The family: A strict and loving upbringing – but then the teenage Michael Adebolajo went off the rails

Every Sunday Michael Adebolajo's mother Tana would don traditional West African dress and depart from her neat semi in London's Essex suburbs to attend church with her family.

It was a routine which underlined the devout Christian faith that Tana and her NHS nurse husband, Anthony, 56, had brought from their native Nigeria and instilled in their four children.

Friends of Michael Adebolajo, the cleaver-waving suspect in Wednesday's murder who is thought to have begun converting to Islam as a teenager, said that he had been given a strict but loving upbringing, underpinned by the religious values of his parents.

The peaceable existence of the family was brought to an abrupt and shocking halt as they found themselves being ushered away under the protection of police during the hours of darkness and two of their homes being searched.

Michael Adebojola's sister, Blessing, was escorted away by officers shortly after midnight on Wednesday from her top-floor flat in Harold Hill near Romford, close to her childhood home. A specialist search team then conducted an inspection of the property.

Some 140 miles away, officers arrived at the home of his father Anthony in a quiet commuter village outside Lincoln, who along with his wife is a lifelong NHS worker, to conduct a search of the premises.

The values they instilled appear to have unravelled with repugnant results despite the apparent efforts of the family to protect him from a threat of growing delinquency. The family moved away from the tumult of east London to Lincolnshire 12 years ago.

A schoolfriend of Michael Adebolajo, who gave her name as Nicky, said: "They were a lovely family. I think like any other family they had their arguments but Michael was quiet and funny. He once complained that he had to go to church for something or other and he wanted to play football. They were certainly religious. His mum made a big thing of getting dressed up to go to church on Sundays."

From their modest semi-detached house overlooking Eastern Avenue, the busy main artery out of east London, the Adebolajo children had led a comfortable, undisturbed existence. Michael, who was born in south London in 1984, attended Marshalls Park School, a sprawling comprehensive in Harold Hill, collecting a wide group of friends, many of them white.

Another school friend said: "Michael was pretty easy to get along with, we all got on well with each other, would go around each other's houses, play football, maybe drink some beer when we were older. It was just normal. There was nothing that remarkable about it."

At some point in Michael's teenage years, however, things seem to have started going awry for the family. There were suggestions that the teenager had fallen in with undesirables who were notorious for committing petty crime, robbing other teenagers of their mobile phones. There was no evidence that Michael had committed any offences. Others suggested his parents had become concerned about Michael's growing adherence to a more extreme form of Islam.

Certainly by the age of 16 he had stopped attending church, though his sister Blessing seems to have maintained the churchgoing tradition.

Kemi Ibrahim-Adeoti, 45, a former neighbour in Romford, said he had witnessed furious rows before the family moved, including an incident where Michael threw a brick at the windscreen of the family car. He said: "The parents just told me they were trying to straighten him up and he was just a typical teenager."

The family moved to the peaceable Lincolnshire village of Saxilby and bought a large, detached, new-build house in a cul-de-sac around 2000.

Today, there was shock in the village. Andy Parkinson, 41, an aerospace engineer, said: "We are absolutely gobsmacked. It's not so long back that we had a paedophile convicted in our village.

"He was sent to prison and that was just too close to home. Now this just a few doors down."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss