The two killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby appeared intent on removing his organs during a frenzied knife attack before tossing his remains into the road like rubbish, witnesses told the Old Bailey.
The men – one said to have had a “blank expression of pure evil” and the other who “looked like he had escaped from a mental hospital” – ignored the shouts of drivers who stopped a few feet away as the pair hacked at the soldier’s body, the court heard.
Pausing only to allow the other man to strike home his blows, one of the killers tried to cut off the soldier’s head while the second man plunged two knives into his body, according to witnesses. One said he believed the attack must have been gang or drug-related because of the ferocity of the daytime stabbings on a busy street.
Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of mowing down Fusilier Rigby in their car as he walked to his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May before stabbing him with knives and a meat cleaver. The court has heard that Mr Adebolajo told medics that he carried out the attack for God, and passed a note railing against British military involvement in Muslim countries to a woman at the scene.
An emotional witness who stopped just feet away from the attack was told he could have done nothing to have prevented the killing. James Henegan had shouted at the two men to halt the attack and called the police, but was forced to drive off when one of the killers pulled out a gun and threatened both him and his passenger, the court heard.
As Mr Henegan wiped away tears as he recounted what he had seen, the barrister for Mr Adebolajo asked Mr Henegan if he realised “there was nothing he could have done to change what happened”. “My client is very anxious that you should know that,” David Gottlieb said.
The first witnesses on the scene of the attack recounted their disbelief after coming across what many initially thought was a road accident.
Amanda Bailey said she thought one of the attackers was pulling a mobile phone from a jacket to call the emergency services, but then pulled out a blade instead. “I couldn’t believe what was happening,” she said in a statement. “He wouldn’t stop. He didn’t care who was there. The whole incident took about two minutes, but I can’t be sure. It felt like a lifetime.”
Lee Rigby appeared unconscious throughout the attack, the court heard. “He did not make a sound, he did not beg for mercy, he did not scream,” said Gill Hucks, who stopped to try to help the injured man.
In a statement read to the court, Cheralee Armstrong, a passenger in Mr Henegan’s car, said she saw two men over the body of Fusilier Rigby. She saw a “rocking movement of these two men’s bodies. I thought they were resuscitating him following a car crash,” the jury was told.
She said she then saw one man “ramming two knives into the man with so much force. It was like they were mutilating the person’s body... like they were trying to remove his organs from his torso.” Ms Armstrong shouted at the man to stop. “His expression was blank, pure evil, and his eyes were bulging,” she said.
One of the men walked back to the crashed car and plucked a gun from a crumpled plastic bag. He pointed it at her without saying a word until she and Mr Henegan got back into their car and drove off.
Another witness, electrician Thomas Seymour, said he saw Mr Rigby lying on the pavement and mistakenly thought he was black because of the amount of blood covering him. He said that the two men moved away after the first round of attacks, before one man nudged the other and they ran back to the body and attacked it again.
“I believed he was trying to cut the victim’s head off by the way he was attacking him,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
After Fusilier Rigby’s body was thrown into the road, witnesses said that one of the “hyped up” killers began “prancing” about, playing to the cameras to justify what he had done.
Earlier in the day, the jury was shown images of Adebolajo on 21 May purchasing a set of knives and a sharpener at the Lewisham branch of Argos. They were also shown CCTV stills of the car being driven by Adebolajo at different locations in Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich.
The dead man’s widow Rebecca left court in tears during the second day of graphic evidence about the killing. The two defendants deny murder, attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer. The case continues.