British Muslims convicted of murder for soldier's killing on London street

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 2:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 2:13am

Two British Muslim converts were yesterday found guilty of the murder of a soldier hacked to death on a London street.

The gruesome killing horrified the nation. Its impact magnified by video footage showing the culprits with blood-soaked hands explaining their actions, it provoked a rise in hate crimes against Muslims in Britain, anti-Islamist street protests and government promises of tougher action against radical Islamist preachers.

A jury at London's Old Bailey criminal court took just over 90 minutes to unanimously find Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, guilty of murdering Lee Rigby, 25, an Afghan war veteran, near an army barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.

The court heard the two, from Christian Nigerian families, had driven around looking for a soldier. They ran over Rigby, attacked his unconscious body with knives and a cleaver and tried to behead him. They were found not guilty of the attempted murder of a police officer.

During the trial, the pair never denied killing Rigby but Adebolajo argued the act should not be considered murder but an act of war - a war for Allah in response to Britain's foreign policy and Western wars in nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I am a soldier of Allah. This is war," Adebolajo told the court during calm, composed testimony watched by tearful members of Rigby's family including his partner and mother.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would ask the court to find that the murder was motivated by terrorism when the defendants come to be sentenced in January. Adebolajo looked at the press and kissed his Koran as he was taken to the court cells.

Rigby's family said outside the court that justice had been served.

"Unfortunately no amount of justice can bring Lee back. These people have taken him away from us forever," they said in a prepared statement.

The soldier's widow, Rebecca, said: "These people have taken away my baby's dad, but Lee's memory lives on through our son and we will never forget him. I now want to build a future for Jack and make him proud of his dad like we all are."

The Woolwich attack in May was the first killing by Islamist militants in London since four young British Muslims murdered 52 people in al-Qaeda-inspired suicide bombings on the capital's transport network in July 2005.

Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency is facing an investigation into whether it could have done more to stop the attack.

Both had previously handed out radical Islamist pamphlets and attended protests by the banned organisation Al Muhajiroun, and were known to the domestic intelligence service MI5.

Additional reporting by The Guardian