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Bishop of Woolwich admires 'dignity' of Lee Rigby's family

The Bishop of Woolwich has praised the family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby for their 'dignity' during the trial of his killers.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, have been convicted at the Old Bailey, after running Fusilier Rigby down in a car and then attacking him with a meat cleaver and knives.

The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave has said the the guily verdicts will be a welcome to people of all faiths in Woolwich, and help the community to "move on".

In a statement he said:

"The family of Fusilier Lee Rigby has been very much in the thoughts and prayers of the churches and people of Woolwich over the last seven months. I know that the local community has admired their dignity."

The jury made up of eight women and four men took just over 90 minutes to reach its verdicts.

Fusilier Rigby was returning to Woolwich Barracks from being on duty in central London, when the two men drove in a blue Vauxhall Tigra to Woolwich armed with a machete, knives and a gun for that purpose.

The court heard how the defendants had planned to kill a soldier in the days prior to the attack, parking the car in Wellington Street, near Woolwich Barracks, waiting for their opportunity. In a police interview Adebolajo said he and Adebowale decided to lie in wait near the barracks and targeted Fusilier Rigby because he was wearing a Help for Heroes hooded top and carrying a camouflage rucksack.

During the trial the jury heard Adebolajo had claimed he was a "soldier of Allah" and the killing was an act of war and that the men chose their victim because he was "the soldier that was spotted first".

Adebolajo and Adebowale were found not guilty of the attempted murder of a police officer.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to Fusilier Rigby's murder and attempted murder of a police officer at an earlier hearing in September when they appeared by video link at the Old Bailey. They had both pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence during that hearing.

Members of Lee Rigby's family sobbed on the court steps as a statement was read by Detective Inspector Pete Sparks on their behalf. The statement read: "No one should have to go through what we have been through as a family.

"We are satisfied that justice has been done, but unfortunately no amount of justice will bring Lee back.

"These people have taken him away from us forever but his memory lives on in all of us and we will never forget him.

"We are very proud of Lee, who served his country, and we will now focus on building a future for his son Jack, making him as proud of Lee as we all are. Lee will be sorely missed by his siblings, nieces, nephew and all of those who loved him. "We now ask that we are left alone to grieve through our loss."

Lee Rigby's mother Lyn said:

"We would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming support.

"We are satisfied that justice has been served; but unfortunately no amount of justice will ever bring Lee back. We now ask that we are left along to grieve for our loss."

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"The whole country was completely shocked by the murder of Lee Rigby and the whole country united in condemnation of what happened and I'm sure everyone will welcome these verdicts.

"We have to redouble our efforts to confront the poisonous narrative of extremism and violence that lay behind this and make sure we do everything to beat it in our country."

Home Secretary Theresa May said the "sickening and barbaric" murder of Fusilier Rigby "united the entire nation in condemnation".

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, the head of the Met's Specialist Operations, welcomed today's verdict saying what was intended to divide communities had brought them together.

She said:

"We are pleased that justice has been done. At this very difficult time, our thoughts are with Lee's family and all those who knew and loved him.

"This horrific attack, which took place in broad daylight on the streets of London, shocked the country and was intended to divide communities.  It had largely the opposite effect and has, in fact, brought people together. The court heard of extraordinary acts of courage and compassion from members of the public at the time of this terrifying and dreadful incident."

The jury was told how Mr Rigby's killers refused to leave the scene after the murder, as they waited for police to arrive.

Those police officers were to have been their next victims, the prosecution claimed. Dramatic CCTV and other video of the moments an armed response vehicle arrived outside the barracks were played to the jury.

There were gasps from the court as the footage showed the two men running towards the police vehicle and then being shot. One of the officers - identified only as D49 - said she "instantly" thought she would die when Adebolajo ran towards her car. She claimed he had a meat cleaver or machete and was "shouting something", adding that his eyes "were so wide" she could "see the whites of them".

Adebolajo claimed both men had wanted the police to kill them, to make them martyrs.

They did not get that wish, as both have since made a full recovery. The Muslim Council of Britain says communities stand united in their condemnation of this crime.

Commenting on the verdict passed today in the case of the Drummer Lee Rigby murder, Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain issued the following statement:

"The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was truly a barbaric act. Muslim communities then, as now, were united in their condemnation of this crime. "This was a dishonourable act and no cause justifies cold-blooded murder. Once again, we convey our sympathy and condolences to the family of Lee Rigby, and we commend their dignity they have displayed ever since this tragic act took place."

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, responding to the appalling murder in Woolwich, said:

"This was a vile and sickening attack on an unarmed and innocent man on the streets of London and our thoughts remain with the family, friends and colleagues of Lee Rigby on a day when his murderers have been found guilty.

"The police and security services have worked tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice.

"The message from this court case, from the community in Woolwich and from us all is that acts of barbaric cruelty will do nothing to diminish our resolve to stand up to extremism in all its forms. 

"The local community, and people across the country, have refused to allow murderers and extremists to divide us."

It's believed that Adebolajo came from a Christian family and his parents would take him to church every Sunday before he converted to Islam when he was a teenager.

Adebolajo and Adebowale will be sentenced next year with the judge indicating he is considering a whole life sentence.

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