By Costas Pitas
Over a thousand well-wishers including Prime Minister David Cameron gathered at a military funeral on Friday for the British soldier who was hacked to death in broad daylight on a street in Woolwich, southeast London, two months ago.
Veterans from around Britain, local residents and well-wishers from drummer Lee Rigby’s home town of Middleton, near Manchester, broke into rounds of applause as Rigby’s sobbing family entered the church.
Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson joined Rigby’s estranged wife Rebecca and two-year-old son, Jack, for the service, alongside dozens of red-uniformed drummers and veterans in black berets adorned with white and red feathers.
The murder of Rigby, 25, has been described by Cameron as a “betrayal of Islam”. Two men are due to stand trial in November.
Ahead of the funeral, the family of the fusilier who fought in Afghanistan paid tribute to him.
“He was a devoted soldier. He loved what he was doing, he believed in what he was doing but he was still a family man,” said step-father Ian Rigby in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on Friday.
Well-wishers followed the service via loudspeakers from outside the church against a backdrop of union and English flags at half-mast around the town of Bury.
“I think people were shocked at what happened on the streets of Britain. That was a big factor,” said Dennis McCormick, 65, a veteran from the parachute regiment who had travelled for hours from Scotland to be one of the first to arrive.
“It’s horrendous, I couldn’t believe it at the time,” he added. “It’s sad that it’s got to come to that.”