The tearful family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby have spoken of how “our hearts have been ripped apart” by the horror.
His wife Rebecca, 30, mother of his son Jack, aged two, and stepfather Ian Rigby, 54, fought back tears as they spoke on behalf of the 25-year-old’s whole family at a press conference at the Regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Bury, Greater Manchester.
The soldier’s mother Lyn Rigby, 46, sat red-eyed, unable to speak through tears, clutching a teddy her son had bought his child.
Sobbing, Rebecca Rigby said: “I love Lee and always will. I am proud to be his wife and he was due to come up this weekend so we could continue our future together as a family.
“He was a devoted father to our son Jack and we will both miss him terribly.”
Asked about the shock of the attack being on British soil, she added: “You don’t expect it to happen when he’s in the UK. You think they’re safe. His proudest moments were serving in London on the ceremonials with the drum corps.”
Drummer Rigby, from Langley, in Middleton, Greater Manchester, was from 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had served in Afghanistan and was attached to the regimental recruiting team when he was hacked to death in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon in Woolwich, south east London.
Two suspects were shot and arrested at the scene and remain in police custody.
Drummer Rigby’s stepfather Ian read out a statement on behalf of and prepared by the whole family: “What can we say about Lee, our hero, we are so, so proud of Lee.
“When Lee was born the family adored him, he was a precious gift given to us.
“Lee had a fiery temper when he was younger. I used to sit on him to calm him down till he got too big at 15, then he used to sit on me.
“Lee’s dream growing up was always to join the army, which he succeeded in doing. He was dedicated and loved his job.
“Lee adored and cared a lot for his family, he was very much a family man, looking out for his wife, young son Jack, younger sisters, whom in turn they looked up to him. He always had a banter with them but would never ever let any harm come to them.
“He was over the moon being a dad and uncle, he adored them all.”
Mr Rigby, at times swallowing hard and breathing in to contain his emotions, continued: “Lee was a man who loved people. He had many friends growing up in Middleton and on army duties all over the world.
“He believed life was for living and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
“Courtney and Amy his younger sisters wrote this for Lee: ‘Rest in peace, Lee, we loved you so much, you didn’t deserve this, you fought for your country and did it well.
“You will always be our hero. We are just upset you left us so early. Love you Lee, goodnight’.
“The last text he sent to his mum read ‘Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one in a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you’re not just my mum you’re my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads’.”
Mr Rigby added: “We would like to say goodnight, Lee, rest in peace, our fallen soldier, we love you loads and words cannot describe how loved and sadly missed you will be.
“We would like to thank everybody, the police and army for the amazing support we have received.
“Our hearts have been ripped apart from us, everyone is struggling to cope with this tragedy, so we would ask the press to respect our privacy to grieve our son’s parting as we try to come to terms with this.”
Mr Rigby then read out a poem, a tribute to Drummer Rigby from an unknown poster on a Facebook page. It read:
You fought bravely and with honour died,
You leave your family so full of pride,
Sleep well young soldier, your job is done,
Your war is over, your battle won.
Our family chain is broken and nothing is the same,
But as God takes us one by one,
Our chain will link again.”
Mr Rigby was flanked by his stepson’s wife, who at times covered her face with a handkerchief, and to his right his own wife and Lee’s mother, Lyn.
Lee’s sister, Sara McClure, 24, sat holding her mother’s hand. His other sisters Chelsea, Courtney, 11, and Amy, eight, were not present.
Asked how proud Drummer Rigby was to serve Queen and country, Mr Rigby replied: “Extremely. He’s always wanted to serve in the Army. He’s been all over, Cyprus, Germany, Jordan.”
Asked how hard it was to take that he had been killed not in a war zone but in London, Mr Rigby said: “When in Afghanistan, you come to terms with it. You don’t expect something like that on your doorstep. It’s very difficult.”