1. Lee Rigby’s injuries should be consistent with death by knife attack
It should be easy to verify this assertion because the coroner reported “the cause of death was multiple incised wounds” – thus Rigby died as a result of the knife attack. However, it is not easy because there are periphery issues pertaining to the coroner’s report that are of enormous significance – even, and this sounds silly admittedly, if it is not exactly clear in what way they are significant. The trouble is, there is obviously some crucial information not available to us. Suffice it to say, things are a little fishy.
On the 24th May 2013, the Daily Mirror reported that a post-mortem examination had taken place on the preceding day, and a coroner had inspected the body of Lee Rigby:
Lee Rigby has been formally identified but the cause of his death was not confirmed by a post-mortem examination, police said today.
Woolwich soldier Lee Rigby formally identified but cause of death not confirmed by post mortem; Natalie Evans; 24 May 2013.
The article also announced that an inquest into the death would be opened in due course. This inquest, a short hearing at Southwark Coroner’s Court, was reported on by Sky News [the page referred to may have been updated – the original date of publication is not known], and without reference to a new post-mortem, it was now entered into the record that a post-mortem had confirmed that Rigby had died from multiple cut and stab wounds. It was also revealed that Rigby’s identity had been discerned by his dental records – his injuries were apparently so “extensive and serious”. There is something odd about this, therefore. For some reason a coroner would not sign off to the cause of death by the time the Mirror went to print on the 24th May, but could at least identify the body as being Lee Rigby’s. Later, in time for the coroner’s inquest, it had been decided that Rigby’s knife wounds were so bad that he had had to be identified by his dental records. The coroner only had to identify the body once – so if Rigby was identified by his dental records because of obliteration of features caused by knife wounds – and in the first instance – how could he possibly not understand how Rigby had died?
There is more suspicious activity. Stunningly, the hearing was told by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Mallon, from Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command, that…
[Rigby] was walking in Artillery Place, a vehicle is seen to swerve into the carriageway where he is walking and strike him. The two occupants of the vehicle mentioned attacked him with a cleaver and a knife, this resulted in extensive and serious injuries.
Woolwich murder: Drummer Lee Rigby had to be identified by dental records; Jasper Copping; 31 May 2013.
Notice that this hearing took place on or just before the 31st May 2013 (the date the Telegraph article citing Mallon was published) and before the trial had found Adebolajo and Adebowale guilty. And yet, the actions of still innocent, albeit accused persons are officially entered into the record as being the cause of the wounding found by the coroner. In other words, rather than report on the physical causes of Rigby’s death and let that stand as evidence to incriminate the two Michaels or otherwise, the tribunal reinforced the official narrative – with no assumption of innocence afforded the defendants.
Verdict: The coroner’s report on the wounding seems quite clear – a body identified as “Lee Rigby” through comparisons with dental records was attacked so thoroughly with blades that it had died as a result of the injuries sustained.
However, we should not be sure as to what to make of the shenanigans surrounding the production of this information which also involves the incredible performance by the coroner, Poole, at the trial. Apparently, he broke down while giving evidence at the trial. The extent of this emotional expression depends on which publication one reads, but it is quite an extraordinary turn up for the books. Apart from a number of psychologists to speak about Adebolajo’s commitment to jihad, and Adebowale’s depleted mental capacity, Poole was the principle expert witness at the trial; it was up to him to deliver dry facts without voluntarily sending messages of bias to the jury. All of this should be borne in mind in conjunction with the issue raised in the last chapter of Part Two of this book, where we discussed the idea of a conspiracy to make it look as if Adebowale and Adebolajo had killed Rigby.
2. Rigby’s blade wounds and the resultant bleeding visible in the video should be consistent with the coroner’s report
First of all, the coroner mentions that there was very severe damage to the neck. The words “extensive bleeding” crops up, and no wonder. When major arteries are cut, the blood loss from them is phenomenal. The author has had the misfortune to witness a superficial cut to a temporal artery, and the range of the spray and its rapidity was shocking. After such an experience, I could understand how quickly people can bleed out after relatively minor wounds. We can imagine that Rigby, who was still alive during the attack and so had a pumping heart, lost a lot of the 8 pints that was in his body – and it would be all over his front if he had been lifted by the hair into any sort of semi-sitting position – which he must have been because his neck had been circled with cuts. Adebolajo, who we are told was responsible for the wounds to the neck and the head, would have had to lift him to get access to this area. The blood would have drained down over Rigby’s shoulders and soaked into his “Help for Heroes” top to tarnish that white lettering in the logo. In any case, it would have drained down Rigby’s back and it would have stuck to his back through his clothes as it collected in a pool on the floor. One imagines that Rigby should have been seated in this puddle, and there is great likelihood that he should have been covered towards his front in the spray that we should have expected to shoot outwards and upwards when the main arteries in his neck were severed (when the author had to deal with a cut artery, he became covered in blood, and the injury wasn’t even his). Rigby’s exposed skin should have been blood-covered as blood drained out of all his wounds and ran down other surfaces of his body to the ground. While Adebolajo was attacking Rigby’s neck, Adebowale had been hitting Rigby in the chest. If these injuries were sustained with stabs through clothing, it means that Rigby’s top should have been ripped, and in quite a shredded state.
