Juliet Obasuyi looked for help nine months ago after her son, left, dropped out of university. Michael Adebowale, the 22-year-old son of a Christian probation officer and a member of staff at the Nigerian High Commission, was filmed last week holding a bloodied cleaver in his hand after Drummer Lee Rigby was butchered in a London street.
Friends said he had been a “lovely boy” but became involved in some “serious trouble” as a teenager and then turned to Islam. He started mixing with some “bad people” and became increasingly extreme in his views.
His mother Juliet Obasuyi, a 43-year-old probation officer, went to her friend and neighbour, a 62-year-old security officer, for help about nine months ago after her son dropped out of university.
She told him: “Michael is not listening any more. His older sister is a good Christian with a degree but Michael is rebelling as he has no father figure, dropping out of university and handing out leaflets in Woolwich town centre.
“He is from a strong Christian family but he is turning to Islam and turning against the family. He is preaching in the streets. He needs spiritual guidance before he radicalises himself.”
Another friend, Steve Adebiyi, who started a company with Mrs Obasuyi, said she was often left in tears after speaking to him on the phone. “The boy was giving the mother problems,” he said. “She said he was in with some bad group and causing a lot of trouble. They brainwashed him.”
He and Michael Adebolajo, the other suspected terrorist, are thought to have met at Greenwich University.
His mother was advised by a neighbour to take him to the head of the Woolwich mosque for spiritual guidance. He was converted to Islam by the head Imam, and taken for weeks of “further training” at a centre near Cambridge.
When he returned, however, he was even more “radicalised” and his mother could no longer “get through to him”. A spokesman for the mosque said they did not know if he attended or been converted there.
She subsequently returned to Nigeria, where she is pursuing a career in politics.
Neighbours in Greenwich said he had been a “lovely boy” who was a keen Manchester United fan, but as a teenager became “angry at a lot of things”.
Magdalene Edwards told Channel 4 News: “He was a lovely boy. Very gentle natured, very respectful to elderly people.
“He was angry at a lot of things like a lot of young people are. About a year ago is when I saw him with this whole Muslim dress.
“I said to him are you a Muslim. And he said yes, he’s gone that way now. I said just be careful, I’m aware that there are some that ride on the coat tales of Islam and they’re really not serving their cause.”
Adebowale’s father, Adeniyi, was born in Nigeria but came to Britain to study at Canterbury University. He and Mrs Obasuyi had a child, Michael, but subsequently split up.
His mother married twice but is now understood to be single. well as working as a fashion director she also started a small fashion business. She raised Adebowale in Woolwich and Greenwich along with his half sister.
Adebowale attended Kidbrooke School in Greenwich, where friends said he was a “normal, smiling teenager”. Luqman Ciise, one of his schoolmates, said: “I knew him personally, he was normal, smiling all the time. His name was Toby… Still can’t believe this.”
According to a friend he and his girlfriend, a fellow convert, became well-known in south-east London for handing out extremist leaflets.
Adebowale’s father now works for the Nigerian High Commission in a flat just yards froim Holloway prison in North London. His flat was raided on Thursday morning.
A neighbour said: “He has lived here for at least ten years. He is a very smart and polite man, who is known to everyone as Niyi. On Thursday morning I was woken up by the sound of banging and shouts of ‘armed police’. I looked out and police were running into Niyi’s flat.
“I then heard them shout ‘No firearms and No drugs’. I have got no idea what happened to Niyi, but I haven’t seen him since.
“It came as a big shock because he is a professional man who works at the Nigerian High Commission. He leaves everyday in a collar and tie and does not get home until about 8pm.”