Michael Olumide Adebolajo, was born in Lambeth in December 1984 to a Christian family, grew up in Romford, travelled to school on the bus, played football and had lots of friends, Guardian sources report, revealing more about one of the two suspects who killed a British soldier on John Wilson street in an unprovoked attack.
His friends from Marshalls Park School where he attended are finding it difficult to believe the ordinary British schoolboy they once knew is the same man seen carrying bloodied knives and justifying hacking a soldier to death in broad daylight on Wednesday.
“We left year 2001,” one said. “And he was always a good guy at school, do anything for anyone.”
Former neighbours of the family remembered the Adebolajos as friendly. One unidentified neighbour in particular remembered them as “very pleasant, a very ordinary normal family”.
They were churchgoers and attended services at the local church in Romford, Essex.
Not every neighbour had fond memories of the family. Graham Silverton, 63, who lived two doors down from the Adebolajo family, described the experience as unpleasant.
He described Michael Adebolajo’s father as being “aggressive and short tempered”.
Silverton also recalled the neighbours living between him and the Adebolajos had a terrible experience with Michael. He said once the neighbour’s teenage daughter had gone to the Adebolajos to retrieve a ball she kicked into their garden, but was insulted and punched by Michael. The incident was never reported to police.
Silverton says he was “very pleased” when the Adebolajos moved out of the neighbourhood in 2004.
Police on Thursday are reportedly investigating the family home in Saxilby and Adebolajo’s sister’s home in Romford.
Friends at his school did not know of his conversion to Islam in 2003 or what triggered the radical switch in religious beliefs.
Michael changed his name to Mujahid, which means “one who engages in jihad”, and started attending meetings of Al Muhajiroun, an Islamist group that was banned after the 7/7 attacks in London.
But former leader of the group, Anjem Choudary, who confirmed knowing the suspect, denied that he was radicalised by the group. He said Michael stopped attending meetings two years ago and cannot account for what kind of teachings he was exposed to, but he adds that he would neither “condemn nor condone” the action of the 28-year-old.
Guardian UK reports that both Adebolajo and his accomplice, a Nigerian who naturalised in Britain, have featured in counter-terrorism investigations over the past eight years.
It is not clear how both men met. Adebolajo was reportedly seen in Woolwich handing out Islamist literature in High Street, the report said.