All this being surmised, an inspection of Rigby’s state of dishevelment in any video footage doesn’t quite match expectations. The outward signs of any penetrative trauma were restricted to blood stained hands – in other words, this is the only place where blood could be detected on the body. It should be made clear that in the footage we only get to see Rigby in any meaningful way from one perspective. Be that as it may, the view was sufficient to reveal that although the midriff of the corpse was exposed due to an upper garment being pulled over the head (conveniently), it was clearly devoid of any indication that anyone had hit the area, or indeed any area above it on the body, with a blunt or sharp instrument. Rigby’s clothes were not lacerated. There was no leakage of blood onto the clothes, and no drizzle down to the lower back and left-side which was squeaky clean and lily-white. In short, looking at the body in the video, one would be very surprised to hear that it had been assaulted with blades the way that witnesses described, and the way the coroner described the injuries.
Verdict: The body lying in Artillery Place, as seen on the video evidence, did not indicate wounds as reported by the coroner.
3. How the attack took place (as suggested by the injuries) should be consistent with witness testimony
Problems with the coroner’s examination and enquiry have already been mentioned, but there is another one. We find ourselves in the position of having to understand witness statements so as to position Adebowale and Adebolajo around the body so that they could deliver the blows attributed to them. This stuff is important. Where damage is caused on Rigby’s body, and how effectively it is inflicted is dependent on the assailant’s access to it. If they aren’t in a very good place to strike, the blow will not be as efficient as one from a more conducive vantage point. It should not be too controversial to say that perhaps we should have expected from the coroner’s inquiry evidence regarding where an assailant would be in relation to the body, and what sort of blades caused the cutting. Maybe this is too much to ask in a dumbed-down society where journalists no longer do proper journalism. However, there is a possibility that the coroner just didn’t release the information – or that it didn’t exist to be released.
The best we can do is to say, from watching the films, that Adebolajo and Adebowale are both right handed. This would have been the arms they used to stab Rigby with. Witness testimony has already established that Rigby was laying against the wall, with his feet pointing up the road. Adebolajo has been reported attacking the head area – which means he must have been standing between the Tigra and the body. Witnesses said that Adebolajo both sawed and hacked at Rigby’s neck. Now the coroner stipulated that the neck had been circled with cuts. Adebolajo cannot saw the back of Rigby’s neck without lifting him up, hence this would explain why witnesses like Thomas Seymour, who was on the scene very briefly passing through in his vehicle, would have managed to get a good look at Rigby. Seymour said that he thought Rigby was black, which turned out to be blood-covered skin. It suggests that Rigby’s face was visible for Power to see, which suggests that Rigby was pulled or propped up. Adebolajo was reported to have been bringing his knife down in very dramatic strokes. The coroner did report that there were also deep incisions in that area, but it’s not clear how much of a flourish Adebolajo could stab Rigby with because of the proximity of the wall on his right hand side. In fact, John Power testified that Adebolajo stood by Rigby’s head and struck as if was chopping a tree. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to know if this was possible with the wall to the right, and Adebowale somewhere to the left and in front of Rigby’s chest.
Witnesses told of Rigby being stabbed in his chest and in his lower torso (above the belly button), and that this was Adebowale’s doing. This corresponds with the coroner’s report, and it also confirms that Rigby was lying in such a way so that his front was exposed. We understand that he was slumped so that his back was against the floor and the wall. This could be why he had accrued cut marks to his right arm – presumably it would have had to drape in front of his body if his shoulder was against the wall.
Michelle Nimmo’s claim of Rigby being face down during the attack is wildly off the mark; her observation only makes sense if at a later point during the assault – because the Nimmos do arrive the latest of all the witnesses cited here – Rigby is flipped over and hacked at “up and down” in that position. However, the coroner’s report doesn’t mention stabs to the back – as we will discover, the Nimmos’ testimony is not very reliable.
Some witnesses agree with the coroner that a lot of bleeding was involved. Bailey mentions a spray of blood. This is what one would expect to hear about – blood doesn’t seep around the body, it is pumped. Seymour said that Rigby was black with blood. Some witnesses identified a number to describe the intensity of the attack – whether it be how many minutes it lasted, or how many blows were struck. Other words were used to conjure ideas of forcefulness and brutality. These things in spirit agree with the coroner’s report. However, they do not agree with the material evidence on the scene. It would have been very helpful to know how many cuts were made to Rigby’s body so that we could have a factual guide in that sense. That a 6 inch knife would make a 4 inch deep wound or that Rigby’s neck had deep incisions possibly corroborates the heaviness of the blows that witnesses attest to. However, without a number, we can’t begin to make judgements on how reasonable the witnesses are in gauging the ferocity of the attack. For instance, Rigby’s torso should have been a bloody pulp if Thomas Seymour saw between 10 and 20 blows to it in the small period of time he was able to observe the assault, and then if Cheralee Armstrong decided she was watching an attempt to draw out Rigby’s organs when she arrived over a minute later. It is arguable that the coroner’s report does not reflect this level of hacking – he was able to number cuts to the head that hit bone or cartilage, therefore he was able to discern incisions one from the other. He was able to discern separate blows into the chest, and pin point one blow into the lungs which caused collapse. Although the author doesn’t have any medical training, he is, through general experience handling meat to cook, able to understand that several separate cuts look very different to a mincing created by many stabs and pounding.
Verdict: The coroner’s report is generally corroborated by witness account, and the witness account generally suggests that the way the two Michaels attacked Rigby is both possible and believable. However, one wonders if some witnesses have overegged the pudding in terms of their descriptions of the ferocity and the duration of the attack – this is possibly where witness testimony starts to fail to reflect the supposed injuries. One witness, Michelle Nimmo, appears to have been grossly mistaken about the basic facts of the attack. It should be noted that if witness testimony agrees with the coroner’s report, it doesn’t agree with the visual evidence as also discussed in this chapter.