On 22 May 2013, at 14:18 Lee Rigby crossed the road in Artillery Place. Adebolajo accelerated his car to between 30-40mph. He crashed the car into Lee. Adebolajo and Adebowale exited the car armed with a meat cleaver, knives and an unloaded antique revolver. On a London street, in broad daylight, they attacked Lee’s motionless body.
At 14:21, they drag Lee’s mortally wounded body into the middle of the road. Tina Nimmo and her daughter were driving through South East London when they were stopped by the extraordinary street scene. Her daughter saw one of the men holding a gun, a body on the ground, and made the obvious conclusion; “Michelle ...said, ‘Mum, he shot him’. And I looked and could see them, the two men and a smashed up car and the body in front. And they were holding weapons and particularly a gun and I thought well that makes sense they probably have. I got out the car and said ‘Has anybody called the police?’ and they said ‘No’. I said ‘Call the police!’ and then I went over to them.”
I was just sitting next to the window and I noticed there was a body on the ground, and there was a black guy pacing, a crashed car in a pole...
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett was travelling on the No 53 bus through Woolwich on her way home. Through the window she saw what she thought was a traffic accident: “I was just sitting next to the window and I noticed there was a body on the ground, and there was a black guy pacing, a crashed car in a pole, a Caribbean lady stroking the back of the victim. And I thought OK, although the car was a bit too straight on the pavement, I thought road accident, nervous driver thinking ‘oh my god what have I done’; a lovely lady comforting somebody, waiting for the ambulance, so he’s not dead and I’m thinking ‘ok I’ve done some first-aid’ and I knew his position was wrong so I went out of the bus and approached the victim...he didn’t look really hurt, I mean it was really strange there was no blood, there was no broken limbs. And I take his pulse and I couldn’t feel any and the lady said ‘He’s dead.’
News of the incident rapidly spread: “...just around about 2 to 2.30 there started to come through some fairly incoherent news about something happening in South East London. It was that odd, modern mix of tweets, social media, some sparse detail from the authorities...And the tweets seemed frankly unbelievable. Talk about very violent scenes of somebody being decapitated, shots being fired...it was a very...muddled picture at the start.”
This was a slaughter. It wasn’t just a stabbing...it was a slaughter...he didn’t stand a chance.
Vikram Dodd - Crime Reporter, The Guardian At the scene, Tina Nimmo had bravely approached the two men who were holding bloody knives. “I was shouting at them and they were just continuing to hack at him...and kick him in victory. That’s what they looked like. So elated at what they had done. He was their prize. It was just awful, just awful...Them chopping him up.” Ingrid Loyau-Kennett rapidly realised she wasn’t dealing with a traffic accident: “His head was covered with his jacket. I was going to leave the jacket and I heard a voice saying ‘Don’t touch the body.’ His hand was carrying a revolver, the other one a butcher’s knife and a meat cleaver and all covered with blood. And I thought ‘Ok. We have a situation here it’s not a car accident.’ So I thought, ‘Ok. I need to talk to him.’ And so I was standing up (to) look at him and make sure that I was not higher than him so he would dominate the situation at all times.. So I look at him and say ‘Why?’ He says, ‘Because the British army is killing civilians in Muslim countries.’ The whole situation was understandably barely comprehensible to Tina Nimmo: “I kept looking at them thinking, ‘You’re not mad...you’re not drugged up.’ They just looked calm and they just continued to do what they were doing and nobody could’ve stopped them. This was a slaughter. It wasn’t just a stabbing...it was a slaughter...he didn’t stand a chance.” And then, even more incredibly, once the two men had stopped mutilating their victim, they simply remained there. They made no attempt to flee the crime scene. “They had ample opportunity to attack other people. They didn’t. They chatted, they seemed proud of what they had done.” Vikram Dodd - Crime Reporter, The Guardian
Indeed, the attackers were so full of pride that they allowed stunned onlookers to record them on their phones: “The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers and this British soldier is one. He is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Michael Adebolajo recorded on mobile phone at scene “...you have this footage of them talking to the camera in detail as they waited for the police to arrive. There was no effort to escape ... it’s very graphic, it’s very gory...In media terms that just means it’s going to be watched even more.”
Professor Andrew Silke – Programme Director for Terrorism studies, University of East London Then, after running down a 25-year-old father with a young son, and having mutilated his body in front of passers-by, Adebolajo revealed his twisted values. He apologised. But not for the inhuman atrocity he has just committed. He apologised to the female witnesses, concerned that their sensibilities may have been shocked by such a scene. “I apologise that women had to witness this today. But in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe, remove your government” Michael Adebolajo Adebolajo expanded on how their actions were a reaction to Western foreign policy: “Tell them to bring our troops back so we can, so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That’s all I have to say.”
Michael Adebolajo Adebolajo also handed a letter to onlooker Amanda Donnelly Martin. In it, he urged people to seek martyrdom. And it is essentially his suicide note. He was ready to be martyred because he had killed, as he believed, as a soldier of Allah and had spread his message. Others before them had failed. They had been caught organising bomb plots, hi-jacks and kidnaps. Adebolajo and Adebowale had used a car, some Argos knives and an antique revolver and murdered one man. They had made international headlines. “This is a deceptive attack in many respects because it looks so crude ...but it’s actually much more sophisticated ...bear in mind...the long list of failures that Al Qaeda inspired terrorism has had in the UK where sometimes very sophisticated, very ambitious plots and very clever plots have failed, repeatedly failed. And one of the key lessons from that was simple is best and what we see here is that the personification of that lesson.” Professor Andrew Silke – Programme Director for Terrorism studies, University of East London