Lee Rigby survived a tour of Afghanistan which left seven of his comrades dead before he returned to what his family believed was the comparative safety of London.
Fusilier Rigby, 25, who served as a machine gunner in Helmand province, had wanted to return to the country for another tour of duty but was talked out of it by the eldest of his four sisters, Sara. “He was quite upset. He wanted to go back to Afghanistan and he was going to request a post and I talked him out of it and now I wish I hadn’t,” she told ITV News.Although his first marriage to Rebecca broke down, he was a doting father to their two-year-old son Jack. He was engaged to Aimee West, whom he met through the army, and both women attended the trial of his killers.
He took up a recruiting post in 2011 and was based at the Tower of London. He was returning from duty to his barracks in Woolwich when he was killed. He was particularly close to his mother, Lyn, and a last text sent on Mother’s Day, said that she was a “one in a million mum”.
She had an inkling that he was the soldier at Woolwich as she watched the tragedy unfold on television, as he always called her after a military incident to put her mind at ease. This time the phone did not ring and Mrs Rigby got the dreaded knock of an unexpected visitor from the Ministry of Defence. “I opened the door and my world just crashed,” she said.
The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, praised the family’s fortitude as they sat through three weeks of horrific evidence. “I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to the family of Lee Rigby who have sat in court with great dignity throughout what must have been harrowing evidence for them to hear,” he said.
“I’m extremely grateful to them and can only sympathise with what has happened to them.”