Lee Rigby trial: Michael Adebolajo tells court killing was justified ‘because he is soldier at war’
One of the two men accused of murdering Drummer Lee Rigby yesterday claimed Allah ordered him to kill the soldier in a “military operation”.
But Michael Adebolajo, 28, told jurors he had no way of knowing for certain he was attacking a member of the Armed Forces when he targeted the Fusilier, who was wearing civilian clothing.
Giving evidence for the first time, Adebolajo said: “I don’t believe there’s a way to know 100% that was a soldier, however there were some steps that we took.
“For example before we started out on that day and the night previous to that I started worshipping Allah and begging him that we strike a soldier and a soldier only.
“I continued to pray to Allah to ensure that we did not target anyone outside the permissible.”
Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering Lee by driving into him and hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives near Woolwich Barracks, South East London, on May 22.
But Adebolajo, who described himself as a mujahed, or fighter, insisted he had not planned to mow down the 25-year-old soldier.
He told jurors: “That was not something that was premeditated. It just so happened Allah caused him to cross in front of my car.”
Lee’s widow Rebecca left the court in tears as Adebolajo claimed the soldier was still moving after the collision. He went on to describe attacking him with a meat cleaver.
Asked about his defence to the murder charge, he told the Old Bailey: “In terms of the law, I am a soldier of Allah.
“I understand some people might not recognise this because we don’t wear fatigues or go to Brecon Beacons to train but we are soldiers in the eyes of Allah.
“Basically, it’s a war between Islam and those military who invade Muslim lands.”
Asked what should happen to him after the trial, he said: “I believe either I should be ransomed to my mujahedeen brothers or I should be set free or I should be killed. Maybe by the military, maybe by the court, I don’t know.”
Adebolajo’s defence barrister David Gottlieb asked him: “You are aware the family of Lee Rigby are in court.
“What are your feelings towards those who loved Lee Rigby most?”
He replied: “I have no animosity or bad feelings for them. Every soldier has a family who loves them.
“My family hasn’t stopped loving me from the moment I became a soldier. At the same time, people I love and are dear to me are being killed as well.
“Muslims feel pain too. I hope his death might protect the lives of other soldiers who are being sent to die in an unjust war.”
Asked how he felt about terror cell al-Qaeda, he said: “I love them, they’re my brothers.”
Adebolajo, who spoke from the witness box for three hours, told how he was brought up as a Christian in Romford, Essex, and his parents took him to church every Sunday.
He said: “The memory that sticks in my mind is probably every New Year’s Eve in the evening around 11 o’clock we would gather around in candlelight and read passages from the Bible.”
Adebolajo said he converted to Islam in his first year as a student at Greenwich University.
But the accused said he did not complete his building surveying course.
He explained: “When I came to Islam I realised real success is not just what you can acquire, but really is if you make it to paradise, because then you can relax.
“Even before I became a Muslim, I didn’t agree with foreign policy.
“I would say it was the Iraq war that affected me the most. I saw Operation Shock and Awe and it disgusted me.”
Asked if he regretted killing Lee, he replied: “I would never regret obeying the command of Allah so that’s all I can say.
“I’m a soldier and I’m doing what Allah commanded me to do.”
He said he attended Muslim anti-war demonstrations and was jailed briefly in 2006 for assaulting police.
In 2010 he tried to travel to Somalia but was arrested in Kenya as a suspected recruit of terror group al-Shabaab and sent home.
Adebolajo added: “I never did think of killing a man.
“This is not the type of thing the average child thinks of but when a soldier joins the army he will likely kill a man at some stage.”
He said he and Adebowale remained at the scene after Lee’s death as their intention was to be shot by police and become martyrs.
The accused also told how he gave a passer-by a letter explaining why the attack had happened and gave on-the-spot interviews to people with mobile phones.
He added: “I wanted people to understand that this has only happened for one reason and one reason only – British foreign policy.
“Perhaps the death of one soldier might save the lives of many people in this country.”
Adebolajo, who suffered gunshot wounds when police intervened, said he wished he was shot in the head and added: “Allah loves the mujahed and loves the man who kills for his sake.”
The married father of six also told how his youngest son was just four days old at the time of the incident.
Adebolajo added: “Any soldier will tell you that it is not easy to leave your wife and children. But having a wife and children is no excuse to avoid Allah.
“I love every Muslim. I’m sure they hate my guts but that’s not my concern. My concern is that Allah loves me.”
Under cross examination by Richard Whittam, QC, Adebolajo admitted he deliberately killed Lee but made no attempt to attack police.
Adebolajo said: “When we target a soldier to take his life it’s not a small thing, not a casual decision, it’s a military operation.”
When asked if he killed Lee, he replied: “I exited the vehicle and killed him, yes.”
Adebolajo, of Lewisham, and Adebowale, of Greenwich, both South East London, deny murdering Lee, attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer. They admit possessing a firearm. The trial continues.