Lee Rigby murder: Adebolajo loses first appeal

Ruling comes as it was revealed that Lee Rigby's killers received over £200,000 in legal aid

LAST UPDATED AT 15:13 ON Tue 29 Jul 2014

Michael Adebolajo, one of the men convicted of murdering the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last year, has lost the first stage of his appeal to see his life sentence overturned.

His request for permission to appeal was turned down by a judge today, but Adebolajo's objection both to his conviction and to his sentence will be heard again by a panel of Court of Appeal judges at a later date.

When the 29-year old was sentenced to life in prison in February, the judge ruled he had "no real prospect of rehabilitation". His accomplice Michael Adebowale, who was sentenced to at least 45 years in jail for his part in the soldier's murder, was given permission to appeal his sentence earlier this month.

The two men murdered Rigby by running him over and attacking him with knives and a meat cleaver outside Woolwich barracks in May last year.

The ruling came as it was revealed that Adebolajo and Adebowale received over £200,000 in legal aid to fund their defence, according to Ministry of Justice figures obtained by The Sun.

Lee Rigby's father has called for a change to the legal aid system, saying "it's disgusting. There wasn't even a defence — they were on camera boasting about killing Lee".

The Ministry of Justice told the Sun that anyone who faces a crown court trial is entitled to apply for legal aid funding.

No date has yet been fixed for a hearing for either Adebolajo or Adebowale's appeal applications. 

Lee Rigby murder: killer given whole-life tariff

26 February

ONE of the two men who murdered Drummer Lee Rigby in a vicious attack on the streets of Woolwich last year will die in prison, a judge has ruled, while his accomplice will spend at least 45 years behind bars.

In chaotic scenes at the Old Bailey this afternoon, Mr Justice Sweeney handed down a whole-life tariff to Michael Adebolajo, 29, describing his as one of the "rare cases" which warranted the penalty. Michael Adebowale, 22, was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the attack, and will not be released for at least 45 years.  

The two were not present in court to hear their sentences as they had been ejected after an earlier disturbance.

"As Mr Justice Sweeney began to sentence the men they started shouting and scuffling with court security guards," the BBC reports. "They had to be forced to the ground and were removed from court."

In a statement read outside the court, Lee Rigby's family said: "We feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee. No other sentence would have been acceptable."
 

Lee Rigby murder: killer Adebolajo makes appeal bid

30 January

ONE of the murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby has lodged an application to appeal against his conviction.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, from Romford, east London, was convicted of murdering the off-duty soldier in December last year - alongside Michael Adebowale, 22, from Greenwich, south-east London.

During the trial at the Old Bailey, Adebolajo - a married father-of-six - admitted killing Rigby but denied murder, saying he was a "soldier of Allah" and it was an act of war.

However, the judge dismissed this as a defence and the jury took around 90 minutes to find both men guilty of murder.

The jury heard that Adebolajo and Adebowale drove a car into Rigby at 30-40mph on 22 May 2013 in Woolwich, south-east London, before dragging him into the road, attacking him with knives and attempting to decapitate him with a meat cleaver.

They were found not guilty of attempting to murder a police officer at the scene.

The Judicial Office, which reports to the Lord Chief Justice and supports the judiciary in its work upholding the rule of law, confirmed today that Adebolajo wished to appeal against his conviction.

It comes before the two men have been sentenced, reports the BBC. Mr Justice Sweeney has said he will not pass the sentence until after a major ruling on the principle and practice of whole-life terms has been made.

The Court of Appeal is considering if such sentences are still legal after the European Court of Human Rights last year ruled the sentences must be reviewed in the UK. The government has insisted the whole-life tariffs are "wholly justified in the most heinous cases".

Lee Rigby trial: two men found guilty of murdering soldier

19 December

TWO men have been found guilty of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks in south-east London in May.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, drove a car into Rigby at 30mph to 40mph before hacking him to death with knives and a meat cleaver.

Adebolajo had claimed he was a "soldier of Allah" and the killing was an act of war but the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, dismissed this as a legal defence. Adebowale did not testify and called no witnesses.

