BURY, England A British soldier who was hacked to death in London was buried on Friday, with Prime Minister David Cameron among the mourners paying their respects to an Afghanistan war veteran murdered on a busy street in broad daylight.
The killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, near his barracks in Woolwich, south London, on May 22 shocked Britain and raised fears about Islamist attacks by British citizens.
Cameron at the time described the killing as a betrayal of Islam and an attack on the British way of life. Two suspects, both British Muslims, were arrested at the scene and face a murder trial in November.
Flowers spelling out the words 'daddy' and 'brother' decorated the flag-draped coffin which was carried by scarlet-uniformed drummers from Rigby's Fusiliers regiment at Bury Parish Church in northern England.
Rigby's two-year-old son Jack wore a blue T-shirt with the words: "My Daddy My Hero" and "My Daddy's a Fusilier". He entered the church in the arms of his mother, Rebecca, who also carried a teddy bear.
Hundreds of veterans in uniform cheered his sobbing family and thousands more well-wishers followed the service via loudspeakers outside the church, with British and English flags at half-mast around the town.
"People were shocked at what happened on the streets of Britain," said Dennis McCormick, a 65-year-old veteran from the parachute regiment who had travelled from Glasgow in Scotland to be one of the first to arrive at the church near Manchester.
"It's horrendous, I couldn't believe it at the time. It's sad that it's got to come to that," he said, dressed in a green and black tartan uniform, with a red poppy on his lapel, a sign of respect to fallen soldiers.
Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson attended the funeral in the hometown of Rigby's battalion.
Although Cameron did not speak at the service he tweeted before it started: "A sad day with the funeral of Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was killed in Woolwich. My thoughts are with his wife Rebecca and his family."
"MY DAD, MY HERO"
Following Rigby's killing, the English Defence League, a far-right group, took to the streets at several protests where supporters chanted slogans such as "Muslim killers off our streets".
A mosque was burned down in London but it was unclear who caused the fire.
Muslim leaders condemned the killing. Most politicians and religious leaders appealed for calm. Cameron accused the English Defence League of trying to whip up anti-Muslim hatred.
During the funeral, a former comrade spoke of the military career of Rigby, who joined the army in 2006 and was posted to Cyprus before later serving in Afghanistan, where British troops have been stationed since 2001.
"It was his lifelong ambition to be in the army," said Jim Taylor in a eulogy heard by mourners inside and outside the church and broadcast on television.
"Today we, his regimental family, salute a fallen comrade. A talented soldier and musician. A larger than life character. A loyal friend and brother-in-arms. A gentle soul."
Ian Rigby, Lee's step-father, told reporters: "He was a devoted soldier, he loved what he was doing, he believed in what he was doing but he was still a family man."
A card in a bouquet of white roses on the hearse read: "My Dad, My hero. Always proud. Lots of love, Jack."
Some of those lining the streets of Bury described their continuing sense of anger at Rigby's murder.
"It's really ignited a lot of people's feelings," said Ronald Plummer, a World War Two veteran from the parachute regiment, his uniform gleaming with medals. "Whether it will be for good or bad I don't know."