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Man (26) pleads guilty to murdering three men in Reading park knife attack

James Furlong, aged 36, David Wails, aged 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, aged 39, all died in the attack on 20 June.

A 26-YEAR-OLD MAN has pleaded guilty to murdering three men in a Reading park during a stabbing attack in June of this year.

Khairi Saadallah, who prosecutors have said is a terrorist, had been due to go on trial at the Old Bailey on 30 November.

But at a hearing today, he pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

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

James Furlong, aged 36, David Wails, aged 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, aged 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.

2.56580658 Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails (Thames Valley Police). Source: PA Images

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.

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

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 court had heard that 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 judge adjourned sentencing until the week of 7 December.

468f0fc0-8f02-4320-ad30-ed9a57a25fd9 The accused Khairi Saadallah. Source: PA Images

What happened on 20 June

According to a case summary, the defendant had bought a large knife and gloves from a Morrisons supermarket the day before.

On 20 June at 6.52pm, he was caught on CCTV discarding his rucksack and damaging what was believed to be a mobile phone which was later recovered.

He walked into Forbury Gardens at 6.54pm, where numerous members of the public were gathered.

According to eyewitnesses, he walked along a footpath before suddenly running towards a group of men sitting on the grass.

The attack was “without warning or provocation and in rapid succession”, according to the case summary.

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He stabbed Mr Richie-Bennett and Mr Furlong once in their necks, severing their main arteries, and stabbed Mr Wails once in the back.

He then stabbed Mr Young in the head, causing a deep cut that needed 28 stitches, and chased two other males.

Witnesses allegedly heard him shouting “Allah Akhbar”.

2.56580647 Police forensic officers carrying out a search near Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre.

Saadallah turned his attention to a second group sitting nearby and stabbed Mr Edwards in the back and Mr Nisudan in the face and hands.

The defendant then discarded the knife and ran out of the park.

An off-duty police officer called 999 and followed the attacker. Within minutes of the emergency call, he was apprehended by police.

The accused’s history

Saadallah had a history of mental health issues, debt and homelessness, according to court documents. He arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in 2012, having fled the civil war in his home country of Libya in North Africa.

Saadallah had six previous convictions for 11 crimes between June 2015 and January last year, according to a 2019 Court of Appeal judgment obtained by the PA news agency.

He was originally jailed for 25 months and 20 days in October 2019 for a string of crimes but the sentence was later reduced in March following an appeal.

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