UK
11/07/2013 20:59 BST | Updated 11/07/2013 21:02 BST

Drummer Lee Rigby: Parade And Vigil For Murdered Woolwich Soldier In Bury (PICTURES)

Hundreds of well-wishers have honoured murdered soldier Lee Rigby at a vigil on the eve of his funeral.

Comrades, forces veterans and members of the public lined the route to Bury Parish Church where soldiers will keep a guard of honour over the body of Fusilier Rigby overnight before his funeral tomorrow.

The 25-year-old's heartbroken loved ones attended the event today in Bury, just a couple of miles from his hometown of Middleton, Greater Manchester, which came to a standstill as pubs and shops around the church closed as a mark of respect.

rigby

Widow of Drummer Lee Rigby Rebecca Metcalfe (R) carries their son Jack as she leave Bury Parish Church after a vigil in Bury

The father-of-one, a drummer in the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), was killed as he returned to Woolwich barracks from the Tower of London on May 22.

He had served in Afghanistan as a machine gunner and was attached to the regimental recruiting team when he was hacked to death in broad daylight on a street in south London.

The horrific killing led to nationwide shock and revulsion and Friday's funeral is expected to be attended by hundreds of mourners following a groundswell of support for his family from the public.

Twenty Fusiliers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers lined up at the end of the street leading up to the church, as the cortege emerged driving slowly past lines of members of the public lining the route

applauding.

Ahead of the hearse were a corps of two dozen drummers in scarlet tunics marching to a beat ahead of the hearse.

Further up the street elderly veterans proudly wearing their campaign medals and blazers formed a group of standard bearers their flags held aloft then dropped in honour as the cortege passed.

Inside the church grounds waited 16 Fusiliers from the dead soldier's own unit who will act as the honour guard overnight.

As the cortege arrived at the church members of the corps of drummers acted as pall bearers carrying inside Fusilier Rigby's coffin - draped in the union flag.

The family's wishes are for a private military funeral with the public and media asked to pay their respects outside the church for today's vigil and the funeral on Friday.

Lee Rigby's Drum Parade

Silence fell outside the church as 22 family members emerged from the cars in the cortege to attend the vigil.

Fusilier Rigby's wife, Rebecca, 30, carried their two-year-old son, Jack, in her arms. The toddler wore a Manchester United shirt with the name "Riggers" on the back.

Behind them, the soldier's mother, Lyn, 46, red-faced and in tears, had to be helped along by holding hands with other family members at her side.

Six pall bearers carried her son's coffin inside, his bearskin on top, as the service began.

During the short private ceremony, prayers were said with only the family and the guard of honour present.

Inside the hearse were floral tributes spelling out "Brother", "Son" and "Husband" in red roses.

After 25 minutes, Rebecca Rigby left the church with her son and another family member.

Five minutes later the rest of Fusilier Rigby's family emerged into the bright sunshine, walking stony-faced down the steps.

The guard of honour will remain with Fusilier Rigby's body overnight inside the church, which was the garrison church for the Lancashire Fusiliers. The Colours of the regiment hang proudly from their pikes around the walls of the nave.

The family, who have been inundated with cards, letters and flowers in condolence from all over the country and abroad and from all faiths, will return for the funeral service tomorrow.

Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons earlier this week that the whole of the UK will be mourning with the family at the 11am service, which is expected to again attract large crowds of well-wishers.