31 May 2013

Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar since Woolwich attack

Lee Rigby’s family say he would not want people to use his name as an excuse to attacks others. But figures show that violence against Muslim targets has increased fivefold since his murder.

Channel 4 News has obtained figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which emerged as Drummer Lee Rigby’s family appealed for calm following his killing on 22 May.

On the eve of an EDL/BNP demonstration in London, BNP leader Nick Griffin is threatening to defy the ban on marching past the spot where Drummer Rigby died.

136 complaints of anti-Muslim incidents were reported online to police in the week following the killing – that included violence and internet material. The number is five times the number recorded in the preceding week, although the numbers hit a peak the day after the murder.

Adebolajo, 28, was shot by armed police after Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich, south east London, on 22 May.

The 28-year-old had already been arrested on suspicion of the soldier’s murder, and today was further arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of a police officer.

Michael Adebowale, 22, was charged with murdering the young soldier earlier this week and is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday.

Police have also arrested two men aged 42 and 46 on suspicion of being involved in the illegal supply of firearms.

Drummer Rigby, 25, was hacked to death near Woolwich barracks last week after he was hit by a car.

Read more: Home Office figures on hate crimes in England and Wales, 2011 to 2012

Family calls for calm

Earlier today, members of Drummer Rigby’s family including his mother Lyn, stepfather Ian, wife Rebecca and son Jack, released a statement through the Ministry of Defence saying he would not want violent attacks carried out in his name.

They said: “We would like to emphasise that Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others.

“We would not wish any other families to go through this harrowing experience and appeal to everyone to keep calm and show their respect in a peaceful manner.”

We would like to emphasise that Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others. Rigby family

The family spoke out ahead of a number of marches planned for this weekend, including one by the far-right British National Party (BNP) in the centre of London and another by Unite Against Fascism in Woolwich.

BNP members had wanted to hold a rally near the scene of the murder but police stepped in to prevent this to avoid inflaming “community tensions”.

Read more: 71 hate crimes reported since Woolwich, say police

Family statement

On Friday morning the Queen visited the barracks where Drummer Rigby was based and met officers and soldiers who knew him.

In their statement, Drummer Rigby’s family added: “We all loved Lee deeply and we know that he loved us – we all miss him so much.

“He was a fun-loving, approachable young man with a smile that always managed to light up a room. We have heard so many stories about him from so many people and they have brought us great comfort.

“Lee loved life and he loved people. He had many friends from different walks of life – some with different religious beliefs and cultures. But this made no difference to Lee – he always treated others with the greatest of respect.

“Finally, once again we would like to thank everyone for their support. It has been very much appreciated and it is helping us so much during these difficult times. Thank you.”

Medal campaign for ‘angels of Woolwich’

Meanwhile, the rector of Woolwich launched a campaign calling for three women – dubbed the Angels of Woolwich – to be awarded bravery medals.

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett was thrust into the spotlight after calmly speaking to one of Drummer Rigby’s alleged attackers as he stood with bloodied hands still clutching a weapon.

Amanda Donnelly and her daughter Gemma Donnelly-Martin insisted on being allowed to sit with the soldier after his body had been dragged into the middle of the road.

Rev Jesse van der Valk, rector of St Mary Magdalene parish church in Woolwich, is leading calls for the George Medal – awarded to civilians for acts of bravery – to be given to the women.