Family and colleagues of Drummer Lee Rigby have distanced themselves from “extremist” groups using his brutal murder as an excuse to commit violence and make political gains. The condemnation comes as a blow to groups planning to hold a series of marches across the country tomorrow.
The English Defence League and the British National Party have both planned nearly 60 different demonstrations across Britain and anti-fascists have vowed to oppose them. Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate both told The Independent they would be in London to counter demonstrations by the two groups, while large EDL marches are also expected in Leeds and Manchester.
But the young soldier’s relatives urged mourners to show their respect in a “peaceful manner” amid increased tensions between political and religious groups.
In a statement released through the Ministry of Defence, family members including his mother Lyn, stepfather Ian, wife Rebecca and son Jack, said: “We would like to emphasise that Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others.
”We would not wish any other families to go through this harrowing experience and appeal to everyone to keep calm and show their respect in a peaceful manner.“
A message circulated from Army HQ warned former soldiers that “Far-Right, extremist organisations (English Defence League in particular) will seize any opportunity to align veterans with their cause”. It added: “Veterans should be strongly discouraged from wearing regimental headdress or accoutrements if they are attending events organised or affiliated with extremist organisations.”
It also made clear that serving soldiers were barred from taking an “active part in the affairs of any political organisation, party or movement and they are not to participate in political marches or demonstrations”.
And retired Brigadier Ian Liles, Regimental Secretary of the Fusiliers Association, linked to Drummer Rigby’s Regiment, wrote to members: “I want to make absolutely clear the Regiment’s view on this. The hackle and the Regiment is not to be associated with any organisations which seek to exploit the death of one of our Regimental family for a range of self-serving and unhelpful reasons.
“It is wrong and disgraceful that the death of one of our own should be exploited in this manner and that dishonour, by wrongful association, is brought onto the Regiment. We are to remain dignified with our heads held high and respect Fusilier Rigby in the way we have all our dead; with honour and pride.”
And there was a further blow for EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, when a serving soldier – who had proposed taking his place on a sponsored walk in aid of Help for Heroes after the charity refused EDL donations – withdrew his offer. The soldier had been forced to deny racist sympathies over the plan, which he said was simply to ensure the charity did not miss out on money, and eventually announced he was pulling out today.
Meanwhile, it was also announced that one of Drummer Rigby’s suspected killers Michael Adebolajo was discharged from hospital where he had been recovering after he was shot by police. The 28-year-old had already been arrested on suspicion over the killing, and was further arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of a police officer.
Michael Adebowale, 22, has already been charged with murdering the young soldier and is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday. Separately today, officers said they had arrested two men aged 42 and 46 in east and north London on suspicion of being involved in the supply of illegal firearms.
And an inquest into Drummer Rigby’s death was opened and adjourned during a brief hearing at Southwark Coroner’s Court this morning. The court heard that he was killed as he returned to his barracks after a day working at the Tower of London.
A friend of a suspected Woolwich attacker who was arrested after being interviewed on Newsnight has appeared in court charged with three terror offences unrelated to the Woolwich murder. Abu Nusaybah gave an interview to the BBC last week claiming that his friend Michael Adebolajo had been offered a job by MI5.