LONDON: A man was jailed for life and his accomplice for 45 years on Wednesday for hacking British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a London street in a “terrorist” killing that shocked the nation.
Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were found guilty in December of ploughing into Rigby with a car before attacking him with knives in broad daylight outside his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, in May 2013.
Judge Nigel Sweeney ordered Adebolajo to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole for killing Rigby, who had previously served in Afghanistan, and said Adebowale had to serve a minimum of 45 years.
“This was a murder with a terrorist connection,” the judge said.
He said a whole-life prison term was a “just penalty” for Adebolajo, who had proclaimed his admiration for the Al-Qaeda terror network, but that the younger man’s “lesser role” meant he would get a shorter sentence.
Adebolajo and Adebowale, both Britons who were raised by Nigerian Christian families before converting to Islam, said they had attacked the off-duty soldier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.
The sentencing had been delayed for several weeks because the judge wanted clarification on a European ruling that made it uncertain whether life sentences could still be imposed.
England’s Court of Appeal upheld the right to do so on Feb. 18.Far-right protesters jostled with police outside the court before the pair were sentenced, an AFP photographer said.
They carried a portable hangman’s gallows, waved British flags and chanted slogans calling for the restoration of the death penalty.
Rigby’s family, including his parents and the mother of his child, arrived at the court wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a photograph of the 25-year-old fusilier and the words: “Justice For Lee Rigby.”
Adebolajo joins a list of more than 50 people serving life sentences in Britain, including 1960s “Moors Murderer” Ian Brady and serial killer Rose West, who tortured, raped and murdered a series of young women with her husband Fred.