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Terrorist given whole life order for stabbing three men in Reading park

Terrorist given whole life order for stabbing three men in Reading park
Khairi Saadallah was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Monday (Pictures: PA)

The terrorist who ‘executed’ three men in a ‘swift, ruthless and brutal’ knife attack in a Reading park has been given a whole life sentence.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, shouted ‘Allahu akhbar’ as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, during a rampage lasting less than a minute on June 20 last year.

Three other people – Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan – were also injured before Saadallah threw away the knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.

As he was detained, a Muslim member of the public told him: ‘You have nothing to do with Islam, bastard,’ adding: ‘I am just livid.’

The failed Libyan asylum seeker launched the rampage in Forbury Gardens, Reading, as the victims were enjoying a summer evening after the first lockdown restrictions in England were relaxed.

Saadallah, of Reading, admitted murder and attempted murder but submitted a basis of plea, denying he had been motivated by extremist beliefs or put significant planning into the attack.

But after a two-day hearing held to determine the facts, his claims were rejected by Mr Justice Sweeney today, who ruled he had been ‘advancing’ his terrorist cause.

Undated file image from Facebook of Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah who
Khairi Saadallah admitted murder (Picture: PA)
Undated family handout photos issued by Thames Valley Police of (left to right) Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails, the three victims of the Reading terror attack. Khairi Saadallah, 26, who
Victims (from left to right) Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails (Picture: PA)

The judge said Saadallah’s attack ‘was so swift, ruthless and brutal that none of them had any chance to react, let alone to defend themselves’, adding: ‘Using his combat experience in each of their cases the defendant targeted a vulnerable area where a single thrust of the knife would, as he intended, inevitably cause death.’

He went on: ‘During the course of the attack and afterwards and because he was seeking to advance a political, religious or ideological cause, the defendant was shouting in Arabic, “God is the greatest” and “God accept my jihad”.’

Mr Justice Sweeney rejected the argument that Saadallah was suffering a mental illness at the time of the killings.

Saadallah, wearing a grey jacket over a sweater and a red and white hat, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

The judge said he had ‘no doubt that this is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life’.

Handout videograb dated 20/06/20 issued by Thames Valley Police of Khairi Saadallah being chased by police after he stabbed three people to death and injured three others in Forbury Gardens, Reading. Saadallah, 26, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders and is set to be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 5, 2021. See PA story COURTS Reading. Photo credit should read: Thames Valley Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
CCTV still of Saadallah being chased by police after he stabbed three people to death (Picture: PA)

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Saadallah wanted to kill as many people as possible in the name of violent jihad.

She told the court: ‘In just half a minute, the defendant was able to inflict catastrophic injuries to three people and serious injuries to three others.

‘The prosecution’s case was that this was not an accident. This was not a frenzied attack by someone wielding a knife in a random, uncontrolled manner.

‘The defendant was aiming to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest possible time to allow him to kill as many people as possible.

‘In effect, the killings of Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong were highly effective executions.’

File photo dated 22/06/20 of police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre, after Khairi Saadallah launched a two-minute stabbing spree. Saadallah who
Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre (Picture: PA)
File photo dated 22/06/20 of police forensics officers carrying out a search near Forbury Gardens, in Reading town centre, after Khairi Saadallah launched a two-minute stabbing spree. Saadallah who
Police forensics officers carrying out a search near the scene (Picture: PA)
ID NOT CONFIRMED Photos of Khairi Saadallah from social media
Saadallah was sentenced on Monday

Ms Morgan said Saadallah was ‘ruthlessly efficient’ in his actions, having planned and carried out the attack with ‘determination and precision’.

The court heard Saadallah served as a ‘proud’ soldier of Libyan terror cult Ansar Al Sharia during the country’s civil war before fleeing Tripoli for the UK in 2012.

Since arriving in Britain, he had been convicted of various offences including theft and assault.

During his time at HMP Bullingdon, he sought out the company of prominent radical preacher Omar Brooks, who is associated with the banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun.

Handout videograb dated 19/06/20 issued by Thames Valley Police of Khairi Saadallah buying a knife at a Morrisons supermarket the day before he stabbed three people to death and injured three others in Forbury Gardens, Reading. Saadallah, 26, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders and is set to be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 5, 2021. See PA story COURTS Reading. Photo credit should read: Thames Valley Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
CCTV still of Saadallah buying a knife at a Morrisons supermarket the day before the rampage (Picture: PA)
Undated handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of a knife similar to the one used by Khairi Saadallah to stab three people to death and injure three others in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on June 20 last year. Saadallah, 26, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders and is set to be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 5, 2021. See PA story COURTS Reading. Photo credit should read: Thames Valley Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
A knife similar to the one used by Saadallah (Picture: PA)
Undated handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of a bandana worn by Khairi Saadallah as he stabbed three people to death and injured three others in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on June 20 last year. Saadallah, 26, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders and is set to be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 5, 2021. See PA story COURTS Reading. Photo credit should read: Thames Valley Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
A bandana worn by Saadallah during the attack (Picture: PA)

Saadallah was released from HMP Bullingdon on June 5 last year.

He set about researching the location for his attack, carrying out reconnaissance, and bought a knife at Morrisons supermarket.

He had contact with his probation officer and was visited by police on June 19 over concern for his mental state.

However, a psychiatrist had since concluded that the events of June 20 were ‘unrelated to the effects of either mental disorder or substance misuse’.

Floral tributes are left at Forbury Gardens, in Reading town centre, the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place at around 7pm on Saturday, leaving three people dead and another three seriously injured.PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2020. A terror suspect remains in custody accused of killing three people in a Reading park on Saturday night and wounding three others. The 25-year-old man, understood to be named Khairi Saadallah, was detained a short distance from the scene and arrested on suspicion of murder. See PA story POLICE Reading. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Floral tributes left at Forbury Gardens (Picture: PA)

Mr Furlong was described as ‘a remarkable person, an unfailingly kind and compassionate man’ in a victim impact statement by his family.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s mother Charlene said: ‘Everyone loved Joe and he always included everyone in his life. He cared deeply for family, friends and co-workers.

‘He always saw the good in people and accepted them as we accepted him.’

Joan Wails, the mother of Mr Wails, said: ‘There was no sense in David’s death, it was cruel, inhumane and cowardly. The pain I feel in my heart is unbearable.

‘What this person did to David and his two friends is monstrous. That’s what my family and I refer to him as, a monster.’

Defending, Rossano Scamardella QC argued against a whole life order due to a lack ‘significant planning or premeditation’.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Khairi Saadallah appearing via video-link at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, where he is charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder over a knife attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading on June 20. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday June 29, 2020. See PA story COURTS Reading. Photo credit should read: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
Court artist sketch of Khairi Saadallah at an earlier hearing (Picture: PA)

Following sentencing, Thames Valley Police Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, said: ‘Saadallah is a committed jihadist and was intent on killing as many people as he could on that sunny summer’s evening in June.

‘As the evidence has shown, Saadallah planned this attack in meticulous detail. The men he killed were not just murdered, they were executed at such a speed, they had very little chance to react or defend themselves.

‘The horrors of this incident took just a single minute to unfold. It took him less than 10 seconds to kill three innocent men, and he then went on to attack and tried to kill another three men before running off towards the town centre.

‘In that tiny timeframe, he changed the lives of all those involved forever.

‘He has caused unspeakable hurt and distress to the families of the three men who were brutally murdered as they were relaxing and enjoying socialising with friends on a Saturday evening.

‘I’m sure there will also be lasting effects on those who were injured in the attack, who were fortunate not to have been even more seriously harmed.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.





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