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Reading knife attacker pleads guilty to three murders

Written by on 12 November 2020

A Libyan refugee, who killed three men in a knife attack in a Reading park, has pleaded guilty to murder.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, launched a two-minute stabbing spree on a group of friends in Forbury Gardens, Reading, shortly before 7pm on Saturday 20 June.

Witnesses reported hearing him shout “Allahu Akbar” [God is great] as he chased two men in the Berkshire park, before turning his attention to a group of five friends sitting nearby.

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James Furlong was a history teacher at The Holt School in Wokingham

He was due to face trial next month for the murder of James Furlong, 36, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and David Wails, 49 and the attempted murder of three others: Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.

But at a hearing on Wednesday, Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors say Saadallah acted “without warning or provocation” and attacked his victims “in rapid succession” causing “catastrophic and fatal” injuries.

History teacher Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen, were each stabbed once in the neck while scientist Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back. All three were declared dead at the scene.

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DO NOT USE UNTIL CLEARED Joe Ritchie-Bennett
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Joe Ritchie-Bennett

Police discovered that Saadallah had bought a large kitchen knife and a pair of gloves in a Morrisons supermarket in Reading the day before the attack.

He appeared at the Old Bailey wearing a red and white beany hat and a grey jacket. His voice appeared muffled as he spoke while wearing a face mask.

Members of the victims’ families sat in court for the hearing before Mr Justice Sweeney.

Saadallah, who was born in Tripoli, Libya, had been living in the UK since 2012.

He was granted asylum in 2018 on the basis that he had been involved with groups fighting in the Libyan civil war.

He had previous convictions for offences of violence, criminal damage and possession of bladed articles, committed between June 2014 and August 2019.

David Wails has been named as the third victim of the Reading terror attack. Pic: Facebook
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David Wails Pic: Facebook

He was briefly on the radar of the security service MI5 in 2019 over concerns he may have had aspirations to travel abroad, potentially for terrorist purposes.

However, security sources said he was quickly assessed but no genuine threat or immediate risk was discovered.

After the attack, he was assessed for mental health issues but was found fit to stand trial.

Defence lawyers submitted guilty pleas on the basis that Saadallah had not entered into any substantial preparation or planning and that he was not motivated by any ideological cause.

Given the prosecution assertion that the attack was an act of terrorism, the Judge Mr Justice Sweeney has scheduled a special “Newton” hearing for early December, where he will hear argument from both sides, before ruling on whether terrorism was Saadallah’s motivation.