The jury of eight women and four men took approximately 90 minutes to reach its verdict. Sweeney ordered that the decisions be heard in silence.

The men were found not guilty of attempting to murder a police officer at the scene. Both men said they did not want to murder police but rushed at the officers to encourage police to shoot them, so they would become martyrs.

Reporting from the court, the BBC's Dominic Casciani said that after being convicted Adebolajo "looked at journalists, kissed his Koran and went down to the cells".

Relatives of Rigby were in tears as the verdict was read out. Outside the Old Bailey, they said they were satisfied that justice had been done. "This has been the toughest time of our lives," said Rebecca Rigby, the soldier's wife and mother of their son. "No one should have to go through what we have been through as a family."

Rigby's mother, Lyn, said: "No amount of justice will ever bring Lee back." She asked that the family now be left alone to grieve for their loss.

Adebolajo and Adebowale will not be sentenced before January. The judge indicated that he was considering a whole life tariff, which would mean they would die in prison, reports The Guardian.

The Crown Prosecution Service has also said it will be asking the court to find that the murder was motivated by terrorism so that all options under counter terrorism legislation are available to the judge in the sentencing hearing. 

Lee Rigby trial: one charge dropped against defendants

17 December  

THE TWO men accused of killing Fusilier Lee Rigby no longer face charges of conspiracy to murder a police officer.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, still face counts of murdering Rigby and the attempted murder of a police officer. They are accused of hacking Rigby to death with a meat cleaver and knives on 22 May in Woolwich, London. Both men deny the charges.

Both the prosecution and the defence have the opportunity to give closing speeches today, followed by a summary from the judge. The jury will then be asked for their verdict.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam this morning played video footage of the attack, in which the 25-year-old soldier is hit from behind by a Vauxhall Tigra as he crosses the road near Woolwich Barracks. He said that the impact broke Rigby's back and witnesses described how the soldier did not move again once he landed on the floor. He also read from statements by witnesses who described the following "frenzied" attack.

Whittam added that "Islam, one of the world's great religions, is not on trial and nor could it be".

Last week the jury was told that Adebowale would not give or call any evidence in the trial, but the judge said that they should not draw any adverse inferences about his decision not to appear in the witness box. Adebolajo has told the court it was not murder because it was a "military operation", that he was "a soldier of Allah" and "this is a war".

Today Mr Justice Sweeney told the jury that nothing said by Adebolajo in his evidence amounts in law to a defence to the charge of murder.

Lee Rigby murder suspect: 'I am a soldier and this is war'

9 December

ONE of the men accused of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby has told the Old Bailey that his defence is that he is "a soldier of Allah" and "this is a war".

The court has been hearing evidence from Michael Adebolajo, 28, who along with Michael Adebowale, 22, is accused of hacking Rigby to death with a meat cleaver and knives on 22 May in Woolwich.

Adebolajo, who was said to be sitting calmly in the witness box this morning, told the jury that he is married with six children and is the son of Christian parents. He grew up in Romford, Essex, where the vast majority of his friends were white British, he said.
 
One friend, Kirk Redpath, joined the Army and was later killed in Iraq. Adebolajo said he held Tony Blair responsible for his death, reports Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs correspondent.

When asked by his barrister, David Gottlieb, what his defence is to Rigby's murder, Adebolajo replied: "I am a soldier, a soldier of Allah."

He added: "I understand that some people may not recognise this because we do not wear fatigues or go to the Brecon Beacons to train. But we are still soldiers. That's all that matters. I do not take my definitions from the UN."

Adebolajo said he did not dispute the witness accounts or the injuries to Rigby because they were not the "real issue".

He said: "I am a soldier and this is war... The real issue is: can this conflict cease? I believe it can. It needs David Cameron to make that decision."

Last week, the court was shown mobile phone footage of Adebolajo in the aftermath of the attack. Today, he said he had wanted the scene to be filmed to get across his message without people being "brainwashed by the BBC".

He also told the jury that he "loved" al-Qaeda and considers members of the group his brothers. When asked what he thought should happen to him after the trial, he said: "As an enemy soldier I believe either I should be ransomed to my mujahid brothers or I should be set free or I should be killed."

