Lee Rigby killer Michael Adebowale spoke online of wanting to kill a soldier in a “most graphic and emotive manner” six months before the brutal murder – but an internet firm failed to flag it to MI5, a report has found.
The fanatic was in contact online with a mystery extremist – codenamed Foxtrot – in December 2012 but the crucial message was not discovered by the Security Service until after the atrocity, an investigation by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee has found.
The report concluded the revelation was “highly significant” and had MI5 had access to it, Adebowale would have been a high priority and there was a “significant possibility” that the murder could have been prevented.
But an unnamed internet provider did not report any concerns because it did not feel “under any obligation to ensure that they identify such threats or report them to the authorities”, the report said.
The committee said that was “unacceptable” and was “providing a safe haven for terrorists”.
“There is then a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack,” the report reads.
However, the report also found that Adebowale and accomplice Michael Adebolajo had been subject to seven separate investigations by the intelligence agencies, including two where Adebolajo was considered a “high priority”.
There were errors in the investigations including not properly recording decisions and delays.
However, the committee concluded there was no evidence to suggest, even taken together, that the mistakes would have made a difference and that MI5 could not have prevented the murder of the 25-year-old.
It also criticised MI6 and MI5 for not giving sufficient priority to Adebolajo after he returned from Kenya in 2010, where he had been caught trying to cross to Somalia to join the terror group al-Shabaab.
The report also criticises the Government’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme as failing to stop fanatics and called for an overhaul.
Drummer Rigby was run down and hacked to death by the two men as he returned to his barracks in Woolwich south–east London, in May last year.
They chose him at random after driving around the area looking for a soldier and used easily obtained kitchen knives and machetes to kill him.
It was the first terrorist death on British soil since the July 7 bombings in 2005.
Adebolajo was later handed a whole life tariff while Adebowale was given life with a minimum term of 45 years.