As the trial of two men accused of killing British soldier Lee Rigby nears its close, the judge tells the jury that a charge of conspiracy to murder a police officer has been dropped.
The judge in the trial of two men accused of murdering British soldier Lee Rigby has told the jury that one defendant’s argument – that he was waging a war for Allah – was not a defence in law to the charge of murder.
Muslim converts Michael Adebolajo, 29, and co-defendant Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of running over Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May before attacking his unconscious body with knives and a meat cleaver. Last week, Mr Adebolajo said he was waging a war for Allah in response to western wars in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Judge Nigel Sweeney told the Old Bailey jury today: “I have ruled that nothing said by the first defendant (Adebolajo), and in particular his evidence in short that he was a soldier of Allah and was justified in doing what he did, amounts in law to a defence to this count (of murder).”
What these two men did, crashing their car and breaking the back of Lee Rigby and then killing him, is indefensible in the law of this country. Prosecuting lawyer Richard Whittam QC
The jury was also told that charges have been dropped against the two defendants on a count of conspiracy to murder a police officer. Judge Sweeney said there was much overlap with the remaining charge of the attempted murder of a police officer.
Both men deny remaining counts of murder and attempted murder of a police officer.
The jury heard graphic detail from prosecutor Richard Whittam QC in his closing speech, who described how Rigby suffered at least 14 stab wounds, causing damage to the bone or cartilage of the off-duty soldier’s face and neck.
Defence lawyer David Gottlieb said the false impression had been given that innocent members of the public were vulnerable when in fact Rigby’s camouflage backpack and demeanour made him a clear military target.
Mr Gottlieb also told the jury that his defendant, Mr Adebolajo, had been demonised by the media and politicians who played on issues including ethnicity and Islam in the aftermath of the attack and clouded the truth.
In his closing speech, Mr Whittam said: “What these two men did, crashing their car and breaking the back of Lee Rigby and then killing him, is indefensible in the law of this country.”
He went on: “Killing to make a political point, to frighten the public, to put pressure on the government or as an expression of anger is murder and remains murder whether the government in question is a good one, a bad one or a dreadful one.”
In his closing speech, Mr Gottlieb said: “All deaths outside of lawful deaths are cruel, needless and unnecessary.
“Do you think really that this is the cruellest, most sadistic, most callous, most cowardly killing that’s ever occured in our nation’s history? It isn’t.”
He asked the jury to consider whether the prosecution had put their case on the basis that it was “cowardly and callous” to “enflame” or “distract” them from the view that the death “must be murder and nothing else”.
Mr Gottlieb told the jury that they “genuinely have a choice” to acquit his client, and that they will be under pressure “from outside, from the mob, from the world, to convict”. He said that the prosecution case “lacks any sense of proportion or of ridiculousness”.
The 12-member jury is expected to retire to deliver a verdict by the end of the week.