27 Feb 2014

Two sentenced for 'bloodbath' murder

8:20 am on 27 February 2014

The two men who hacked a British soldier to death on a London street last year have been sentenced to prison - one for life and the other for a minimum of 45 years.

Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale.

Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale. Photo: AFP / METROPOLITAN POLICE

Michael Adebolajo has been given a whole-life term and Michael Adebowale has been jailed for a minimum of 45 years for murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Adebolajo, 29, and Adebowale, 22, drove into Mr Rigby with a car before hacking him to death with knives and a meat cleaver in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May 2013.

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said Adebolajo's was one of those "rare cases" warranting a whole-life term.

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

Mr Rigby's family sobbed as Adebolajo shouted "Allahu akbar", and Adebowale called out "That's a lie" as the judge told them their extremist views were "a betrayal of Islam". One relative needed medical treatment after the outbursts.

Sentencing the killers in their absence, the judge said they had been convicted on overwhelming evidence of the "barbaric" murder. Mr Rigby, he said, had done absolutely nothing to deserve what was done to him.

Mr Justice Sweeney said the pair created a "bloodbath" and then gloried in what they had done.

"Your sickening and pitiful conduct was in stark contrast to the women at the scene who tended to Lee Rigby's body and challenged what you had done."

Claimed killing was an act of war

Adebolajo's counsel, David Gottlieb, had warned an indeterminate sentence would "create a martyr", saying that his client is "not so depraved or wicked that he is incapable of redemption" and the murder "shares the characteristics of a religiously aggravated crime".

Mr Gottlieb said Adebolajo intended to die and still believed he should be put to death. He had claimed he was a "soldier of Allah" and the killing was an act of war.

Members of Lee Rigby's family, including his wife Rebecca, were at Old London's central criminal court, the Old Bailey, for the sentencing.

In a statement read out by prosecutor Richard Whittam, Mrs Rigby said she had accepted her husband's life would be at risk when he was deployed to Afghanistan, but not when he was in Britain.

"When you wave someone off you accept that there is a chance you will never see them again," she said. "You do not expect to see this on the streets of the UK."