Lee's death 'has united country'

Banbury Cake: Ian and Lyn Rigby, stepfather and mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby. Ian and Lyn Rigby, stepfather and mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

The family of murdered Lee Rigby said the young soldier's horrific death has united the country and he has been "taken to everybody's hearts like a son".

In an interview with ITV News, his mother Lyn, stepfather Ian and sister Sara McClure described their anguish after he was murdered by two British Muslim converts who mowed him down in a car then hacked him to death.

Mrs Rigby said he wanted to join the Army since he was four.

"He started going on about it when he was about four. 'Mummy I want to go in the Army'. You know, you ask your children, 'What do you want to when you get older?' and he always said he wanted to go in the Army," she said.

"There was never any other career he wanted to do. Always the Army was number one and he followed his dream and obviously I supported Lee's decision as that's what he wanted to do. And we backed him all the way to get him into the Army."

Having served in Afghanistan, she was relieved when he came back to the UK, and later took up a recruiting post based in London in 2011.

"I thought he'd be safe. You rest up easy - they're not in the war zone and back home, doing a job that he loved doing. Nothing ever enters your head."

His sister Sara said she persuaded Lee not to return to Afghanistan.

"To everybody else he was the most selfless person. He would do anything for anybody. He was strong. But he wasn't really. He rang me not long ago. He was quite upset. He wanted to go back to Afghanistan and he was going to request a post and I talked him out of it and now I wish I hadn't."

She first told her mother about news reports that a soldier had been killed in Woolwich, and later that evening Mrs Rigby received the devastating news that he was dead.

Breaking down, Mrs Rigby remembered: "I was just going up to bed, I put the bedroom light on and the door went. I knew straight away. I went to the window and there was four gentlemen in black suits and then I started crying, as I knew it was Lee.

"I went downstairs, I opened the door. That was it. I don't really remember much from there, I just fell on to the couch and everything was just a blur from there.

"I had to phone Sara and tell Sara it was Lee. That was so hard."

She said that the television coverage of the atrocity made the ordeal worse.

"That was the worst bit. Losing your son and having to watch as well."

The soldier's stepfather Ian Rigby said that killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were using religion as an excuse.

"You'd want to know what could possibly be in their brains that could make them do something like this. Maybe it would make me understand a little bit," he said.

" It doesn't make any sense that he was just walking down a road and this happened to him. It could have been anybody.

"It was two individuals; it wasn't anything to do with religion. Their views are not the Islam views. It's just their private views. You can't hold religion responsible for their views. They're using religion as an excuse for whatever they've been brainwashed with."

He believes that his stepson's death has brought people together.

"Lee's death has united the country...People wanted to meet us and show their support. He's become a figurehead to unite the country and bring people back together," he said.

"We've met such good friends, incredible friends out of nowhere that took us into their homes and brought us in with their families. And, you know, it's made us all one big family, it feels like part of one massive family. That's how it made us feel."

Mr Rigby added: "It shocked the nation and it made Lee part of everybody's life, not just ours. I mean Lee was taken to everybody's hearts like a son. He became part of everybody's families, everybody felt what we were feeling. And still are."

His wife said: "They turned around to us and thanked us for giving the country Lee, because it's brought their families back together. They've not spoken for years and years and they've brought their families back together.

"We couldn't believe it until that day how much he touched so many people. It wasn't just our lives as a family, it was a lot of people out there. He touched a lot of people's hearts."

Weeping, Mrs Rigby said that life without her son was "very difficult", while Mr Rigby added: "A big chunk of the calming influence and humour has gone out of the family. Lee had a terrible sense of humour."

Mrs Rigby added: "I'll never get Lee back. A piece of me went when Lee went."

When asked whether they can foresee getting justice, she repeated: "I'll never get Lee back."

Mr Rigby said: "No matter what happens, nothing will bring Lee back. Our justice would be helping to make sure this situation wouldn't happen to another family."

Mrs Rigby told BBC's Panorama that Fusilier Rigby came within inches of being killed while in Afghanistan.

She said: "He did say once, they'd just had a bullet fly past them and it'd missed him by inches."

Mr Rigby said: "It hit the picture frame at the side of his bed and smashed the picture frame."

Mrs Rigby added: "He phoned home straight after that. Just said that he missed us and that he loved us."

She said she would not want anybody to go through what they have suffered.

"I wouldn't wish anybody, whoever they are, to go through the same pain of what they put Lee through. What they put the family through, having to sit and watch what they did to our Lee."

The bereaved mother said her son's killers should never be released from prison.

"I don't think they should be able to come out and walk on the streets again."

Mr Rigby added: "You'd love to say you'd like to see the same thing happen to them as what they'd done, but in this country, you live in a democracy and you believe in the justice of this country."

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