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Lee Rigby murder: Middleton community 'won't be broken down'

Candles
Service

Residents from the estate where murdered soldier Lee Rigby was brought up have pledged to pull together in support of his family, following a service held in his memory.

About 40 people came to the Burnside Youth and Community Centre in Langley, Middleton, to say prayers.

"'We will not be broken down' was the message from the prime minister this week - I think the people of this community would echo that," said Reverend Jackie Calow, from All Saints and Martyrs Church.

She was one of those who organised the service in the wake of Drummer Rigby's death.

"We had many calls from the community asking how we could help, so this is what we have done," she said.

Drummer Rigby, 25, was murdered on a street in Woolwich, south-east London on Wednesday afternoon.

Beverley Vernon, 46, from Middleton, said: "I still can't believe it - a British soldier killed on a British street and he's from Langley.

"We will pull together for the family, that's what we want to do.

"People who have met him have told me that he was a likeable lad that would just do anything for anybody.

"It has certainly made me feel better that people here have come together to listen to the service today."

'Time for us'

In a room often used for hosting youth clubs, with children's artwork covering the walls, Reverend Philip Miller stood up and thanked those in attendance.

He said: "Drummer Lee Rigby, a name we will never forget.

"This time is for us - those who know Lee, remember him, and we are here for Lee's parents and family.

Image caption Jackie Calow said "it was a privilege to be part of the service" held in Middleton

"I told his family this service was happening, and they were pleased people were going to be here for Lee.

"He always wanted to be in the Army and he had been faithful to that right to the very end."

Those attending sat in a semi-circle in front of a table carrying pictures of Drummer Rigby. They bowed their heads and said prayers.

A single candle was lit, with the flame used to light further candles carried by people at the service.

'Innocent lives taken'

Louise Jones, 43, from Middleton, said: "I'm absolutely gobsmacked. I saw people laying flowers at Middleton Gardens town square and that's when I found out what had happened.

"I'm here to show support and respect to his family."

A number of homes on the estate draped St George flags from upstairs windows in memory of Drummer Rigby.

'Kingo', 34, lives close to the community centre and has served in the armed forces in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: "We go to war to protect the UK, and for this to happen on our own streets, it just makes me sick when innocent lives are taken."

Jim Dobbin, MP for Heywood and Middleton, attended the service, saying it was important to support members of the community "in a rational and calm way".

As residents left, some carrying flowers to lay at the Rigby family's home and others planning to visit Middleton Arena to sign a book of condolence, they were of one voice, summed up by Ms Jones.

"It's a close-knit community here and this will bring everyone even closer."

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