12 – Evaluating the Value of Relevant Witness Testimony to Understand the Behaviour of the Tigra

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To calculate most accurately a model of the speed of the Tigra as it hit Rigby, and then as it hit the road sign stanchion, we have to understand the behaviour of the car during its progress. Some of this is shown on the footage, yet the crucial moments are not. However, there is a way to ascertain this behaviour through the eye witness accounts. First thing, though, is to assess which testimony is most helpful – and this is the task we undertake in this chapter.

Prosecutor Whittham, in his pre-trial statement, was reported as having told of how one of the witnesses described the behaviour of the car as it approached Lee Rigby:

Motorist Amanda Bailey was driving a blue Peugeot 206 after visiting her son’s school. She saw the Tigra accelerate “as if the driver put his foot down.”

She saw Lee Rigby fly off the bonnet and land in front of the car.

Lee Rigby Woolwich murder trial: CCTV shows the moment car swerved into soldier before barbarous assault[1]; Justin Davenport; 29 November 2013.

Unfortunately, we can’t trust stories in which witnesses express ideas of acceleration because, as we will deal with shortly, these can be based on misinterpretations of experience. More trustworthy are the descriptions of what happened to Lee Rigby as he was hit. This information, if it turns out to be consistent, can tell us about the behaviour of the car – at least as it moved from point D to E in the landscape (see last chapter).

The court reporting that described how the Tigra hit Rigby described him as being carried off the screen on the bonnet of the car (see Chapter 8), and flying off the bonnet (see above). The following was also from Whittam’s opening statements:

The men drove straight at him. [Rigby] When the car struck him it was travelling at something like 30 to 40 miles an hour.

It appears Lee Rigby was rendered unconscious by that deliberate act. The car carried him from the road on to the pavement. There is no evidence to suggest that the driver of the Tigra braked at any stage and that it struck a road sign stanchion with great force.

Lee Rigby murder trial: Attack was like a butcher attacking a joint of meat, court told[2]; Adrian Shaw; 30 November 2013.

The first thing to notice, then, is that the prosecution wants to fix in the official narrative the impression that Lee Rigby was very much on the bonnet of the Tigra, that the Tigra accelerated into him, and then did not brake until it hit the road sign stanchion. Supposedly this is to firmly attach guilt, and to do so, as will be revealed shortly,  by favouring one witness testimony over the others – for there were three slightly different ones of these. In her actual written witness statement, Amanda Bailey had this to say about when the Tigra struck Rigby:

The car sped up and went straight towards the young man. He didn’t seem to mind the car or notice at all.

Woolwich trial: widow of Lee Rigby leaves court in tears[3]; Press Association; 02 December 2013.

The question that a good defence lawyer might have asked Bailey, if he had been given the chance to, was how was it that she was able to tell that the car had sped up, but Lee Rigby could not? The subject of the veracity of Bailey’s testimony is something that we will inevitably return to at length, and again and again. In the meantime we want to be asking the question, could these witnesses be sure they saw the car accelerating?

In his written witness testimony, John Power, the taxi driver in the following car, had this to say:

When it [the Tigra] crossed the central reservation, it accelerated and veered diagonally across to the right.

Chilling images capture moment one of Lee Rigby’s ‘killers calmly walked into Argos to buy a set of knives and sharpening kit – the day before soldier was hacked to death’[4]; Chris Greenwood et al; 02 December 2013.

Power should have had a better idea about the acceleration of the Tigra as he was travelling relative to it. However, Power’s testimony contradicts Amanda Bailey’s, and Bailey’s conforms to the official narrative. The reason why Power’s statement is different is because of what he goes on to say:

[The Tigra] mounted the kerb and drove on the pavement. I saw a man being flipped into the air as he was hit.[5]

The big inconsistency, as far as we will limit ourselves to, resides in the way Rigby reacted to being struck – this will be examined more in the following chapter. Strictly, the order of the statements of facts in the whole of Power’s account makes it appear as if Rigby was hit after the Tigra was already on the pavement. The question that always occurs when presented with data like this is how to treat it. Is it just due to clumsy English that Power describes another scenario altogether, or is there something else going on? The inclination is to take the former view and move on, but if we are going to be analytical we need to note that Power is not describing, in more ways than one, the events as they have been officially told us. Furthermore, on closer examination of the footage we might decide that the car supposedly driven by John Power, taxi driver, bears no identification of being a carriage for hire – we know from his statement that he was at work at the time and carrying a fare:

Taxi driver John Power said in a ­statement that he was carrying a fare when he saw the Tigra cross the central reservation of the road near the barracks and smash into a road sign.

