Reading terror attack: Libyan national Khairi Saadallah named as suspect for stabbing that killed three

Three victims killed and three others injured in park stabbing

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Sunday 21 June 2020 13:32 BST
Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu issues statement following Reading terror attack

The suspect arrested over a terror attack that left three victims dead in Reading is a Libyan national called Khairi Saadallah, The Independent understands.

Saadallah, 25, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody being questioned over the incident.

Police are understood to be investigating mental health issues in connection with the attack.

Neighbours at the flat block where he lived in Whitley, just under two miles from the scene of the mass stabbing, believed he had been recently released from prison.

Three people were killed and a further three victims seriously injured, making it the deadliest terrorist incident to strike Britain since the June 2017 London Bridge attack.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK counterterror policing, said inquiries conducted so far did not suggest anyone else was involved and that no other suspects were being sought.

“However, detectives working closely with the security services, continue to make enquiries to ensure that there were no others involved and our investigative priority remains to ensure that there is no related outstanding threat to the public,” he added.

“Although the motivation for this heinous act is far from certain, Counter Terrorism Policing South East has taken on responsibility for leading this investigation.

"We are clear that it was not associated at all with the Black Lives Matter protest, which was taking place peacefully earlier in the day, and which had concluded some hours before this attack took place."

It is the fourth suspected terrorist knife attack in six months, following the stabbings at Fishmongers’ Hall in November, HMP Whitemoor prison in January and Streatham in February.

On 4 November, the UK's terror threat level was lowered from severe to substantial, and Mr Basu said there had been “positive developments” in reducing the risk of attacks.

The prime minister held a meeting with security officials, police and senior ministers over the incident on Sunday morning.

Three people killed in Reading stabbing attack

Boris Johnson said he was “appalled and sickened that people should lose their lives in this way and our thoughts are very much with the family and the friends of the victims today”.

He added: “The police must get on with their job, get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and so it would be difficult really to comment in detail.

"Except to say this - if there are lessons we need to learn about how we handle such cases, how we handle the events leading up to such cases, then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary."

Police said cordons would remain in place as investigations continued in Forbury Gardens, where the attack happened, and at a block of flats where the suspect lived in nearby Whitley.

The knifeman struck at around 7pm on Saturday evening, as groups of friends and families enjoyed the evening sunshine.

A personal trainer who fled the attack said the knifeman had shouted “unintelligible words” before stabbing victims in the neck.

“The park was pretty full, a lot of people sat around drinking with friends, when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them,” said Lawrence Wort, 20.

”He stabbed three of them, severely in the neck, and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running.

“When he realised that he couldn’t catch us, he tried to stab another group sat down, he got one person in the back of the neck and then when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park.”


Graphic footage from the scene showed the three victims lying injured metres apart on the grass, surrounded by members of the public as police carried out emergency first aid.

Officers could be heard calling for a defibrillator, as CPR was conducted on one victim.

One of the patients admitted to Royal Berkshire Hospital has been discharged, while another remains in a stable condition under observation, a spokesperson said.

The suspect, a young man of North African or Middle Eastern appearance who was wearing black, was chased and pinned to the floor by police officers.

Heavily-armed Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers later searched a flat in Basingstoke Road, in the Reading suburb of Whitley.

A local woman, who did not want to be named, told The Independent the flat where the suspect lived was council-owned and used as temporary accommodation, including for people recently released from prison.

At the beginning of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, the closure of large venues and transport hubs caused counter-terror police to assess that the risk of mass stabbings had reduced, because of a reduction in crowded places.

But at the same time, there were concerns that the effects of online radicalisation could be more pronounced as people became more isolated and spent more time on the Internet.

The head of the Prevent counter-extremism programme previously told The Independent referrals had fallen sharply during the pandemic, raising fears that potential threats were not being spotted by teachers, probation workers, NHS staff and other agencies forced to reduce contact with vulnerable people.

Isis has incited its supporters to carry out low-technology terror attacks using knives on "soft targets" around the world.

The tactics have been used in several recent terror attacks in the UK, including at Fishmongers’ Hall in November and Streatham in February.

Anyone with information about the incident or video material is asked to contact police on 101.

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