Reading terror attack: Man arrested on suspicion of stabbing three people to death in park was under probation supervision

Khairi Saadallah was released from prison just 16 days before incident

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Monday 22 June 2020 16:31 BST
Three people killed in Reading stabbing attack

The Libyan man accused of launching a terror attack that left three victims dead in Reading at the weekend was under probation supervision at the time, The Independent understands.

Khairi Saadallah was released on appeal from HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire just 16 days before the mass stabbing.

He was being supervised by the National Probation Service, which is being handed all offender monitoring under a new system next year, after serving a non terror-related sentence.

Mr Saadallah, 25, remains in custody following Saturday’s attack in a Reading park, where three victims were killed and three others seriously injured.

As counter-terror officers investigate, mental health is understood to be considered a major factor in the Reading attack.

The suspect was jailed in October for a string of non-terror offences before his sentence was reduced at the Court of Appeal to a term of 17 months and 20 days.

One of the appeal judges who gave the judgment in March, Mr Justice Goss, noted Saadallah’s various mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorder, in reducing the sentence.

This weekend’s attack was the fourth alleged terror attack to hit the UK since officials lowered the terror threat level from severe to substantial in November.

The three previous attacks, in Fishmongers Hall, HMP Whitemoor and Streatham, were all allegedly carried out by released or serving prisoners.

Proposed laws that would force convicted terrorists to spend longer inside jail is currently going through parliament, amid concerns about radicalisation among inmates and the effectiveness of counter-extremism programmes.

Mr Saadallah was detained close to the scene at Forbury Gardens on Saturday night and arrested on suspicion of murder.

He was later re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act, which gives powers to hold him without charge for up to 14 days. Police have said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a 39-year-old American man who moved to the UK 15 years ago, and history teacher James Furlong, 36, were two of the three people killed in Saturday’s attack.

The name of the third victim has yet to be made public, while two people injured in the attack remain in hospital.

Former head of UK counter terrorism Sir Mark Rowley told the Today programme that police and security services face a “wicked problem” deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack.

The prime minister has promised the government “will not hesitate” to act if there are changes that could be made to legislation in the wake of Saturday’s events.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the PM took part in the minute’s silence for the victims at 10am and continues to receive “regular updates from security officials”.

Silence held outside school where victim of Reading attack worked

Speaking at the scene in Reading, home secretary Priti Patel said it was important to “learn the lessons” from the attack.

She said: “We’ve seen three people die, so there is extensive work that’s taking place, yes, with the police but obviously now with CT (counter-terrorism) police as well, and the intelligence community and all aspects of policing.

“We’ve got a lot of information to gather, we have to look at all aspects as to what happened on Saturday, the individual that’s in custody as well, to ensure that, yes, justice is served.”

Addressing MPs later in Monday in the Commons, Ms Patel said the threat from “lone wolf” attackers was growing.

Defending the country’s counter-terrorism strategy as “one of the most comprehensive approaches ... in the world,” she added that, “But we have all too often seen the results of poisonous extremist ideology. The terrorist threat that we face is complex, diverse and rapidly changing.

“It is clear that the threat posed by lone actors is growing.”

Additional reporting by PA

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