Pictured: Lee Rigby murder accused Michael Adebolajo buying five-piece knife set and SHARPENER day before ‘frenzied attack’[6]; Andy Rudd, Adrian Shaw; 02 December 2013.

The point is there was no work done in the trial establishing Power on the scene. Notice that no mention was made of John Power’s vehicle in the Yorkshire Post article alluded to in Chapter Seven. Instead, what happened is that an assumption was made because of the existence of a witness statement.

The third person who saw the collision was Saraj Miah – the shop customer passing time on the sidewalk outside Ibrahim Elidemir’s shop. One very significant part of his written testimony was reported thusly:

Shop customer Saraj Miah said in a statement that the car hit Lee Rigby with ‘extreme force.’

Chilling images capture moment one of Lee Rigby’s ‘killers calmly walked into Argos to buy a set of knives and sharpening kit – the day before soldier was hacked to death’[7]; Chris Greenwood et al; 02 December 2013.

In other reporting, this account was slightly different – the reason for it was that what was being reported was in fact prosecutor Whittam’s paraphrasing of Miah’s witness testimony:

Saraj Miah… described the car hitting Lee Rigby at a ‘terrible speed’, the court heard.

Lee Rigby murder trial recap: Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale accused of Woolwich soldier murder[8]; Paul Cockerton; 29 November 2013.

The interpretation that Whittam chooses to present to the jury is an interesting thing. There is a big difference between speed, or velocity (there is a difference between these two that we won’t go into now for the sake of simplicity) and force. Speed is something that the human eye can detect; force is something that cannot so very easily, if at all. Force is something that can be great even at low velocities; the greater the mass of the moving body, the greater the force.

Therefore, without describing how exactly Rigby’s body reacted when it encountered this great force, Miah’s account only reflects that in his mind Rigby was dramatically affected – this is the inference. However, what does “dramatic” mean in the mind of Miah? If he had never seen a pedestrian hit by a car before, he might well think that even a low speed collision was very forceful. The point is that Miah’s testimony says nothing about the behaviour of either body involved in the crash.

Three witnesses attested to seeing Rigby being hit – one, Miah, was only useful in that his statement could be used emotively – Whittam had to glamorise it to make it also tell a tale of a car speeding up to hit Rigby. Bailey and Power contradicted each other, and the latter might well have been very wrong (we were supposed to not notice). A good defence lawyer should have convinced the court to understand that no one had seen the two impacts involving the Tigra in a reliable way that could be used to convict of murder. This is true not only because of the problems with the testimonies in relation to each other, but from what we can adduce by the majority of the evidence regarding the striking of Rigby. This is not to say that none of the evidence is useful, as things will transpire.

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[1] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/lee-rigby-woolwich-murder-trial-cctv-shows-the-moment-car-swerved-into-soldier-before-barbarous-assault-8972842.html

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lee-rigby-murder-trial-attack-2866873

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/02/woolwich-trial-widow-lee-rigby-tears-eyewitness-murder

[4] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2516910/Chilling-images-capture-moment-Lee-Rigbys-killers-calmly-walked-Argos-buy-set-knives-sharpening-kit–day-soldier-hacked-death.html

[5] MailOnline article calls John Power  an “unnamed witness” – which is strange; Court News UK quoted his name: http://courtnewsuk.co.uk/newsgallery/?news_id=35177

[6] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pictured-lee-rigby-murder-accused-2876879

[7] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2516910/Chilling-images-capture-moment-Lee-Rigbys-killers-calmly-walked-Argos-buy-set-knives-sharpening-kit–day-soldier-hacked-death.html

[8] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woolwich-trial-live-lee-rigby-2863956