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Teacher fatally stabbed in Reading park ‘would have tried to help killer’

Written by on 6 January 2021

A teacher stabbed in an alleged terror attack has been described as a selfless person who would have helped his killer “without hesitation” if asked, a court has heard.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, faces a whole life tariff for the murders of James Furlong, 36, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and David Wails, 49, and the attempted murder of three others in a Reading park on 20 June last year.

Mr Furlong, originally from Liverpool, was the head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham.

His French partner, Tony Belicard, a fellow teacher, told the Old Bailey: “Since he was murdered, I learnt that he gave a significant amount of money to a homeless person, who gave it back to him months later, and helped a woman victim of domestic violence to escape her situation. He was so humble that he never talked to me about it.

“James was an incredibly kind person. If his murderer had asked him for help instead of taking his life, James would have reached out to him without any hesitation.”

Mr Belicard, who had been with Mr Furlong since February 2019, added: “One of his close friends reported to me that he once told him I was his Saving Grace. For me, he was simply The One.”

He said the pair planned to live together and talked about adopting a child.

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“My life is now filled with sadness, despair and hopelessness. Although not attempted so far, the thoughts of taking my own life crossed my mind multiple times. It never happened to me before. I will never be the same person,” he said.

Image:
Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre, after Khairi Saadallah’s two-minute stabbing spree

Mr Furlong’s father, Gary, described his son as “a wonderful man” and said his family were “immeasurably proud of him”.

He described the moment police broke the news of his death as “the single worst experience of our lives” and said the family were only allowed limited time with him because of COVID restrictions.

“To walk away from the hospital knowing we will never see our son alive again broke our hearts,” he added.

The court has heard Saadallah served a jail term in 2017 with notorious preacher Omar Brooks. Originally from Libya, he had been refused asylum but was not deported because of “legal barriers”.

Saadallah has admitted three murders and three attempted murder, but denies the attack in Reading had a terrorist motive.

His defence team has argued he should not receive a whole life prison term due to a lack of serious premeditation, the “fleeting strength” of his commitment to Islamist jihad, and his mental health issues.

The sentencing hearing continues.