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Saturday 21 April 2018

‘Hit by car' before being stabbed with knife and meat cleaver - court

Drummer Lee Rigby
Drummer Lee Rigby

Video footage of the moment two men allegedly ran down soldier Lee Rigby with a car before they attacked him with a knife and a meat cleaver has been shown to a jury.

The CCTV clip shows a Vauxhall Tigra that prosecutors claim was being driven by Michael Adebolajo, 28, swerve across Artillery Place in Woolwich, south east London, and mow down the fusilier.

The jury in Court 2 at the Old Bailey has been told that the car was driven "straight at" Fusilier Rigby at speeds of 30-40mph.

The court heard that Adebolajo and a second man, Michael Adebowale, 22, then dragged the unconscious soldier into the middle of the road and attacked him with the bladed weapons.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the jury: "What unfolded after that had happened was shocking to those who observed it."

Shopkeeper Ibrahim Elidemir saw the driver leave the car with a "chopper" and said the passenger got out with a "knife in his hand", the court heard.

"He saw the driver attacking the throat of Lee Rigby with the chopper and the passenger stabbing him to the body," Mr Whittam said.

Another eyewitness, Amanda Bailey saw the events from inside her Peugeot 206, the jury heard.

She saw the Tigra strike Fusilier Rigby and carry him until the car crashed into a road sign.

"The young man flew off the bonnet and landed about two feet in front of the car," Mr Whittam said.

"She (Bailey) saw that his eyes were open but they looked frozen."

Mr Whittam said the men left the car.

He went on: "The driver was carrying a cleaver in his hand. He knelt down by Lee Rigby and took hold of his hair. He then repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck just below the jawline."

Describing Ms Bailey's account, Mr Whittam told the jury: "As she put it, 'I was so shocked that all I could do was sit there and stare at what was happening. I couldn't believe what was going on. He was determined and he wasn't going to stop. He didn't care'."

Another eyewitness, Greenwich Borough Council electrician Thomas Seymour, saw a man attack the neck of Fusilier Rigby.

Mr Whittam told the jury: "Mr Seymour 'instantly believed that he was trying to cut the victim's head off'."

Another witness, Gary Perkins, described the defendant's actions as being "like a butcher attacking a joint of meat".

The jury was shown further images of the two men dragging Fusilier Rigby's body into the road.

More relatives of the soldier left the court in tears before the images were shown.

Adebolajo clutched a copy of the Koran in the dock as the prosecution began.

Earlier, the jurors were told that Fusilier Rigby was the victim of "a cowardly and callous murder" by the two men, who wanted witnesses to see "the consequence of their barbarous acts".

After they hit the soldier with the car, Mr Whittam said: "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.

Mr Whittam said: "They both attacked the motionless body of Lee Rigby.

"He was repeatedly stabbed and it appears it was Michael Adebolajo, the first defendant, who made a serious and almost successful attempt to decapitate Lee Rigby with multiple blows to his neck made with the meat cleaver.

"At the same time as Michael Adebolajo used the meat cleaver, Michael Adebowale was using a knife to stab and cut at Lee Rigby's body."

Mr Whittam told the jury that members of the public showed "bravery and decency" in the aftermath of the alleged attack.

"Such heinous behaviour is in distinct contrast to the bravery and decency shown by some of the members of the public present. 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."

The court heard that the two men were also armed with a gun, and have admitted posession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Mr Whittam told the jury of eight women and four men that the firearm was part of the plan the pair had made, and was used partly to frighten off members of the public before the emergency services arrived.

As a police vehicle swung into Artillery Place, both men moved towards it, Mr Whittam said, and Adebolajo raised the meat cleaver above his head.

Adebolajo and Adebowale are both accused of attempting to murder a police officer, and conspiracy to murder a police officer on or before May 22.

Armed officers shot both defendants and they were arrested, the court heard.

Mr Whittam told the court the defendants had been together for five hours before the attack and added "it was clear" there had been an agreement to attack the police when they arrived.

He told the jury: "Lethal force can only be used where there is a real danger to life, as clearly there was here."

The events took place within yards of the Mulgrave Primary School, Mr Whittam said, to which children were returning from a visit to the library. Members of the public turned them back to avoid the "awful" scene.

Young and old people, as well as a heavily pregnant woman, did witness what happened, he added.

The court also heard details of Fusilier Rigby's career with the armed forces.

Mr Whittam said he joined the Army in 2006 and after his training was selected to be a member of the Corps of Drums and posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

He was posted to Cyprus and Jordan, and was deployed on operations for the first time in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

After spending time in Germany, he returned to London in 2011 and was based at the barracks in Woolwich.

Margaret Davis, Press Association Crime Correspondent

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