Reading terror attack families call for ‘full and fearless’ inquest into deaths

The families of the Reading terror attack victims have called for a “full and fearless” investigation into how their deaths could have been prevented as inquest proceedings got under way.

Khairi Saadallah shouted “Allahu akhbar” as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 2020 in the town’s Forbury Gardens.

At a pre-inquest review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday, Coroner Martyn Zeidman KC told the victims’ families he had visited the site where the attack took place and “reflected on some of the issues… by sitting in that park”.

Forbury Gardens incident
James Furlong, Dr David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett were all murdered in June 2020 (Family handout/PA)

Although a full inquest date was not set at the hearing, the families spoke of their relief that proceedings were under way after a “very painful two and a half years”.

Giving introductory remarks at the pre-inquest review hearing, the coroner said he wanted to “truly reflect right at the very beginning on the huge horror that has occurred.”

Mr Zeidman said he wanted to investigate “what state agencies knew about Saadallah” and the “risk he posed to the public” before the killings.

During the hearing, counsel for the families Peter Skelton KC told the court there were “clear systems involved that failed to protect the public… and decisions made that did not protect the public.”

Forbury Gardens incident
Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah was handed a whole-life order in January 2021 (Thames Valley Police/PA)

Three other people, Stephen Young, 51, Patrick Edwards, 29, and Nishit Nisudan, 34, were also injured before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.

In January 2021, the killer was handed a whole-life sentence at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

Speaking after the hearing on Thursday, Gary Furlong, on behalf of the families of the victims, said: “It has been a long and very painful two and a half years and we are relieved that at long last the inquest process into the deaths of James, David and Joseph is under way.

“As family members we all want to know how the awful deaths of our loved ones could have happened and we trust the coroner to carry out a full and fearless investigation of the circumstances and events that led up to that day.”