Distraught: Rebecca Rigby, the wife of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, cries during a family press conference today

Distraught: Rebecca Rigby, the wife of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, cries during a family press conference today

 

The bereft family of executed soldier Lee Rigby today described him as ‘our hero’ and said: ‘We loved you so much, you didn’t deserve this’.

His estranged wife Rebecca, mother of his son Jack, two, revealed the former couple had agreed to meet this weekend to ‘continue our future together as a family’ before his life was brutally taken away in Woolwich on Wednesday.

Mrs Rigby burst into tears as she said she never dreamed that her husband might be killed in Britain, adding: ‘You think they’re safe.’

Lee’s stepfather Ian Rigby added: ‘When in Afghanistan, you come to terms with it, you know it’s dangerous, you don’t expect something like that on your doorstep. It’s very difficult’.

He also sobbed as he described how he found out about the killing on TV and tried to contact his step-son immediately.

Really as soon as it came on the news on television, obviously we didn’t know it was Lee but your heart skips a beat when you see something like that on TV, you know your son is in that area,’ he said.

‘As soon as it was on the telly we were attempting to get hold of Lee, obviously we couldn’t and it was the middle of the night probably when we got confirmed to us it was Lee.’

The family paid tribute during an emotional press conference at the Regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Bury, Greater Manchester.

Machinegunner Rigby, who recently served in Afghanistan, was hacked to death in broad daylight by Islamist fanatics as he walked back to Woolwich Barracks in south-east London, where he was stationed.

Two men, Michael Adebowale, 22, and Michael Adebolajo, 28, are believed to have carried out the atrocity and are under arrest in separate London hospitals after being shot by armed police.

‘I love Lee and always will. I am proud to be his wife and he was due to come up this weekend so we could continue our future together as a family,’ his wife Rebecca said today.

‘He was a devoted father to our son Jack and we will both miss him terribly.’

Scroll down to watch the press conference

Bereft: Ian Rigby, Lee's step father, reads a family statement as his partner Lyn and Rebecca Rigby sob

Bereft: Ian Rigby, Lee’s step father, reads a family statement as his partner Lyn (left) and Rebecca Rigby (right) sob

 
 
Tribute

Tribute: Under a board celebrating Lee’s regiment, the Fusiliers, his loved ones (left to right) Sara McClure (sister), his mother and stepfather Lyn and Ian Rigby, wife Rebecca Rigby, Susan Metcalfe (mother-in-law) and Ray Dutton (brother-in-law) were there to pay tribute

 
Holding hands: The mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, Lyn, is supported by her daughter Sara McClure, whilst she holds a teddy bear bought by Lee for his son, Jack

Holding hands: The mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, Lyn, is supported by her daughter Sara McClure, whilst she holds a teddy bear bought by Lee for his son, Jack

 

 
 
Lyn Rigby
Lyn Rigby Rebecca Rigby
 

Disbelief: Lee’s mother Lyn Rigby and his wife Rebecca Rigby understandably struggled not to cry as the family described the life and character of a much-admired soldier 

SENT TO MUM ON EVE OF MURDER

Tragic soldier Lee Rigby’s step-father Ian today read out the moving last message the soldier sent to his mother.

The Drummer, 25, texted Lyn Rigby as he was going to sleep on the eve of his murder in Woolwich.

He wrote ‘Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one in a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you’re not just my mum you’re my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads.’

Asked about the shock of the attack being on British soil, she added: ‘You don’t expect it to happen when he’s in the UK.

Lee’s stepfather Ian read out a statement on behalf of and prepared by the whole family.

‘What can we say about Lee, our hero, we are so so proud of Lee,’ he said.

‘When Lee was born the family adored him, he was a precious gift given to us.

‘Lee had a fiery temper when he was younger, I used to sit on him to calm him down till he got too big at 15, then he used to sit on me.

‘Lee’s dream growing up was always to join the army which he succeeded in doing, he was dedicated and loved his job.’

He also read Lee’s last text to his mother Lyn, Ian’s partner, sent on an evening before his death which said: ‘Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one in a million mum that anyone could ever wish for.’

Fallen hero: Father Lee Rigby, 25, from Manchester, was described as 'cheeky and humorous' in tributes. He was executed by two suspected Islamic terrorists in Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon

Fallen hero: Father Lee Rigby, 25, from Manchester, was described as ‘cheeky and humorous’ in tributes. He was executed by two suspected Islamic terrorists in Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon

 

‘Lee adored and cared a lot for his family, he was very much a family man, looking out for his wife, young son Jack, younger sisters, whom in turn they looked up to him, he always had a banter with them but would never ever let any harm come to them, ‘ he went on.

‘He was over the moon being a dad and uncle, he adored them all.’

The soldier grew up on the sprawling Langley estate in Middleton, near Rochdale, and attended nearby Middleton Technology School.

 
Proud: Lee rigby with (left to right), his wife Rebecca Rigby, sisters Sara McClure and Chelsea Rigby, Lee Rigby and his mother and stepfather Ian and Lyn Rigby

Proud: Lee Rigby with (left to right), his wife Rebecca Rigby, sisters Sara McClure and Chelsea Rigby, Lee Rigby and his mother and stepfather, Lyn and Ian Rigby

 
Lee
Lee
 

Treasured: His stepfather Ian said that he was a gift and adored when he was born as new pictures released today show the soldier as a happy child

 
Close: Lee with his sisters, Sara McClure (left) and Chelsea Rigby, who wrote him a poignant message today saying he was taken too soon

Close: Lee with his sisters, Sara McClure (left) and Chelsea Rigby, who wrote him a poignant message today saying he was taken too soon.

