Romford Lee Rigby killer ‘charismatic’ Michael Adebolajo has converted prisoners to Islam, judge told
- Credit: Metropolitan Police
A Muslim extremist from Romford, jailed for life for the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, is converting fellow prisoners to Islam, a court heard.
Michael Adebolajo, who grew up in Eastern Avenue, is “charismatic” and intelligence has suggested other inmates look up to him, Judge Brian Langstaff was told.
Detail of the influence Adebolajo wields in jail emerged at a High Court preliminary hearing today, after the terrorist took legal action against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Adebolajo claims that he was injured by prison officers during an incident in a cell in 2013 and wants compensation.
The jihadi was sentenced to a minimum term of 45 years in February 2014 for killing Fusilier Rigby, 25, near Woolwich Barracks.
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Adebolajo, who is in his early 30s, and Michael Adebowale, who is in his mid-20s, were convicted of murder following a trial at the Old Bailey.
Jurors heard that they mowed down Fusilier Rigby in a car before brutally hacking him to death in May the year before.
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Adebolajo was filmed by a member of the public brandishing a bloody meat cleaver saying he had committed the murder in revenge for Muslim deaths in British conflicts.
He grew up in Eastern Avenue, Romford, and went to church every Sunday.
After attending Parklands Junior School, in Havering Road, and Marshalls Park Secondary School, in Pettits Lane, he went to Havering Sixth Form College in Wingletye Lane, Hornchurch.
He was remembered by former friends and teachers as a popular teenager, who even became a prefect.
The jihadi, who was “disgusted” by the invasion of Iraq, converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University.
His former friend and fellow Marshalls Park student, Kirk Redpath, joined the army and was killed by an explosive device in the Middle Eastern conflict.
In court today Mr Justice Langstaff said Adebolajo, who was not present at the hearing, had complained about an incident in a cell while on remand in July 2013.
And the judge revealed the extent of the influence the jihadi had in prison.
“He forms relationships easily,” he told the court.
“He is charismatic. There is intelligence suggesting that he has had some influence on the conversion to Islam of some individuals.”
Mr Justice Langstaff added: “There is a large group of people who look up to Adebolajo.”
The court heard the incident at the centre of Adebolajo’s claim had occurred while he was awaiting trial.
Five prison officers had been escorting the murderer and used physical force to restrain him.
The High Court heard how he had been held an arm and his head, and lost two front teeth.
The judge said the use of physical force by prison officers had to be justified.
MoJ lawyers told the court that prison officers were “deeply unhappy” about being involved in legal proceedings.
They claimed that prison staff likely to give evidence at any trial could be in danger if their names emerged in media reports.
The judge said any trial date was some time away, and barred the press from reporting the names of prison guards.
Mr Justice Langstaff told the court that Adebolajo had not been given legal aid.
He said Adebolajo might have to represent himself at any trial and suggested that it would be in the interests of justice if public funding could be given.
“If and when this case comes to trial it will be a great pity to justice, and in particular the presentation of the claimant’s case, if some means were not found to ensure he had professional help,” said the judge.
“If that could be done by public funds all the better.”
Adebolajo had screamed “Allahu akbar” as he and Adebowale were sentenced by a judge at the Old Bailey in February 2014 after being convicted of Fusilier Rigby’s murder.
The two British-born extremists, who were dressed in Islamic robes, erupted with rage as Judge Nigel Sweeney told them that they had been radicalised and betrayed their religion.
Both were pinned to the ground and bundled out of court by prison officers.
Mr Justice Sweeney said: “You each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist, espousing a cause and views which, as has been said elsewhere, are a betrayal of Islam and of the peaceful Muslim communities who give so much to our country.”
He added: “You decided between you, and in order to advance your extremist cause, to murder a soldier in public in broad daylight and to do so in a way that would generate maximum media coverage.”