London soldier was hit by car before fatal stabbing: Inquest

AFP , Friday 31 May 2013

UK soldier killed by suspected Islamic extremists in London last week was hit by car before being attacked by knife-wielding assailants, Friday inquest reveals, as police announce arrest of eleventh suspect

Britain's Queen Elizabeth puts her hand out to Harlequin, a horse she gave to The Kings Troop, during a visit to The Kings's Troop at Woolwich Barracks in southeast London May 31, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The British soldier killed by suspected Islamic extremists in London last week was run over before being attacked by two men armed with a cleaver and a knife, an inquest heard on Friday.

The inquest into the brutal murder of Lee Rigby on May 22 in Woolwich, southeast London, was opened and adjourned shortly before Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to the barracks where he had lived and near where he died.

The royal engagement was planned long before the attack but the 87-year-old monarch intended to mark Rigby's death privately by meeting with some of the officers and soldiers who worked with him, a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

In another development, police announced the arrest of their eleventh suspect over the attack, which is being investigated by Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism branch.

A 42-year-old man was arrested in north London on suspicion of being involved in the supply of illegal firearms.

One man, Michael Adebowale, 22, has been charged with murder while the other main suspect, Michael Adebolajo, 28, remains under arrest in hospital. Both men were shot by police at the scene.

Of the other people arrested, two women were released without charge and six men accused of conspiracy to murder are out on bail.

In a brief hearing, the coroner's court heard that Rigby, an army recruiting officer, was killed as he returned home after a day working at the Tower of London, his regimental headquarters.

The 25-year-old had to be identified by a dental expert, the inquest heard. A post-mortem examination had already found that he died from multiple cut and stab wounds.

"On Wednesday May 22, at approximately 2.20 pm, Lee was returning to barracks after a day working at the Tower of London," said Detective Chief Inspector Grant Mallon of Counter-Terrorism Command.

"As he walked into Artillery Place (a road in Woolwich), a vehicle is seen to swerve into the carriageway on which he was walking and strike him.

"The two occupants of the vehicle then exit the vehicle and attack him with a cleaver and a knife."

Mallon said the soldier suffered "extensive and serious injuries" and investigations were continuing into those responsible.

Security at the court was beefed up for the inquest, which will seek to establish the circumstances of Rigby's death without apportioning blame. It was adjourned to a date yet to be confirmed.

Rigby's family did not attend the hearing but it issued a statement calling for calm following a number of attacks on mosques and a rise in anti-Muslim incidents since his death.

"Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others," his relatives said.

"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."

The far-right British National Party (BNP) will hold a march in Rigby's name in central London on Saturday, and anti-fascist activists are planning to turn out in opposition.

The BNP had originally planned to march from the murder scene in Woolwich to a nearby mosque, but police blocked the protest amid concerns that it could result in "serious disorder".

A rally by about 1,000 members of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) in central London last Saturday resulted in 13 arrests.

Separately, a man who claimed to be friends with murder suspect Adebolajo was on Friday charged with offences of distributing extremist material, although there was no link to the soldier's murder.

Abu Nusaybah was arrested last week after telling a BBC TV programme that Adebolajo had once been offered a job by the British secret services.

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