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Making of a middle-class fanatic: Descent into evil of teenager from devout Christian family who became drug user radicalised by hate preacher
- Michael Adebolajo's parents are hard-working Nigerian immigrants
- A Christian couple, they believed in assimilating into British life
- He was 'just a lovely, lovely guy', former classmate Stephen Cavalier said
- But Adebolajo's dark side seems to have awakened in his mid-teens
- Friends said he used cannabis and experimented with other drugs
- He descended into a world where he was consumed with jihadism
PUBLISHED:17:03 EST, 23 May 2013| UPDATED:04:27 EST, 24 May 2013
When his old school friends saw him on the television drenched in blood, waving a cleaver and declaring jihad, they nearly fell off their chairs.
There was no mistaking Michael Adebolajo, their 'bright and witty' classmate from a devoutly Christian family.
They remembered his smile, him studying hard, taking the bus to school and playing football with his mates.
But, his athletic frame aside, he bore no resemblance to the ghastly figure now haunting the nation's television screens.
'Just a lovely, lovely guy': Friends recall what Michael Adebolajo was like at Marshall Fields School (left) and after the brutal murder
For despite spouting rhetoric about supposed British crimes in 'our lands', Adebolajo is a British citizen born in London.
His mother and father are hard-working Nigerian immigrants from an academic family in West Africa who settled in London in the early 1980s. A Christian couple, they believed in assimilating into British life, and Michael seems to have forged easy friendships with schoolmates of all colours and creeds.
Virtually all the friends on his Facebook page have traditional British names such as Louise, Kelly, Robert, Craig, Gemma, Lauren and Paul, to name a few. Among them is Matthew Selt, now a professional snooker player.
He was 'just a lovely, lovely guy', in the words of former classmate Stephen Cavalier – who, as a serving PC in the Metropolitan Police – could scarcely have followed a different path.
Speaking at his home in Essex yesterday, Mr Cavalier said: 'It seems odd to say it now, after the events of yesterday, but I remember him as just a lovely, lovely guy.
'I knew Michael at Marshalls Park School in Romford when we were teenagers. He was a good sportsman and just an all-round nice guy.'
He said he was no longer close to Adebolajo, who had requested they become 'Facebook friends' a few years ago.
'As soon as I saw the news last night I immediately recognised it was Michael. I was in shock really when I saw him.'
Adebolajo's dark side seems to have been awakened in his mid-teens, around the time Tony Blair was sending British troops into Afghanistan and Iraq.
A house in Saxilby, Lincolnshire, believed to be the home of relatives of murder suspect Michael Adebolajo
Middle-class upbringing: Michael Adeboloja attended Marshalls Park school in Romford
He descended into a world where he was consumed with jihadism and later joined several Islamist groups banned in Britain because they are considered so extreme.
Radicalised by the likes of hate preacher Anjem Choudary, he fell into petty crime. Alarmed by the changes they saw in their son, his parents moved the family to Lincolnshire to make a fresh start.
But it was too little, too late, to save their first-born from an ugly descent.
Friends said he became a heavy cannabis user after the move. One told the Daily Star: 'His whole life was about cannabis. He said it expanded his mind.'
Adebolajo is also believed to have experimented with other drugs.
By 2003, he began calling himself Mujaahid – meaning 'one who engages in jihad'. By 2006, he was allegedly marching with Islamic fanatics bearing placards exhorting: 'Behead those who insult Islam'.
Last year, it is believed, police stopped him travelling to Somalia to fight alongside Al-Shabbab fanatics – the group behind the 2011 kidnapping of Judith Tebbutt and murder of her husband David.
Michael Olumide Akinbiyi Adebolajo was born on December 10, 1984, at Kings College Hospital in Lambeth, South London.
His Nigerian-born father, Anthony, was a student at the time, and went on to become an NHS nurse.
His mother, Tina, the niece of a university law professor in Benin, West Africa, was a housewife but she too dedicated herself to public duty by becoming a social worker.
Changed man: Suspect Michael Adebolajo is said to have been radicalised in 2003 as a schoolboy and his parents became so concerned they moved him away
Adebolajo's accomplice was seen talking to 48-year-old Ingrid Loyau-Kennett as she calmed the men down to keep the peace
They had a second boy, Jeremiah, 22 months later and then two daughters, and soon after the family moved to Romford in Essex, where Adebolajo attended Marshalls Park school from 1996 to 2001, and then Havering Sixth Form College for his A levels.
'He was a Christian. A nice, normal guy. All his friends were white and used to go round to each other's houses all the time,' a former friend said.
Another classmate, Simon Collings, 25, said: 'His family were very Christian. Him and his siblings are all religiously named – his brother Jeremiah and his sisters Blessing and Christiana. He was a clever guy.' A woman purporting to be Adebolajo's sister Blessing told the Romford Recorder newspaper yesterday: 'We didn't know he was going to do this.'
Schoolmate Darren Marsh added: 'He was always a good guy at school and [would] do anything for anyone.'
James Smith said: 'I'm not sure I quite believe this. I sat next to him in Sociology at college', and Michaela Payne said, 'As soon as I saw the news I almost fell off my chair.'