His parents Lyn, 46, and Phil McClure, 53, had Lee and three daughters, Sara, 24, Chelsea, 21 and Megan, before they split up.

Lyn later met and married Ian Rigby and the young man took his stepfather’s name.

The couple went on to have two daughters, Courtney, 11, and Amy, eight. Drummer Rigby married girlfriend Rebecca in her home village of Southowram, near Halifax, in 2007 and the couple had a son Jack, who is now two. The couple are understood to have separated.  

Happy day: Lee Rigby married Rebecca, who is the mother of his son Jack, in 2007, the couple separated,  but it appears they may have been getting back together

Mr Rigby, 54, at times swallowing hard and breathing in to contain his emotions, continued during a: ‘Lee was a man who loved people. He had many friends growing up in Middleton and on army duties all over the world.

‘He believed life was for living and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

‘Courtney and Amy his younger sisters wrote this for Lee: “Rest in Peace Lee, we loved you so much, you didn’t deserve this, you fought for your country and did it well”.You will always be our hero we are just upset you left us so early. Love you Lee, goodnight.”

Career: Drummer Rigby, 25, known as 'Riggers', was known as a brave soldier

Career: Drummer Rigby, 25, known as ‘Riggers’, was known as a brave soldier

Mr Rigby continued: ‘We would like to say goodnight Lee, rest in peace our fallen soldier, we love you loads and words cannot describe how loved and sadly missed you will be.

‘We would like to thank everybody, the police and army for the amazing support we have received and for all the goodwill wishes we are receiving from all over the country in memory of Lee.

‘Our hearts have been ripped apart from us, everyone is struggling to cope with this tragedy, so we would ask the press to respect our privacy to grieve our son’s parting as we try to come to terms with this.

Mr Rigby then read out a poem, a tribute to Lee from an unknown poster on a Facebook page.

It read: ‘You fought bravely and with honour died,

‘You leave your family so full of pride,

‘Sleep well young soldier, your job is done.

‘Your war is over, your battle won.

‘Our family chain is broken and nothing is the same,

‘But as God takes us one by one,

‘Our chain will link again.’

Mr Rigby was flanked by his step-son’s wife, who at times covered her face with a handkerchief and to his right his own wife and Lee’s mother, Lyn Rigby.

Lee’s sister, Sara McClure, 24, sat holding her mother’s hand and the family were also joined by

Ray Dutton, another extended family member and Susan Metcalfe, Rebecca’s mother.

Lee’s other sisters Chelsea, Courtney, 11, and Amy, eight, were not present.

The family agreed to take a few questions, but did not want to be asked about politics, racism and the incident itself – still subject to an ongoing police investigation.

Asked how proud Lee was to serve Queen and country, Mr Rigby replied: ‘Extremely. He’s always wanted to serve in the Army. He’s been all over, Cyprus, Germany, Jordan.’

Mr Rigby added: ‘We will miss everything. His love for his family, his incredible sense of humour. He was a loving son and wonderful father.

“I just can’t tell you how much…”

Drummer Rigby collected teddy bears for his son Jack and the family took one to the press conference, dressed by Lee in the infantry uniform and with the Fusiliers’ trademark feathered ‘hackle’ on the cap.

Serving his country on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Lee Rigby had risked his life facing Taliban bullets and roadside bombs.

Back in Britain after a gruelling deployment in one of the most dangerous places imaginable, he would have been thankful to have emerged unscathed.

But, four years later, on a supposedly safe London high street, the young soldier was brutally cut down in his prime, butchered by crazed Islamic fanatics wielding cleavers and knives.

His unit arrived in the warzone at the height of the Taliban insurgency and ran a deadly daily gauntlet of firefights and improvised explosive devices.

That year cost 108 British lives – almost a quarter of the 444 UK troops killed in the conflict. Drummer Rigby’s unit lost six men, including one of his close friends in a bomb blast that killed three soldiers.

During his military career, the life-long Manchester United fan had proudly stood outside the royal palaces on ceremonial duties.

He was a member of the battalion’s corps of drums and also served with the unit in Germany and Cyprus.

In 2011 he took up a post with the regimental recruiting team in London meaning he worked at the Woolwich garrison.

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY SAYS HE’S ‘HORRIFIED’ BY MURDER OF SOLDIER AS MUSLIMS AGAIN CONDEMN BRUTAL KILLING OF LEE RIGBY

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury today said he was ‘horrified’ by the murder of a soldier in Woolwich.

Justine Welby, 57, (right) called for the community to pull together as he appeared alongside representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain.

The council again condemned the ‘barbaric’ killing by suspected Islamic extremists and said the killers were not acting in God’s name.

Archbishop Welby told Sky News: ‘We have all been horrified by the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich and all of our prayers and mine are with his family, with his colleagues and comrades, and all those who witnessed this crime.’

‘I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time.

‘The strong response from the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam.’

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was ‘shocked ’ by the killing.

‘The Muslim communities of Britain like the rest of the country are shocked and appalled by the horrific murder in Woolwich,’ he said on Sky News.

‘The murderers chanted slogans during their heinous crime, claiming to do it in God’s name. Far from it.

‘As our Prime Minister concluded this is a betrayal of Islam. Indeed this is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn it utterly and unreservedly.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Lee Rigby’s family and friends and especially his two-year-old son.

‘Drummer Rigby was a serving member of the armed forces.  Muslims have long served in this country’s armed forces proudly and with honour.

‘This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable and no cause can justify this murder.

‘This crime has heightened tensions throughout the country.  The Muslim Council of Britain calls on all our communities Muslim and non-Muslim to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail’.


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