’s body and went to help.
The jury was shown CCTV footage of a car running over Fusilier Rigby (Met Police)
One of the men was talking about religion and she heard him say something along the lines of: “These soldiers go to our land, kill or bomb our people,” the jury was told. She then asked the man: “Are you going to hurt us?”
“He replied: ‘No the women and children are safe. You need to get back when the police and the soldiers get here,'” Mr Whittam told the court.
Mr Adebolajo went over to the crowd and explained the motive for the attack, the court heard. The address, caught on mobile phone, showed an animated Mr Adebolajo declaring that the attack was an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. He called for the overthrow of the Government.
“The law of self-defence does not allow someone to retaliate … for an attack which is not reasonably necessary to save himself of herself or anybody else, but is tit-for-tat,” Mr Whittam told the jury. “Killing to make a political point or to frighten the public, or to put pressure on the Government … is murder and remains murder whether the Government in question is a good one, a bad one, or a dreadful one.”
After the attack Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale remained in the area until the arrival of the first police car, which carried an armed response team, the court heard. Further footage shows a man, allegedly Mr Adebolajo, charging across to the car and raising the cleaver above his head. Just as he reaches the driver’s open door, he peels away and falls to the ground as he is shot in the bicep. Mr Adebowale, a Muslim convert who has adopted the name Ismael, is then seen holding a gun before he, too, is shot as armed officers jump from the car to confront him.
One officer runs back to the patrol car for a medical kit and provides first aid to the fallen Mr Adebowale, who was hit in the abdomen and thigh. The court was told that when paramedics tried to sit Mr Adebolajo up, he said: “Please let me lay here, I don’t want anyone to die. I just want the soldiers out of my country.”
The two men were given pain relief and taken to hospital where they were questioned by police, the court heard. Mr Adebolajo told the officers: “I am a Muslim extremist, this may be the only chance you meet one,” the jury heard.
In a second interview, the day after the shooting, he claimed that his intention was never to hurt civilians. In a signed statement, Mr Adebolajo says: “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.”
As well as the murder of Fusilier Rigby, Mr Adebolajo, of Lewisham, and Mr Adebowale, of Greenwich, are both accused of attempting to murder a police officer, and conspiracy to murder a police officer on or before May 22. They have both admitted possession of a gun.
The case continues.