Woolwich terror aftermath: Family of Lee Rigby
tell of their desperation after seeing news unfold
on TV of the horrific murder

 

The devastated family of the murdered soldier Lee Rigby told of their frantic attempts to contact the military drummer after seeing images of his killing on television.

During an emotional press conference, Mr Rigby’s stepfather Ian revealed he had watched the terror unfold on Wednesday on television news. The 54-year-old said that, after seeing the murder, he immediately attempted to contact his stepson, fearing the worst but having no idea that the 25-year-old soldier was the victim of the bloody attack.

“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,” Mr Rigby said.

“You know your son is in that area. 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.”

Drummer Rigby’s family also paid a tearful tribute to the dead soldier, hailing him as a “hero”. Mr Rigby was flanked at the press conference by his stepson’s wife Rebecca, who at times covered her face with a handkerchief, and to his right his own wife and Drummer Rigby’s mother, Lyn. His sister, Sara McClure, 24, sat holding her mother’s hand and the family were also joined by Ray Dutton, 61, another extended family member and Susan Metcalfe, 60, Rebecca’s mother.

Drummer Rigby’s other sisters Chelsea, Courtney, 11, and Amy, eight, were not present. His estranged wife Rebecca, 30, mother of his two-year-old son Jack, fought back tears as she addressed the press conference at the Regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Bury, Greater Manchester.

“I love Lee and always will,” she told those gathered. “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.”

She added: “He was a devoted father to our son Jack and we will both miss him terribly.”

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. You think they’re safe. His proudest moments were serving in London on the ceremonials with the drum corps.”

Drummer Rigby, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, was hacked to death and beheaded in broad daylight by Islamist extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, on Wednesday. Two suspects, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were shot by armed officers and remain in police custody.

Speaking of the Rigby family’s grief the soldier’s stepfather admitted they were still struggling to come to terms with tragedy, saying “our hearts have been ripped apart”.

Reading out a statement on behalf of and prepared by the whole family, Mr Rigby said: “What can we say about Lee, our hero? We are so, so proud of Lee. 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.”

Mr Rigby also told of the last communication Drummer Rigby had with his mother before his death.

He said: “The last text he sent to his mum read: ‘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.’”

The soldier girlfriend of Lee Rigby was yesterday being flown back from Afghanistan, where she is serving in the conflict zone, after being told of his death.

Drummer Rigby married in 2007 but had separated from his wife and had started seeing a woman who is serving with the Royal Military Police.

Asked how proud Drummer Rigby 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.”

Commenting on how hard it was to take that he had been killed not in a war zone but on the streets of London, Mr Rigby said: “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.”

Explaining what the family will miss most about him, his wife said: “Everything.”

Mr Rigby added: “Everything. His love for his family, his incredible sense of humour. He was a loving son and wonderful father.”

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

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner