Reading terror attacker loses bid to appeal whole-life prison sentence

Khairi Saadallah murdered three men as they socialised in a park after lockdown restrictions were eased

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Thursday 14 October 2021 18:30 BST
<p>Khairi Saadallah was given a whole-life term for the Reading terror attack</p>

Khairi Saadallah was given a whole-life term for the Reading terror attack

The Reading terror attacker has lost a bid to appeal his whole-life prison sentence.

Judges at the Court of Appeal refused Khairi Saadallah’s attempt to challenge the term, saying there was “no substance” to his arguments.

The 26-year-old was told he would never be freed after murdering three people and injuring three more in a frenzied stabbing spree as they socialised in a park last year.

Sentencing him in January, a judge said it was a “rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires that you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life”.

On Thursday, Saadallah appeared at the Court of Appeal via video-link from HMP Belmarsh to launch his challenge.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb and Mr Justice Henshaw, ruled that it was unsuccessful.

Lord Burnett said: “We have concluded that there is no substance in any of the criticisms made of the judge's conclusions.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, the head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE), said she welcomed the decision.

She called Saadallah “a committed jihadist”, who had bee intent on killing as many people and planned the attack in “meticulous detail”.

“The horrors of this incident took less than a minute to unfold. In that tiny timeframe, he changed the lives of all those involved forever,” she added.

“Today’s judgment won’t bring James, David and Joe back to their families, however I hope it will bring some small degree of comfort to them, knowing that the terrorist responsible for their murders will remain in prison for the rest of his life.”

During the trial, the defence had argued that Saadallah should not receive a whole-life order, claiming that there was no extremist motivation and that his culpability was reduced by his mental health.

But Mr Justice Sweeney said the rare sentence was a correct starting point, because of the “exceptionally high” seriousness of the offences, the fact the attack was premeditated and Saadallah’s terrorist motivation.

The sentencing judge found that Saadallah was not suffering from a mental disorder which lowered his degree of culpability for the attack, and that he “made crude attempts to portray himself as ‘mad’” during police interviews.

He ruled that the attack was committed for a “religious, political or ideological cause”, after Saadallah shouted “God is the greatest” and “God accept my jihad” in Arabic during the attack.

Saadallah launched the rampage in under a minute in Forbury Gardens on 20 June 2020, targeting two groups of friends socialising in the park after lockdown restrictions were relaxed.

The court heard that his assault was so swift and brutal, that the men who died did not have a chance to react or defend themselves.

The Libyan asylum seeker killed teacher James Furlong, 36, scientist David Wails, 49, and US citizen Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39.

He also stabbed their friend Stephen Young, who survived, then moved on to the second group, where he stabbed Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, who also survived.

In emotional victim impact statements read to the court, bereaved relatives told of their agony and said Saadallah had “brutally killed three of the nicest men in the world”.

After his arrival in the UK, he had committed 16 criminal offences including two of racially or religiously aggravated harassment, eight violent crimes and two involving knife possession.

The day before Saadallah was released from his most recent prison sentence on 5 June 2020, the Home Office notified him of their intention to deport him, but no steps could currently be taken because of the ongoing Libyan conflict.

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