A British soldier who was hacked to death in London was buried yesterday, with prime minister David Cameron among the mourners paying their respects to an Afghanistan war veteran murdered on a busy street in daylight.
The killing of Drummer Lee Rigby (25) near his barracks in Woolwich, south London, on May 22nd shocked Britain and raised fears about Islamist attacks by British citizens.
Mr Cameron at the time described the killing as a betrayal of Islam and an attack on the British way of life. Two suspects, both British Muslims, were arrested and face a murder trial in November.
Flowers spelling out the words “daddy” and “brother” decorated the flag-draped coffin which was carried by scarlet-uniformed drummers from Mr Rigby’s Fusiliers regiment at Bury parish church near Manchester in northern England.
Mr Rigby’s two-year-old son Jack wore a blue T-shirt with the words: “My Daddy, My Hero” and “My Daddy’s a Fusilier”. He entered the church in the arms of his mother, Rebecca, who also carried a teddy bear.
Hundreds of veterans in uniform cheered his sobbing family and thousands more well-wishers followed the service via loudspeakers outside the church, with British and English flags at half-mast around the town.
Dennis McCormick, a 65-year-old veteran from the parachute regiment, travelled from Glasgow in Scotland for the funeral.
“It’s horrendous, I couldn’t believe it at the time. It’s sad that it’s got to come to that,” he said, dressed in a green and black tartan uniform, with a red poppy on his lapel, a sign of respect to fallen soldiers.
Mr Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson attended the funeral in the hometown of Mr Rigby’s battalion.
Although Mr Cameron did not speak at the service, he tweeted before it started: “A sad day with the funeral of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was killed in Woolwich. My thoughts are with his wife Rebecca and his family.”
'My dad, my hero'
Following Mr Rigby's killing, the English Defence League, a far-right group, took to the streets at several protests where supporters chanted slogans such as "Muslim killers off our streets".
A mosque was burned down in London but it was unclear who caused the fire. Muslim leaders condemned the killing. During the funeral, a former comrade spoke of the military career of Mr Rigby, who joined the army in 2006 and was posted to Cyprus before serving in Afghanistan, where British troops have been stationed since 2001.
“It was his lifelong ambition to be in the army,” said Jim Taylor in a eulogy heard by mourners inside and outside the church and broadcast on television. “Today we, his regimental family, salute a fallen comrade. A talented soldier and musician. A larger than life character. A loyal friend ... A gentle soul.”– (Reuters)