Reading attack terrorist who stabbed three gay men to death jailed for whole life

Nick Duffy
·3-min read

Khairi Saadallah, the terrorist who killed three gay men in the Reading terror attack, has been jailed for the remainder of his life.

Saadallah, 26, admitted three charges of murder and three charges of attempted murder after a knife rampage in Reading’s Forbury Gardens in June 2020.

The three men killed in the attack – James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett – were all beloved members of the local LGBT+ community who had been in the park with a group of friends.

Their friend Stephen Young was also injured, as well as another pair who had been nearby, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.

Saadallah, who was born in Libya and was granted asylum in the UK in 2018, had previous convictions for violent and criminal offences, had been released from prison just weeks before the attack. He was known to security service MI5 over suspected links to terror groups.

At the Old Bailey on Monday (11 January), Mr Justice Sweeney made Saadallah subject to a whole life order, a rare sentence that means he will spend the rest of his life behind bars with no prospect of release.

Reading attack murderer denied terror.

Prosecutors had sought a sentencing of life without parole, arguing the killings were a terror attack, but Khairi Saadallah denied a terror motive.

During the knife attack, the defendant was heard to shout words to the effect of “Allahu akbar”. He was arrested minutes after the rampage, after an off-duty police officer called 999.

Reading attack: Khairi Saadallah, 26, has admitted three charges of murder and three charges of attempted murder
Khairi Saadallah, 26, has admitted three charges of murder and three charges of attempted murder

At a hearing last week, prosecutors said the murders were committed “for the purposes of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”, which is the legal definition of terrorism under UK law.

Saadallah claimed he had only a “fleeting or occasional interest” in Islamist extremism and described himself as “part Muslim and part Catholic”.

“The defendant believed that in carrying out this attack he was acting in pursuit of his extremist ideology,” claimed prosecutor Alison Morgan QC.

“An extremist ideology that he appears to have held for some time. He believed that in killing as many people as possible that day he was performing an act of religious jihad.”

She added: “The defendant was aiming to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest possible time to allow him to kill as many people as possible.

“In effect, the killings of Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong were highly effective executions.”

Reading attack victims remembered by LGBT+ community.

The city’s LGBT+ community was devastated by the news that three of its own had been murdered in the attack.

Reading Pride raised £15,385 via a crowdfunder to help cover funeral expenses for grieving loved ones, as well as to build a permanent memorial for the victims.

CEO Martin Cooper paid tribute to the men. “James, Joe, and David were true gentlemen. Each with their own unique personality,” he said.

Reading attack: Joe Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong were killed in the knife rampage
Joe Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong were killed in the knife rampage

James Furlong was a school teacher, described by friends as a “proud gay man who wanted equality for all”.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett was a “brilliant and loving” American who had lost his husband to cancer just over five years ago.

David Wails was a scientist who always “made people smile”.