Former home: Michael Adebolajo lived in this house in Romford with his parents while he converted to Islam as a teenager
Investigation: Police and forensic personnel went to this top floor flat in Harold Hill, believed to be the home of Adebolajo's sister
Neighbours of the family remembered them as friendly and welcoming churchgoers. But Graham Silverton, 63, who has lived in the street for 25 years, said neighbours had a particularly bad experience with Adebolajo when he was a teenager.
He said one of the neighbours' children, a teenage girl, had gone to the Adebolajos door to retrieve a ball kicked into their garden and was insulted and punched by Adebolajo.
Another said the teenager was inviting groups of friends to sit in the garage and listen to loud music with 'lots of beer'.
According to Choudary, Adebolajo embraced Islam around the age of 15 or 16. 'I knew him as Mujaahid. He attended our meetings and my lectures,' the preacher boasted.
After A levels, Adebolajo attended the University in Greenwich, South-East London, and lived in student accommodation in the borough which has a large Muslim population.
Search: Metropolitan Police officers entered a flat in Greenwich, which is believed to be connected to the Woolwich murder. Four people were taken away at 5.30am
He is believed to have attended the nearby Lewisham Islamic Centre mosque, which police visited yesterday. In 2006, the mosque's cleric Shakeel Begg was recorded urging students to wage jihad against Israelis in Palestine.
Despite his Muslim beliefs, Adebolajo fell into petty crime including stealing mobile phones, and is understood to have spent a short spell behind bars for violent behaviour. On his Facebook page, he wrote recently: 'Mostly HMP [prison]. I have been a naughty boy but don't tell anybody. Nowadays I'm a personal trainer.'
A friend said: 'Michael used to preach a lot about Islam. He told me he converted in jail.'
Adebolajo's family lived in Romford until around 2004, when they moved to Lincolnshire. It is unclear if his parents are still a couple, or if they divorced around this time.
There was no answer at the five-bedroom detached village home in Saxilby, near Lincoln, where Adebolajo's father, Anthony, is believed to live.
Last week, Adebolajo was spotted with his alleged accomplice preaching on the street outside Poundland in Woolwich town centre. For whatever reason, he decided words were not enough.
Side by side with preacher of hate? Choudary claims picture shows arrested Islamic fanatic, 28, at 2007 demo
Hate preacher Anjem Choudary was last night accused of having 'blood on his hands' after it emerged killer Michael Adebolajo was radicalised at the hands of his extremist group.
Dramatic BBC footage has emerged of Adebolajo standing side by side with Choudary as the Al-Muhajiroun leader ranted on a megaphone during a 2007 demonstration in Central London.
Evidence of the link sparked calls for urgent action to be taken against the hate preacher.
Terror suspect: Anjem Choudary (right) claimed that this is him pictured with Michael Adebolajo, 28, (circled) at an Islamist demonstration in London in 2007
Al-Muhajiroun has been linked to a series of terror attacks through its former members and followers of Choudary and former leader Omar Bakri.
It and several of its offshoot organisations, including Islam4UK, were banned in 2010, but Choudary – who is known for his disgraceful rhetoric against British soldiers – has never been prosecuted in the UK. Last night it emerged that Adebolajo was a regular on radical marches in East London in the mid-2000s and often attended incendiary protests and lectures.
Protests by the group and its offshoots have featured chants such as 'British Soldiers Burn in Hell' and banners such as 'Hell for Heroes' and those describing soldiers as 'Baby Killers'.
One linked group, Muslims Against Crusades, burnt a poppy on Remembrance Sunday in 2010 and its supporters targeted a forces' homecoming parade in Luton.
Last night Choudary disgracefully blamed the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby on the 'presence of British forces in Muslim countries'.
He said: 'We must concentrate on why this incident took place. That is the presence of British forces in Muslim countries and the atrocities they've committed, and how the Muslim community in this country are under pressure due to draconian laws which have tried to silence them.'
Accused: Choudary (right) said that Adebolajo, 28, was with him in this picture at the demonstration in 2007
He added: 'I'm not going to apologise for exposing the crimes of the British government.
'Radicalisation is a stick which is used to beat the Muslim community. You need to make a distinction between legitimate ideological struggle. We live under a covenant of security. Words like radicalisation and fundamentalism are used by the British Government to silence Muslims.'
The BBC footage showed Adebolajo dressed in white Islamic clothes and surrounded by placards outside Paddington Green police station in April 2007.
He was attending a demonstration followed the arrest of Abu Izzadeen, another Al-Muhajiroun radical who was later sentenced to four and a half years in jail for terrorist fund-raising and incitement.
When asked about the attack, Choudary said: 'What he did was unusual and it's not the kind of view that I propagate and I do not condone the use of violence, but those views are out there.
'Some members of the Muslim community struggle to express themselves and he is making his voice heard in blood.'
Radical: Anjem Choudary, pictured being interviewed on Channel Four News, claimed he was pictured with the terror suspect in 2007
Choudary met Adebolajo in 2005 – two years after the terrorist had converted to Islam, but last night claimed he hadn't seen him for two years.
