Grieving Sunderland dad visits Woolwich to pay respects to Lee Rigby

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THE grieving dad of a Sunderland soldier made an emotional trip to Woolwich to pay his respects to murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

William Pemberton, of Witherwack, is still coming to terms with the loss of his own son, Billy, who died aged just 28.

William Pemberton of Witherwack, Sunderland father of former soldier William Pemberton

William Pemberton of Witherwack, Sunderland father of former soldier William Pemberton

The 55-year-old had been on a trip to London when he heard of this week’s barbaric attack on Drummer Rigby, 25, set upon and killed by two men armed with knives and a meat cleaver.

Mr Pemberton made the train journey to Woolwich where he laid flowers at the scene.

“I just felt this was something I had to do,” he told the Echo.

“I know how it feels to lose a son and I was so moved by what happened, I just felt it was important to go there.”

Billy Pemberton

Billy Pemberton

Mr Pemberton also wrote a card for Drummer Rigby, in the words of his own son, who had spent eight years in the Army fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: “It was really a message from one fallen soldier to another. I felt it was befitting for what happened.

“This poor lad was someone’s son, just like Billy was my son. I know how hard it is to lose someone and I felt this was the right gesture to make.”

Mr Pemberton is still fighting to come to terms with the loss of Billy, who took his own life in October last year, three years after leaving the Army. Although the circumstances behind Billy’s death remain unclear, his family say the young dad had been a devoted soldier and would have been shocked by the brutal killing of an Army colleague.

Mr Pemberton added; “One of our Billy’s favourite lines from a song was “only the dead are forever young” and that is what I wrote in the card that I left down in Woolwich.”

The death of Billy, a keen young footballer known as the “Southwick Warrior”, sent shockwaves around the community where he grew up.

More than 1,400 people attended his funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Southwick last October.

Mr Pemberton said: “This is something you never get over, and I’d just gone down to London for a few days to try and clear my head when I heard about what happened.”

Drummer Rigby, who was married and had a two-year-old son, was described as a “loving son, husband, father, brother and uncle, and a friend to many”.

Mr Pemberton added: “I know Billy would have wanted me to pay our respects, that’s the kind of lad he was.”