Reading park knifeman facing life for ‘terror’ murder of three friends

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Reading attacker Khairi Saadallah has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to three murders and three attempted murders in a park this summer – but denies being a terrorist.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, who prosecutors say was a terrorist, had been due to go on trial at the Old Bailey on November 30.

But at a hearing today, he pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders – and denied he was motivated by ideology or religion.

Saadallah launched a two-minute series of knife attacks on two groups sat in Forbury Gardens, Reading, shortly before 7pm on Saturday June 20.

James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, all died, while three others – their friend Stephen Young, and Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, who were sitting in a nearby group – were injured.

History teacher Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen, were each stabbed once in the neck while scientist Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back.

All three were declared dead at the scene.

The attack lasted less than two minutes.

Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, entered his guilty pleas in the dock of court two of the Old Bailey.

Wearing a red and white beany hat and grey jacket, the defendant’s voice appeared muffled as he spoke while wearing a face mask.

Members of the victims’ families sat in court for the hearing before Mr Justice Sweeney.

The judge told the court the defendant had submitted a basis of plea, denying substantial preparation or planning and saying he was not motivated by an ideological cause, in contrast with the prosecution case which is that it was a terror attack.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the case merited a “whole life” sentencing.

The judge adjourned sentencing until the week of December 7.

The court heard several issues needed to be argued.

They included whether there was a substantial degree of pre-meditation and planning, whether it was for a religious, political or ideological cause and to what degree Saadallah’s mental state influenced his actions.

The victims’ loved ones sat in silence as they heard the guilty pleas.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s family in the US had attended court by video link.

The Libyan refugee was alleged to have purchased the kitchen knife the day before the attack.

Mr Young needed 28 stitches after he was knifed once in his head while Mr Edwards was stabbed in the back and Mr Nisudan suffered wounds to his face and hand as he tried to protect himself.

Saadallah came to the UK from Libya as a refugee in 2012.

David Wails’ parents previously said he had “never hurt anyone in his life”.

They said: “We are broken-hearted at losing him.”

He moved to Reading in 2000 after starting work at chemicals firm Johnson Matthey, focussing on clean energy.

His colleagues said he used his expertise to make a “positive impact on the world”.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, an American who had lived in the UK for 15 years, “was the most kind, caring and loving person you could meet”, his family said.

James Furlong was a history teacher at The Holt school in Wokingham, Berks.