The grief-stricken family of the 25-year-old soldier beheaded by two Islamist terrorists on a street here today paid tributes to the "loving son and father".
Drummer Lee Rigby from Middleton, Greater Manchester, had been in the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers since 2006 and was stationed at the Woolwich barracks where the attack took place on Wednesday.
"Our hearts have been ripped apart and everyone is struggling to cope with this tragedy," his stepfather Ian said at a distressing press conference at the regimental headquarters of Lee Rigby's unit at Bury in Greater Manchester.
"I just want to say that I love Lee, I always will and I am proud to be his wife. He was due to come home this weekend so we could continue our future together as a family. He was a devoted father to Jack and we both miss him terribly," his wife Rebecca added.
Drummer Rigby was selected to be a member of the Corps of Drums and was posted to the Second Fusiliers Regiment.
His first posting was as a machine gunner in Cyprus.
In 2008, he returned to the UK to Hounslow, west London, where he guarded the Royal Palaces.
In April 2009, he was deployed for the first time to Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he served as a member of the Fire Support Group in Patrol Base Woqab.
On returning from deployment he completed a tour of duty in Germany before taking up a recruiting post in London in 2011, where he also assisted with duties at Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London.
"He was one of the Battalion's great characters – always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers," Sergeant Major Ned Miller, of the 2nd Fusiliers, said in his tribute to the "fallen hero".
The last text Lee Rigby sent to his mum read: "Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one in a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you’re not just my mum you’re my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads."
A shocked community and neighbours of the soldier also gathered for a memorial service on the estate where he lived.
Lee Rigby's sister, Chelsea, represented the family at the Burnside Community Centre in Langley, Middleton, where the Reverend Philip Miller paid moving tributes to him at a gathering of hundreds of people.
"Lee had all his life ahead of him and so much to live for. He always wanted to be in the army and he has been faithful to that calling. This good lad was true and faithful to what he was called to do," the reverend said.
Two suspects, identified as British Muslims of Nigerian descent, were shot and arrested at the scene and remain in police custody in separate hospitals in London.