Thousands of mourners join Prime Minister David Cameron in Bury to pay their respects at the funeral of Lee Rigby, the British soldier killed in Woolwich.
Members of the public applauded Rigby’s family, friends and regiment colleagues outside the church in Bury, and listened in silence as the funeral was broadcast on loudspeakers (see video, above).
Inside the church, around 800 mourners paid their respects. Rigby’s son, two-year-old Jack, walked in with his mother Rebecca wearing a T-shirt which read “My Daddy, My Hero”.
Rigby’s mother Lyn was in tears as she held hands with his stepfather Ian, and his two sisters, Sara and Chelsea, embraced each other as they wept outside the church.
In his eulogy, the 26-year-old soldier’s commanding officer, Colonel Jim Taylor, said Rigby could “brighten a room in seconds”.
“To be with Lee was to be where it was most fun – the centre of good times and much mischief,” he said. “People fell quickly under his spell. Whether it was in work or off duty, at a ceremonial engagement or on operations, Lee just knew how to lighten the mood.
“He could brighten a room within moments and, by all accounts, clear a dancefloor in seconds if a Whitney Houston track was playing.
“Lee had a natural swagger and the confidence of someone truly comfortable in their own skin.
“He was always happy. His smile was infectious, as was his enthusiasm for soldiering and his passion for life.”
Speaking about Rigby’s time serving in Afghanistan, Colonel Taylor, said: “Lee proved himself to be dedicated, professional and incredibly brave.
“He took part in numerous firefights with the enemy and regularly had to patrol across ground strewn with improvised explosive devices. His courage was tested every day. He was not found wanting.”
Rigby was killed in a daylight attack outside Woolwich barracks in London. At the time he was serving in the army’s recruiting group.
“The recruiting post was one that required just the characteristics that Lee possessed and had shown in spades in the short time he had served with the Fusiliers,” said Colonel Taylor.
“Namely, soldiering ability and charisma coupled with a cheeky outgoing personality that naturally endeared him to potential recruits.
“Based out of Woolwich, he helped to inspire many young people to join the armed forces. Tragically it was while Lee was performing these duties that he was so cruelly taken from us.”
Speaking before the funeral, the 26-year-old soldier’s family said they wanted the day to be a chance to remember him as he was to them.
Rebecca, Rigby’s wife, said (video, above): “He just wanted to put a smile of everyone’s face and he would do pretty much anything to do that.
“He loved Westlife – a grown man, I know. He even pretended that the tickets he bought were for me. We all knew they weren’t, they were for Lee.
“He just lived his life like a kid in a candy shop.”
Lee’s stepfather Ian said: “I think today should be a celebration of Lee’s life, what he has meant to us. Lee was a fun-loving lad and that is how he should be remembered.
“We would like it to be Lee’s day and Lee remembered as he was. Not upset, because he wasn’t that sort of person, not crying and getting heartbroke. We would rather enjoy Lee’s memories as he was with us.”