- Several officers 'called in to help after Adebolajo began acting violently'
- He was injured during subsequent melee in prison's high-security wing
- Officers are suspended on full pay pending the results of an investigation
- Prison Officers' Association 'angry' at Ministry of Justice
- Says the officers deny any wrongdoing and used 'approved techniques'
By EMILY DAVIES
Five prison officers have been suspended after one of the men accused of hacking off-duty soldier Lee Rigby to death in Woolwich had two teeth knocked out.
The men were suspended from their duties from top-security Belmarsh Prison in south London after the alleged attack on Michael Adebolajo, 28, three days ago.
He had refused to obey officers’ instructions and had to be restrained, according to prison sources.
It is understood that five officers have to be on hand when Adebolajo leaves his cell.
Four of the officers were suspended on Thursday, while the fifth was suspended yesterday.
All of the officers are on full pay pending the results of the investigation.
Peter McParlin, chairman of the Prison Officers Association, accused the Ministry of Justice of over-reacting to the situation.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We have spoken to our members and on the basis of what our members have told us they have done absolutely nothing wrong.
'We are concerned that the Ministry of Justice have over-reacted due to the notoriety of this prisoner.'
Mr McParlin criticised the MoJ for failing to 'correct false reporting of the incident at Belmarsh.
He said restraint techniques were designed to minimise injuries to staff or prisoners 'but sometimes there are unforeseen consequences in any violent incident'.
Mr McParlin added: 'Some people have the idea that somehow it's a sitcom like Porridge. I'm afraid the reality of the modern prison system is far different from that.
He told the Times: ‘We feel that the Ministry of Justice have let the staff down here.
‘They have suspended five of our members but that does not necessarily mean they are guilty of anything.’
Adebolajo’s brother Jeremiah said Adebolajo telephoned after the incident, saying that he was bleeding and had lost the teeth.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that police are investigating the incident.
She said: ‘I can confirm five members of staff have been suspended while there is a police investigation on going.’
She added that this was ‘not unusual’.
Adebolajo has been charged with murder and possession of a revolver, and also charged with the attempted murder of two police officers.
His alleged accomplice, Michael Adebowale, is charged with murder and possession of a firearm for the May 22 attack outside Woolwich barracks.
In a statement earlier this week, the POA said the officers involved 'strenuously deny any wrongdoing' and that the prisoner had been 'subjected to restraint using techniques' which are 'only used where necessary'.
It added: 'The POA will be supporting them legally and emotionally during this difficult time.
'The use of restraint is only used where necessary when dealing with incidents up and down the country.
'The POA will fully co-operate with any police investigation and are hopeful that this matter will be resolved quickly and we expect the officers to be completely exonerated.'
Adebolajo, from Romford, east London, complained about his treatment at the hands of prison staff during a court appearance last month.
During the June 5 hearing via video-link from the prison, he was flanked by prison officers in full riot gear.
Belmarsh staff asked for him to be handcuffed on the basis he was ‘unpredictable’ and had refused to comply with their orders.
The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, terminated the video-link after Adebolajo launched into a series of rants against prison staff.
The unit in which he is being detained has the highest security classification in the country, and holds notorious terror suspects and dangerous felons.
Inmates have included Al Qaeda preacher Abu Qatada until his deportation earlier this month, and fanatic Abu Hamza, who was extradited to the US last year.
The cost of keeping each inmate in the unit is estimated at £65,000 a year.
A November 2009 inspection report on Belmarsh criticised the ‘extremely high’ amount of force used to control inmates at the prison, and said large numbers of inmates claimed they had been intimidated by prison staff.
A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘The police are investing an incident which took place at HMP Belmarsh on July 17.
‘It would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation is ongoing.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that an allegation of assault was passed to the Metropolitan Police on July 17 by Belmarsh Prison. An investigation has been started.’
Rigby, 25, a father of one from Middleton, Rochdale, died from multiple wounds after he was attacked in the street.
The Prime Minister and thousands of mourners attended his military funeral last week, at which his two-year-old son Jack wore a T-shirt bearing the words ‘My Daddy My Hero’.