29 Nov 2013

Lee Rigby attacked ‘like joint of meat’ – murder trial hears

Lee Rigby was hacked with knives and a cleaver in a “cowardly and callous murder”, the jury hears as Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale go on trial charged with killing the soldier.

Young soldier Lee Rigby was “mowed down” by a car and then “butchered” a jury at the Old Bailey heard on Friday, as two men go on trial for his murder.

Prosecuting barrister Richard Whittam QC told the jury that the defendants drove “straight into” Lee Rigby, bouncing him off the bonnet before getting out and attacking him with knives and a meat cleaver.

Michael Adebolajo 28, and Michael Adebowale 22, have pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder & conspiracy to murder.

Before outlining the events of 22 May, Mr Whittam QC told the jury on the first day of the trial that the case was “truly shocking”. The two accused “almost decapitated” the body of the young soldier he said.

‘Barbarous acts’

Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale drove their Vauxhall Tigra “straight into” Rigby as he crossed the road, shortly after 2pm on Wednesday 22 May the jury was told.

The men got out and attacked Rigby’s body with knives and a meat cleaver then dragged the body into the middle of road, Mr Whittam said. Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale continued to attack the body until his head “was almost decapitated”, he said.

He told the jury: “Both men then dragged his body into the middle of the road. They wanted members of the public to see the consequence of what can only be described as their barbarous acts.

“They had committed, you may think, a cowardly and callous murder by deliberately attacking an unarmed man in plain clothes from behind, using a vehicle as a weapon, and then they murdered him and mutilated his body with that meat cleaver and knives.”

Adebolajo tried to decapitate the soldier while Adebowale stabbed and cut him, the jury heard.

As a police vehicle arrived on the scene, both men moved towards it, one aiming an unloaded gun at the police, Mr Whittam said. Both were shot and detained.

The jury heard that they conspired to kill a police officer when the Force arrived.

Passer-by ‘humanity’

Making the case for the prosecution, Mr Whittam contrasted the “bravery and decency” of passers-by after the alleged event with the scene on the Woolwich street.

Mr Whittam said: “Despite the abhorrence of the scene, one woman went 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.”

‘Bought knives at Argos’

Mr Whittam QC outlined his version of the events in the days before the alleged murder.

He said that the accused Michael Adebolajo had bought set of five kitchen knives and a sharpener from the Argos store in Lewisham the day before, showing the court a CCTV image of Mr Adebolajo in the shop.

On the morning of 22 May, Mr Whittam claimed that the two men had come together four and a half hours before alleged murder. They drove and parked near barracks and waited 20 minutes.

Family left room

Some of Lee Rigby’s family left court as prosecution QC warned the jury he was about to show footage of Rigby being hit by the car.

Family of Lee Rigby arriving at court, Friday 29 November

In the CCTV, the car was shown swerving across the road, hitting Rigby from behind, lifting him onto the bonnet before crashing into a road sign.

The court heard from several eyewitness called by the prosecution about what happened next. One, a shopkeeper, said he saw the driver with a ‘chopper’ and the passenger with a knife both attack the unconscious soldier then drag his body into the road.

Another told the court that Adebolajo’s actions in the attack were “like a butcher attacking a joint of meat”.

Mr Whittam told the jury that Mr Adebolajo held Rigby by his hair before swinging the meat cleaver and repeatedly hacking at the right side of his neck just below the jawline with ‘considerable force’.

‘An eye for an eye’

As the body lay on the road, prosecution QC Whittam said that Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale stayed at the scene, talking to bystanders who approached them.

In short speech caught on camera and shown to the jury, Mr Adebolajo with a cleaver in his bloodied hands allegedly said to bystanders “soldiers go to our land and kill our people – so an eye for an eye.”

The jury was also shown a piece of paper Mr Adebolajo handed to a bystander. The hand-written note spoke of “international armed robbery” and referenced the Quran and jihad.

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”.

Mr Whittam argued to the jury that Mr Adebolajo’s justification – on film and in the letter – was not a defence.

“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.”

The jury were also shown footage of Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale being gunned down by police, before being given first aid and then detained by the officers.

Adebolajo allegedly told paramedics at the scene: “I wish the bullets had killed me so I can join my friends and family”

The 28 year old later said he was a Muslim extremist but was not acting as part of a group, Mr Whittam told the court.

The trial continues.