At the time of the attack a version of the timeline was published in certain newspapers on their online versions which placed the start of the incident at 2.20pm. The following is the one featured in the NewsShopper website (click on the images to enlarge).
MAPPED: Timeline of events in murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich; Alan Woods; 24 May 2013
These timelines claimed that the intervening period between the attack and the police ARV personnel arriving was 20 minutes. If these reports proved to be inaccurate regarding the timeline (as we shall see momentarily) they still got some crucial detail correct – like the number of bullets that were fired.
Crazed animals… how news of the savage Woolwich attack exploded on Twitter; Chris Greenwood et al; 23 May 2013.
The idea of murderers being able to stay on the scene of a crime for 20 minutes without being apprehended was such a strange one that it caused some consternation in some high-up places with one MP in particular expressing concern, and required clarification from the Metropolitan Police. In the following days, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne provided a timeline that is reproduced below. It has to be said that the author, from his readings, has the general sense that from day one the Metropolitan Police maintained the same scheme without altering it.
Woolwich attack: terror returns to Britain’s streets; Gordon Rayner; 22 May 2013.
Metropolitan Police’s Timeline
2.20pm: The first phone call to police received from the public; these stated that a man was being attacked – further 999 calls stated that attackers were in possession of a firearm.
2.24pm: Firearms officers were assigned to the scene.
2.29pm: By now, regular police had arrived at the scene and were maintaining a cordon.
2.34pm: Firearms police arrive at the scene.
Why did police take 14 minutes to tackle killers? The Yard feared they were suicide bombers; Chris Greenwood et al; 23 May 2013.
The Telegraph newspaper reported a timeline of events leading up to the murder of Lee Rigby as presented by the prosecution in the trial – therefore it was the official version. The relevant extract is reproduced here verbatim:
Lee Rigby murder timeline, by prosecution
2.20pm: The… [Tigra] is seen back on Wellington Street performing a manoeuvre so it is parked facing towards Artillery Place. Michael Adebolajo is seen next to the driver’s door.
2.21pm: Michael Adebolajo drives the Tigra straight at Lee Rigby as he crosses the road on Artillery Place. The car was travelling at between 30 and 40mph when it struck Lee Rigby from behind. Amanda Bailey is driving a Peugeot 206 down the hill after visiting her son’s school when the car cuts right across the road in front of her. She sees the car smash into Lee Rigby and pulls up beside his body before dialling 999.
2.23pm: The Vauxhall Tigra crashes to a halt and Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale are then seen getting out. Michael Adebolajo has a meat cleaver in his hand. Together they attack Lee Rigby before dragging his body into the middle of the road
2.23pm: Shopkeeper Ibrahim Elidemir who witness (sic) the attack calls the police from his store.
Lee Rigby murder timeline, by prosecution; Miranda Prynne; 29 Nov 2013.
As the reader can see, the times given in the list are sometimes linked to a series of events so that a difficulty arises: which event in the series is the single time referring to? Does the stated time signify when the first item in the series took place? In that case, how is it that there are 2 minutes between the car being driven at Rigby, and it coming to a halt? We should perhaps read 2.23pm as the time when Rigby is dragged into the road, with the other detail describing events leading up to that moment. Moreover, we should perhaps understand the attack to have taken place between 2.20pm and 2.21pm.
Now we’ve started to analyse the sequence of events that comprise the complete Woolwich incident of 22nd May 2013, we can also find that it can be divided into five separate phases. These are:
- The assault by car on Lee Rigby
- The assault by bladed weapon on Lee Rigby
- The “Woolwich Angel”, or waiting period
- The police shootout and arrest
- The arrival of paramedics and other police
From this we can see that the NewsShopper timeline covers all of the phases, the Metropolitan Police’s timeline covers all of them except number 5, and the one presented by the prosecution at trial covers the first two only.