THE KNIFEMAN who rampaged through Reading’s Forbury Gardens killing three people has today been handed a whole-life sentence.
Khairi Saadallah, 26, shouted “Allahu akhbar” as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 last year.
Three other people – Stephen Young, 51, Patrick Edwards, 29, and Nishit Nisudan, 34, – were also injured in the horrific attack before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.
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The failed Libyan asylum seeker had launched the attacks in the town centre park as the victims were enjoying a summer evening after the first lockdown restrictions in England were relaxed.
Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.
Today, Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced him at the Old Bailey to a whole-life order, saying it was a “rare and exceptional” case.
This means Saadallah will serve that sentence without any possibility of parole or conditional release.
The judge said: “The two groups were each doing nothing more than sitting in gardens, a focal point of Reading since the 18th century.”
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The victims were each killed with a single thrust of the knife with the attack lasting less than a minute.
Mr Justice Sweeney said: “His attack on them was so swift, ruthless and brutal that none of them had any chance to react, let alone to defend themselves.
“Using his combat experience in each of their cases the defendant targeted a vulnerable area where a single thrust of the knife would, as he intended, inevitably cause death.”
The judge said the defendant had done substantial planning.
He added: “During the course of the attack and afterwards and because he was seeking to advance a political, religious or ideological cause, the defendant was shouting in Arabic, ‘God is the greatest’ and ‘God accept my jihad’.”
He rejected the argument that Saadallah was suffering a mental illness at the time of the killings.
Saadallah, wearing a grey jacket over a sweater and a red and white hat, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.
Mr Justice Sweeney said he had “no doubt that this is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life.”
His victims’ families appeared emotional as the judge sentenced Saadallah to a whole-life term. He was also sentenced to concurrent 24-year jail terms for each count of attempted murder.
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Since arriving in Britain in 2012, Saadallah had been convicted of various offences including theft and assault.
During his time at HMP Bullingdon, he sought out the company of prominent radical preacher Omar Brooks, who is associated with the banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun.
Saadallah was released from HMP Bullingdon on June 5 last year.
He set about researching the location for his attack, carrying out reconnaissance, and bought a knife at a Morrisons supermarket.
Saadallah had contact with his probation officer and was visited by police on June 19 over concern for his mental state.
However, a psychiatrist had since concluded that the events of June 20 were “unrelated to the effects of either mental disorder or substance misuse”.