Terrorist sentenced to life in prison following murder of three people

Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah called victims ‘c**ts’ and said they ‘deserved it’

‘I’m going to paradise for the jihad what I did to them,’ terrorist told police

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Monday 11 January 2021 19:40

“Those men I killed were wronguns, they deserved it,” Khairi Saadallah told a police officer on 21 June.

Hours before, he had murdered three victims as they spent time with their friends in a Reading park.

Police declared that the stabbing was a terrorist incident, but Saadallah later denied that he had extremist motives.

The prosecution and defence wrangled over the impact of his past as a child soldier in Libya, apparent viewing of Islamist content online, mental health problems and abuse of drugs and alcohol.

But at no point did anyone claim that Saadallah felt any remorse.

The 26-year-old Libyan asylum seeker did not speak during his three-day sentencing hearing, and appeared unmoved by emotional and sometimes angry statements from his victims’ families.

They had heard how after being arrested, Saadallah initially attempted to present himself as the victim of a robbery.

In the minutes after the attack, he had slashed his arm with a razor blade, and was also injured by his own knife after he slipped while stabbing his victims.

Saadallah tried to flee but was chased by witnesses, including a Muslim man who shouted “you have nothing to do with Islam, b*****d” as he was arrested.

When he was taken to hospital for treatment, Saadallah told police “I am a victim, I’ve been attacked”, then lied to doctors about a fake robbery where “someone went for my phone and I grabbed the knife or something”.

But the denials did not last long. The following day, he was arrested for terrorism offences and started making what police called “unsolicited comments” from his cell.

Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails, the three victims of the Reading attack

“I want to plead guilty to the jihad that I done,” he said. “Those men I killed were wronguns, they deserved it … I’m going to paradise for the jihad what I did to them.”

Police heard Saadallah bosting of how violently he stabbed his victims and insulting them, telling officers: “I killed those c**ts.”

He had murdered James Furlong, 36, scientist David Wails, 49, and US citizen Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39.

Saadallah 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”.

In initial interviews with investigators, Saadallah refused to answer questions, but on the 23 June he started howling like a dog, doing press-ups and making apparently random comments.

A psychological report cited by the prosecution said he had “rather crudely attempted to feign madness”, having previously been treated for mental health issues.

Later the same day, Saadallah came up with a new story and told investigators that he was controlled by “the magic”, and then alleged that his victims had harassed his sister on Facebook.

He denied the stabbing was a terror attack and described himself as “a bit Muslim and Catholic”.

Sentencing Saadallah to a rare whole-life prison term, Justice Sweeney ruled that the stabbings were a terror attack.

“His intention, for the purpose of  advancing his extremist Islamic cause, was to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, and thereafter to escape – then to injure himself with the plastic razor in the hope that he could pass himself off as a victim,” the judge said.

He said Saadallah “held extremist Islamic views ... albeit with lapses” for almost a decade, and that his true beliefs were betrayed by his shouts of “Allahu akbar” and “God accept my jihad” during the attack.

Saadallah had viewed violent and extremist videos, images of 9/11 and the Isis flag, and associated with notorious hate preacher Abu Izzadeen during a 2016 prison sentence.

Handwritten notes found in his bedroom talked of carrying out jihad and being rewarded by virgins in paradise, and called for the death of “sorcerers and all their supporters”.

Justice Sweeney said Saadallah had meticulously planned the attack after being freed from prison on 5 June, conducting reconnaissance in Forbury Gardens, and buying new clothing to “blend in and achieve maximum surprise”.

The judge said Saadallah, who had numerous previous convictions for violence, used his military training to select the 8in knife as a murder weapon and administer single, lethal blows.

Justice Sweeney said he attempted to smash his mobile phone minutes before the attack to destroy incriminating evidence, and “made crude attempts to portray himself as ‘mad’” during police interviews.

“This is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires that you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life,” he told Saadallah.

It was the fourth consecutive jihadist terror attack to be carried out by a released or serving prisoner, following the incidents at Fishmongers’ Hall, HMP Whitemoor and Streatham.

Saadallah had been freed from jail under probation monitoring, and subject to licence conditions, including attending treatment for mental health and alcohol issues.

A day before his release from prison, the Home Office had notified Saadallah that he would be deported for the “public good”, but no steps could be taken because of the ongoing Libyan conflict.