UK court jails Libyan extremist Khairi Saadallah for life over triple murder

Former militant fighter's stabbing spree in Reading deemed a terrorist incident by British judge

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Libyan asylum seeker Khairi Saad­allah, 25, who is said to have attacked a group of men, stabbing several people at Reading's Forbury Gardens, killing three people. Joe Ritchie-Bennett, is the second victim of the suspected terror attack in Reading on Saturday to be named of the three people who were murdered. American Mr Ritchie-Bennett had lived in the UK for 15 years. His father confirmed his death to US TV  network CBS. Teacher James Furlong and one other person also died. Khairi Saad­allah attacked a group of men, stabbing several people at Reading's Forbury Gardens, to which police were called at about 7pm. He is said to have carried out a lone attack shouting "unintelligible words" and was rugby-tackled to the ground by police and arrested shortly after the attack. Saadallah, from Reading and was arrested initially on suspicion of murder. He was later re-arrested on Sunday under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Police have the power to detain him without charge for up to 14 days. Saadallah is reported to have been known to M15 and was released from prison just 16 days ago. He is said to have been 'a tacking timeboms' who wanted to travel to Syria to fight and was on medication for post traumatic stress and a suspected personality disorder before his release. Khairi Saad­allah is pictured here on an "open" Facebook page.
Reading Terror Attack, UK - 22 Jun 2020

A Libyan extremist who stabbed to death three men in a minute in a British park has been told he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, carried out the attacks at gardens in Reading, 65 kilometres west of London, in June last year as he attempted to kill as many people as possible in the name of Islamist extremism.

Saadallah killed three and injured three more before he was pursued by an off-duty police officer and arrested. He later told officers that he would be going to paradise as a result of what he had done.

“His attack on them was so swift, ruthless and brutal that none of them had a chance to react, let alone to defend themselves,” said the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, at Monday’s sentencing hearing. “For the avoidance of doubt, I conclude all six offences had a terrorist connection."

As a teenager, Saadallah had trained and fought for at least eight months with the Libyan militant group Ansar Al Sharia during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi and following his downfall.

He lied about his role with the terrorist group when he applied for asylum in the UK and continued to harbour extremist views. Extremist images were found on his phone including the ISIS flag and pictures entitled "Martyrs of Volcano of Rage".

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 22, 2020 Police forensics officers dressed in Tyvek protective PPE (personal protective equipment) suits and wearing masks, conduct a search as they work outside Forbury Gardens park in Reading, west of London, the scene of the June 20 stabbing spree. A Libyan asylum seeker who executed three men in a knife attack in Reading on June 20, 2020, was jailed for life, a UK court ruled on January 11, 2021. During sentencing at the Old Bailey in London, the judge said Khairi Saadallah, 26, had launched an attack that was so "swift, ruthless and brutal" that none of his three victims had a chance to defend themselves. / AFP / Ben STANSALL

After arriving in the UK in 2012, he was convicted of offences including theft and assault. While at one prison, he sought the company of prominent extremist preacher Omar Brooks, who is connected to the banned terrorist organisation Al Muhajiroun.

He was released in June last year and moved swiftly to prepare for the attack. He bought an eight-inch knife from a supermarket before striking on June 20, little more than two weeks after his release.

He set about his unwitting victims shouting “Allahu akhbar” and fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, who were enjoying a summer evening after the first Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England were lifted. He injured three others before throwing away the knife and fleeing.

“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,” said the judge.

He said it was a “rare and exceptional case” in which Saadallah would have to stay in prison for the rest of his life. He rejected arguments that he was not motivated by terrorism and that he was suffering a mental illness at the time of the attacks.

About 100 people in the UK have been told they must stay in prison until they die following the introduction of “whole life” sentences in the 1980s.