The trial continues.

Lee Rigby trial: Accused says it gave him 'little joy' to kill  

4 December

ONE of the men accused of killing Fusilier Lee Rigby told police it gave him "little joy to approach anybody and slay them", the Old Bailey has heard.

In a taped police interview played at the court today Michael Adebolajo, 28 – one of two men accused of hacking Rigby to death with a meat cleaver and knives on 22 May – said he was not a man "who enjoys watching horror movies". He added: "That is not my character".

But Adebolajo told police that there was a "war between the Muslims and the British people", describing himself as a "soldier of Allah", the BBC reports.

Asked by detectives what happened to Rigby on 22 May, Adebolajo said: "He was struck in the neck with a sharp implement and it was sawed until his head, you know, almost detached and may Allah forgive me if I acted in a way that is displeasing to him."

Earlier in the taped interview played to the court Adebolajo said he was ashamed to be called British because it was associated with the "murder, pillaging and rape of innocent people". He told police he was "particularly disgusted by David Cameron, the Miliband brothers and what's-his-name, Nick Clegg".

Adebolajo and his co-accused, 22-year-old Michael Adebowale, both deny murder, as well as counts of attempted murder of a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer.

The Old Bailey also heard from a pathologist who said Rigby was not killed when he was struck by a car – allegedly driven by Adebolajo and Adebowale - but died from multiple stab wounds, some up to 12cm deep. The soldier’s family left the court prior to the pathologist's testimony.

The trial of Adebolajo and Adebowale continues

Lee Rigby trial: armed police officer 'thought she would die' 03/12/13 

A POLICE officer feared for her life as one of the men accused of murdering Lee Rigby charged at her with a meat cleaver, the Old Bailey heard today.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC read out a statement from the armed officer, identified only as D49, on the third day of the trial.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, deny murdering the soldier in Woolwich, south-east London on 22 May this year. They also deny attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer.

In the statement, D49 said she saw a “black male running at me waving both his hands in the air in a chopping motion”. In his right hand, she said she saw a meat cleaver or a machete.

“I instantly thought 'he's going to kill me'. I went to draw my Glock. Due to my position in the car, the internal door has a panel jutting out, I could not immediately draw my Glock out due to this. It was a split second decision to draw my Taser,” she said.

She then saw a second suspect, said to be Adebowale, holding a gun. "I thought 'Oh my God he's going to shoot me'. I feared for my life," she said.

Earlier, the court was shown mobile phone footage of Adebolajo explaining why he killed the soldier, reports the BBC. Adebolajo is seen in the video with bloodied hands, saying: “The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.”

The Old Bailey also heard from eyewitness Tina Nimmo, who wept as she told the jury that she had pleaded with Rigby's attackers to stop. She said that she called 999 and warned the operator that police would need armed support.

In a statement read to the court, her daughter Michelle Nimmo said one of the attackers had a "smirk" on his face and both men appeared "proud". She added: "Throughout the attack, the two men had an evil look on their face. They stood around looking proud and posing with the gun and knives. They made no attempt to run away."
 

Lee Rigby: Fusilier attacked like 'joint of meat', court told

29 November

THE two men accused of killing Fusilier Lee Rigby attacked him "like a butcher attacking a joint of meat", a court has heard.

On the opening day of the trial of Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, the jury at the Old Bailey was shown CCTV footage of the moment Rigby was knocked down by a Vauxhall Tigra, dragged into the road and hacked to death, the Daily Mail reports.

Prosecutors allege that Adebolajo and Adebowale drove into Rigby at 40mph as he crossed the road outside military barracks in Woolwich in South East London on 22 May. It is alleged the pair then launched a "cowardly and callous" attack on the stricken soldier's "motionless" body.

Outlining the Crown's case, Richard Whittam QC quoted a witness, Amanda Bailey, as saying: "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 was not going to stop."

Whittam told the court that the two men were armed with a meat cleaver and knives. They also had a revolver with them, he said.

"The driver (Adebolajo) was carrying a cleaver in his hand. He knelt down by Lee Rigby and took hold of his hair," Whittam told the court. "He then repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck just below the jawline with considerable force."

