Michael had hard-working professional Christian parents, but he had a troubled childhood. He went missing from home on several occasions. His mother, a probation worker, and his father, an official at the Nigerian High Commission in London, separated when Michael was still young. By the age of 14, he found a new ‘family’. He joined a south-east London gang and started dealing drugs for them. As with his later senior partner, Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale’s exposure to criminal elements was, in fact, making him more susceptible to radicalisation by extremists.
“When you say that robbing and stealing is something that can further a particular cause towards their perception of Jihad, these individuals find this now, what was once criminalised, what was once frowned upon, things that they would be incarcerated for - are now meritorious according to the distorted edits of Islam that these individuals preach.” Dr Abdul Haqq Baker – former chairman of Brixton mosque and founder of STREET UK.
By January 2008, Michael, now 16, was dealing drugs out of a flat that also served as a crack den. It was there, in a drug deal that went wrong, that he saw another teenager cut to ribbons in front of him. Michael was then stabbed himself. He spent the next eight months recovering in a young offender’s institution as he had been jailed for drug dealing. He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and started suffering from delusions, including hearing voices. A year after seeing his friend killed, he converted to Islam. It is not certain when, but at some point, Michael started to believe that the West had allowed 9/11 to happen. It is possible that around this time, that the impressionable Michael met up with his senior namesake, Michael Adebolajo.
Two days before he became a murderer, 22-year-old Michael met up with his father. The next time his father saw him, his son would be on the infamous mobile phone footage. Michael Adebowale had had no direct contact with al-Qaeda. Like, Michael Adebolajo, he’d received no specialist training. They were both armed mainly with easily available weapons. And yet the two Michaels were now ready to take part in a ‘barbarically simple’ terrorist atrocity. “These are extensively ordinary kids, ordinary young males and they don’t have horns, smell of sulphur. They look like somebody else, somebody you pass in the street every day and that makes it all the more chilling. It’s there ordinariness. It’s the fact that you’re aware that they were probably reasonably well brought up...Yet this happened to them. This happened to their minds. This happened to their souls...they got to the position where they could do this... and be proud of it.” Vikram Dodd – Crime Reporter, The Guardian.