He described Adebolajo as a man of 'impeccable character'.
When reminded by one TV interviewer of his comments about receiving £25,000 in benefits, which he once referred to as 'Jihad seekers allowance', Choudary said: 'I'm not getting £25,000 and I'm not on JSA. Get your facts right.'
Adebolajo is the latest in a long line of terrorists and hate-mongers allegedly to have come under the influence of Choudary
Last month Richard Dart was jailed for 11 years for plotting to attack British soldiers at Wootton Bassett. He was converted to Islam by Choudary and stopped as he tried to leave for Pakistan for terrorist training.
Roshonara Choudhry, the would-be assassin of Stephen Timms MP, was radicalised after reading a website containing Al-Muhajiroun propaganda.
The man on the left is believed to be Michael Adebolajo and on the right Michael Adebowale. Both of the suspects are thought to be British citizens and at least one of them is of Nigerian descent
Police raid house believed to be connected to Michael Adebolajo
Hate preacher Anjem Choudary talks about 'Brother Mujahid'
The student stabbed the MP during a constituency surgery in Beckton, East London, in May 2010.
Preacher Abu Izzadeen, a convert from Hackney, East London, was among six Al-Muhajiroun members convicted of urging supporters to fight British troops and for raising terrorist funds. Also known as Trevor Brooks, he was jailed in 2008 last year for four-and-a-half years.
Al-Muhajiroun member Abdul Muhid was jailed for soliciting murder following protests in February 2006 against the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
Terror experts said the language used by Adebolajo in his video rant after the killing was reminiscent of the rhetoric used by Choudary and his acolytes.
Moved: Three young women prepare to lay flowers where the unnamed soldier was murdered brutally
Message: A handwritten note was also left by one member of the public left distraught by what happened to the murdered man Lee Rigby
Attached to a bunch of white roses, the neatly written note is from a person who didn't know the victim but felt moved to visit where he died
Message: David Cameron spoke outside Number 10 and pledged that terrorists who try to divide Britons only bring the country closer together
'THERE IS A CHANCE OF MORE ATTACKS': CHILLING WARNING FROM PREACHER WHO KNEW SUSPECT
Anjem Choudary, who led Islamist group Al Muhajiroun - the banned forerunner to Islam4UK where Adebolajo often appeared with other radical protesters - said he recognised him from TV footage at the scene.
Choudary said: 'I went to the same primary school as him in Woolwich, Mulgrave, and grew up in the same area and he came to the local mosque - it was a peaceful community with lots of Muslim people from Somalia and Pakistan. I didn't know him that well so I can't say where his family was from.
'He converted around 2003 to Islam, before I met him and I knew him as his convert name 'Mujaheed' when he used to attend our demonstrations and lectures. I last saw him in 2011, he was a very nice man with impeccable character and nothing unusual about him.
He added: 'What he did was unusual and it's not the kind of view that I propagate and I do not condone the use of violence, but those views are out there. Some members of the Muslim community struggle to express themselves and he is making his voice heard in blood.'
Robin Simcox, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, said: 'You can imagine Anjem Choudary saying it – this thing about there we will never see peace in our lands until Muslims get it abroad.
'Al-Muhajiroun and its offshoot organisations have always targeted British soldiers with their rhetoric.
'They are radical groups whose message is that attacks on British soldiers are justified.'
He said Choudary was always 'very careful to go as far as he can without falling foul of glorifying terrorism laws'.
He added: 'He will not give instructions to his supporters saying “go out and attack soldiers”. But he would say “you might expect so see it happen”.
Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, said: 'We should never forget that terrorists are not born they are made.'
'We now need to deal properly with the makers – Choudary is a radicaliser who many will think has blood on his hands, and should have been prosecuted for incitement years ago.
'If Adebolajo can be demonstrated to have been a supporter of Al-Muhajiroun then he is a prime example of what happens when students and graduates are radicalised by the likes of Anjem Choudary and Abu Qatada.'
Another London-based radical, Abu Nusaybah, described the terrorist as 'a strong character'.
He added: 'He hid his actions from me, because he knew I would talk him out of it, he knew I believed we should we should voice Muslim concerns and pains publicly.'
The second suspect was reported last night by news outlets including Channel 4 News and The Times to be Michael Adebowale, 22, of Greenwich, south-east London.
Blade: A police officer carries a knife in an evidence bag from the scene of the brutal attack in 200 yards from Woolwich Barracks
Scene: The victim lies on the floor (circled left) while the man believed to be Michael Adebolajo is treated by a police officer (circled right)
Aftermath: The men waited for 20 minutes saying they wanted to shoot the police, but were gunned down themselves and are shown here being detained
Weapon: This battered car was used to crush the soldier against a sign in front. The streak of blood in front shows how they dragged his body into the street
Events: Police were called at 2.20pm as the attack took place. This has led to raids all over England, including properties believed to be occupied by Michael Adebolajo's parents and sister. Four others were taken away in Greenwich
One person left a Help for Heroes t-shirt in recognition of the top the soldier was wearing at the time of his death
Police officers stand next to floral tributes at the scene of the death