In May 2013, Lee Rigby was violently attacked and killed in the street by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. In December, the jury found the pair guilty but sentencing was delayed.
During the Court hearing on Wednesday 26th February, violence broke out as Adebolajo was sentenced to die in prison by the Judge who found he had led the terrorist attack resulting in the death of Lee Rigby. Adebolajo was given a whole-life tariff, while his accomplice Adebowale, who was described as ‘joining in enthusiastically’, was sentenced to life in prison with a 45-year minimum term.
The pair fought with security guards before the sentencing meaning they were in their cells when the sentence was delivered by Mr Justice Sweeney. Whilst the Judge was trying to address the pair, they continuously interrupted stating that the Judge was lying and that he knew nothing about Islam. The Judge warned the pair to be silent, which led to violence in the dock. The violence lasted over a minute and was so intense that protective screens over the dock rocked.
The jury had found the pair guilty in December 2013 and the sentencing had been delayed under a Court of Appeal ruling clarified whether those convicted of the most serious murders could receive sentences meaning that they would never be released. That ruling came earlier this month meaning the pair could face life imprisonment with no parole.
It was the first attack in Britain by individuals motivated by the al-Qaida ideology of violence since the 2005 bombings of London’s transport system. The pair were the first al-Qaida-inspired terrorists to carry out their plan to commit murder on British soil without killing themselves in the process, meaning they were the first of this kind to come before an English Court for sentencing.
In a police interview, the pair picked Rigby because he was the first soldier they saw. The soldier was stabbed with weapons including knives purchased from Argos the day before. They told jurors that they were the soldiers of Allah and were obliged to obey the command of Allah.
After the conviction in December 2013, Mr Justice Sweeney said he would pass sentence following the ruling by the Court of Appeal. This was a clear indication that he was considering sentencing the men to die in jail.
Both of them were from Christian Nigerian families and had attended events by extremist groups led by Anjem Choudary, linked to the now-banned al-Muhajiroun. Adebowale was attending events last year while Adebolajo had led rallies several years ago.