Written by Student Rights on 20 December 2013 at 11am

Independent:Lee Rigby murder: How killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale became ultra-violent radicals

By Paul Peachy, Jonathan Brown and Kim Sengupta

19th December 2013

One was set on the path to murder by a deluded belief that 9/11 was a Western conspiracy. The other told of his disgust at watching television in 2003 as Western missiles rained down on Baghdad in the battle to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

It was a fateful coming together, the charismatic extremist bent on violent jihad and his damaged, impressionable partner – two men who sought to justify the murder of a defenceless British soldier as an act of war driven by their birth country’s foreign policy.

The convictions of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale – two young men from similar backgrounds – raised questions last night about the ability of government and communities to combat attacks by young men with a world view fuelled by hate speeches, resentment and alienation.

Both men grew up within Nigerian Christian families before converting to Islam. They both dabbled in small-time crime, spent time in jail and were radicalised to reject hardline doctrines of fringe extremist groups in favour of something even more violent.

The younger man, Adebowale, 22, had a history of mental illness, claiming to hear the voices of spirits in prison. He suffered a breakdown after seeing a fellow teenage drug-dealer cut to pieces by a paranoid crack addict who claimed his victim was an al-Qa’ida terrorist bent on blowing up the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.

Adebolajo, 29, had been on police and security-service radar for nearly a decade during a long process of violent radicalisation, which took him from his family home in the outer suburbs of east London via the heat of East Africa to Woolwich, to murder a soldier with a cleaver and a set of knives from Argos.

Michael Adebolajo was born at King’s College Hospital in London on 10 December 1984, the eldest son of a social worker and nurse from a hard-working Nigerian family. He was brought up reading passages from the Bible by candlelight.

At his trial Adebolajo spoke of his influences during his childhood: a teacher he thought was Jewish and a Jehovah’s Witness called Ron who gave him special Bible study classes at home on a Saturday.

Adebolajo grew up in Romford and studied at Marshalls Park School and later Havering Sixth Form College. His school friends included a boy who later became a soldier and died while serving in Iraq.

But Adebolajo started dabbling in drugs and became known to police for involvement in violent crime. Former friends said he was part of a group that stole mobile phones and threatened people with knives. His family were so concerned that they moved away, to Lincolnshire. But he returned to south-east London, and went to Greenwich University in 2003.

Late in his first year of a building-surveying degree, he converted to Islam. Student Rights, which monitors extremism at universities, said there was little evidence to suggest his radicalisation was fuelled by extreme preachers on campus. Adebolajo left the course before his third year.