Britons mourn soldier killed on London street

BURY, England Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:05pm BST

1 of 3. The coffin of Fusilier Lee Rigby arrives for a vigil at Bury Parish Church in Bury, northern England July 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Nigel Roddis

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BURY, England (Reuters) - Hundreds of Britons turned out on Thursday to mourn Lee Rigby, a soldier whose murder on a London street made international headlines in May and heightened community tensions in parts of Britain.

Soldiers and red-uniformed drummers escorted Rigby's flag-draped coffin through his battalion's hometown of Bury in northern England to a ripple of applause from the crowd.

Killed near army barracks in Woolwich, London, in broad daylight, the death of Rigby, 25, was described by Prime Minister David Cameron in May as a "betrayal of Islam". Two men will stand trial in November.

Locals were joined by well-wishers from Rigby's nearby hometown of Middleton and elsewhere, holding flowers and British flags, and paying tribute to the 25-year-old father of one.

"He shouldn't have died where he died," said Stacey Walsh, 29, a volunteer support worker, clutching a single rose.

"He served twice in Afghanistan, and he died on British soil, on his homeland," she said, visibly upset.

The crowd fell silent as the coffin reached the church before a private vigil attended by close friends and family.

"I'm a fusilier, and that's why we're here, he's one of us," said Ken Kendrick, a 74-year-old army veteran.

"It should never have happened, should it ... He didn't deserve that," he said, wearing a regimental beret.

Rigby's funeral will be held on Friday morning..

"We should all pay tribute to drummer Lee Rigby for his service to our country," Cameron told parliament on Wednesday.

Rigby's murder sparked anti-Islamist protests in several English cities and some charities reported a surge in attacks on Muslim targets. Far-right groups stayed away on Thursday.

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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