Whittam added: "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."

Members of Rigby's family including his widow were at the court today, but left the courtroom in tears when the jury was shown the CCTV footage.

Both Adebolajo and Adebowale deny murder, but have pleaded guilty to a separate charge of carrying a firearm "with intent to cause fear of violence", the court heard. They are also charged with conspiring to murder and the attempted murder of police officers who arrived at the scene of the attack. Both defendants deny these charges.

The trial continues.
 

Lee Rigby trial: suspects in court over Woolwich attack

29 Novermber

THE TRIAL of the two men accused of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks in May began today at the Old Bailey.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, have both pleaded not guilty to murdering the 25-year-old. Adebolajo has asked to be known as Mujaahid Abu Hamza, which Adebowale has adopted the name Ismail Ibn Abdullah.

The two men appeared in the dock in the centre of the court, surrounded by security officers. Rigby's family sat next to the dock, shielded from the defendants by a sheet of brown paper.

As the trial got underway, the judge told members of the jury to disregard anything they may have read about the case in the media.

What are the suspects charged with?

Adebolajo, from Romford, and Adebowale, from Greenwich, are accused of killing Rigby as he returned to his barracks in south east London on 22 May this year. They are also accused of attempting to murder a police officer on the same day, and conspiracy to murder a police officer on or before that day.

How did Lee Rigby die?

Rigby, a drummer and machine-gunner in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed while off duty, in what the authorities claim was a terrorist act. The father-of-one died from multiple cut and stab wounds after being set upon in the street. He had been helping with duties in the Tower of London and was wearing a Help the Heroes hoodie at the time. Rigby, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, had a two-year-old son Jack, but was separated from his wife Rebecca, and engaged to Aimee West, a soldier serving in Afghanistan when he died. He was given a military funeral at Bury Parish Church on 12 July. Prime Minister David Cameron described the killing at the time as a betrayal of Islam and an attack on the British way of life.

What do we know about the suspects?

Adebowale has asked to be known by the Islamic name Ismail Ibn Abdullah, while Adebolajo has asked to be known by the name Mujahid Abu Hamza. Adebolajo was born in Lambeth and studied sociology at the University of Greenwich. On 17 July, he reportedly lost two front teeth in an incident at the high security Belmarsh Prison. Adebowale, who is six years younger, went to school in south east London, not far from Woolwich, and also attended the University of Greenwich.

What has happened during the pre-trial hearings?

On 3 June, Adebolajo appeared before Westminster magistrates holding a copy of the Koran. He smiled and blew a kiss to a man in the public gallery before pointing towards the sky. Adebowale appeared via video link and spoke only to confirm his name.

A few days later on 5 June, Adebolajo made a series of outbursts during an appearance at the Old Bailey. He described himself as a "soldier" and at one point told judge Justice Sweeney via videolink: "It's not about you, Mr Judge, with the wig and great gown and funny stockings." He later told the packed court room, without anyone asking, about being strip-searched by a prison officer. "I admit, I cried like a baby," Adebolajo said. "But I did end up showing my private parts. My problem is that when people say the word 'please' I find it difficult to resist. Just like when I'm in Tesco and pushing that trolley and I'm looking at the butter - Flora or Utterly Butterly - and I'm blocking the way. They say 'Please can you move' and I move."

On 27 September, both men appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from separate rooms in Belmarsh Prison and pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against them.

What has happened so far in the trial?

A jury panel of 14 people has been selected. This will be narrowed down to 12 today. On Thursday, the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, asked the jurors questions to determine their suitability, which included whether they or a close contact had been in the vicinity of a terrorist incident or had ever been employed by the armed forces, police force or prison service. They were also asked if there was any reason arising from their beliefs, occupation or any other matter that might prevent them from returning true verdicts according to the evidence in the trial. The judge also warned the panel not to research the case themselves or contact anyone involved, and asked them to reflect overnight if anything precluded them from being jurors.

What will happen today?

Today's court session is due to be taken up by legal argument and the swearing in of the 12-member jury with Adebolajo and Adebowale unlikely to be called until at least Tuesday. · 

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