Police release footage of Reading attacker being arrested

‘You have nothing to do with Islam, b*****d’: Muslim man among witnesses who chased down Reading attacker

Court hears of ‘conspicuous bravery’ of members of the public who pursued Khairi Saadallah after stabbing

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 05 January 2021 19:02

Members of the public chased the Reading attacker after he stabbed three victims to death and identified him to police officers in acts of “conspicuous bravery”, a court has heard.

One of the witnesses, a Muslim man, shouted “you have nothing to do with Islam, b*****d” at the alleged terrorist after helping hunt him down.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, murdered three men and attacked three others in view of dozens of people enjoying the sunshine in Forbury Gardens on 20 June.

He fled the park immediately after the assault but was chased by witnesses, who gave directions to emergency services.

At Saadallah’s sentencing hearing on Monday, the Old Bailey was played footage of the moment police arrested him.

CCTV showed Saadallah walking through central Reading and then starting to run, before two police cars came into view.

One car continued driving after him, while police officers jumped out of the second and chased him down on foot.

They were being directed by members of the public who had pursued Saadallah from the park, including a witness named as Mr V in proceedings.

Body-worn camera footage showed him telling police that the attacker had shouted “Allahu akbar” and saying that he was a Muslim himself.

The man shouted an Arabic phrase in at Saadallah that the court heard translates as: “You have nothing to do with Islam, b*****d!”.

The witness added: “Rot in hell! We saw him run and all he said ‘Allahuma taqabbal jihad’ which in Arabic means ‘God accept my jihad’ or whatever it is, that is what he was saying.

“I am just livid. I have lived in Reading all of my life and never thought I would see something like this.”

Khairi Saadallah fue liberado de prisión solo 16 días antes del incidente

An off-duty police officer, PC James Packman, had also been socialising in the park and followed Saadallah and gave police directions after calling 999.

As Saadallah fled the scene, other witnesses heard him shouting “Allahu akbar” and “victory on infidels”, the court heard.

Saadallah was tackled to the ground by police and taken to hospital for injuries inflicted by his own knife, which he falsely told doctors were the result of a robbery.

The court heard that he later admitted the attack while in custody, calling his victims “c***s” who “deserved it”, and adding: “I’m going to paradise for the jihad what I did to them.”

He has admitted three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, for the victims who survived, but denies the attack was terrorism.

Prosecutors say the incident was an Islamist terror attack, and are applying for him to be handed a rare whole-life order.

“In just half a minute, the defendant was able to inflict catastrophic injuries to three people and serious injuries to three others,” said Alison Morgan QC.

“That was no accident, it was not in the manner of a frenzied attack by someone wielding a knife in a random and 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.”

The Libyan asylum seeker shouted “Allahu akhbar” during the violent spree which killed teacher James Furlong, 36, scientist David Wails, 49, and US citizen Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39.

The court heard that Saadallah had tapped his first victims on the shoulder, before attacking them from behind as they sat enjoying the summer weather with friends.

It was played distressing 999 calls, as witnesses including the victims’ friends described the chaotic scene and called for help.

Ms Morgan said the similarity and precision of the fatal wounds meant Saadallah “must have known how to inflict wounds of this type, whether because of his military background in Libya or from his own research”.

Saadallah had fought for an Islamist militia that was later proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the Libyan civil war, before coming to the UK in 2012.

The court heard that he lied in his asylum application, which was refused, and committed numerous criminal offences including violent assaults.

While Saadallah was serving his most recent prison sentence in June, the Home Office notified him that the home secretary wanted to deport him “for the public good” but could take no current steps because of the ongoing Libyan civil war.

He was released from prison the following day, and launched the Reading attack little over two weeks later.

Saadallah was being monitored by probation services at the time, and was subject to licence conditions including to attend treatment for mental health and alcohol issues.

The court heard that Saadallah demonstrated features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotionally unstable personality disorder and “reality distortion” in the past.

But mental health assessments conducted in police detention found him fit to be detained and interviewed, and a psychologist said the attack was not caused by his mental health disorders or drug abuse.

Saadallah initially refused to answer questions when interviewed by police, but later “howled like a dog” and acted erratically in what prosecutors allege to be an attempt to feign madness.

Mr Justice Sweeney will decide whether the attack was committed for a religious, political or ideological cause, and to what degree Saadallah's mental state influenced his actions. The sentencing hearing continues.