Reading terror attack: 'Time has stood still since stabbing,' family of man killed tell inquest

The family of a man stabbed to death in a park in Reading during a terrorist attack have told the opening of an inquest that "time has stood still" since the attacks.

Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan refugee, stabbed three men to death and attempted to kill others at Forbury Gardens on 20 June 2020.

The inquest was told that Saadallah, who was later handed a whole life order, had "cleansed himself" after going to his brother's house, showering and shaving his body hair.

He had viewed material of the September 11 attacks and was heard yelling "Allahu Akbar" [God is great] and "God accept my jihad".

In a 30-second rampage that happened during a brief relaxation of pandemic lockdown rules, Saadallah, then aged 25, killed James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett and attempted to kill three others.

The men were meeting in the park because their local pub, the Blagrave Arms, had been shut during the COVID outbreak.

In his opening statement, the judge coroner, Sir Adrian Fulford, said the attack was "so swift, ruthless and brutal" that none of the victims "had any chance to react let alone defend themselves".

"It was only due to the loss of the element of surprise that his attempt to murder Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan failed," he added.

The inquest was told that Saadallah had committed a string of previous violent offences and had recently been released from HMP Bullingdon.

He suffered from an antisocial personality disorder and had "moderate to severe" substance abuse but was not suffering from any major mental illness, the inquest was told.

His brother had called the police the day before the attack, telling them he was concerned that Saadallah was going to harm himself or others and had talked of blowing himself up and going to heaven.

Officers from Thames Valley Police visited his flat, but Saadallah was "essentially dismissive of any concerns about his wellbeing," Nicholas Moss KC, counsel to the inquest, told the hearing.

Among other elements, the inquest will "consider whether this terrible incident could have been avoided within the context of whether I should give a report on the prevention of future deaths," the coroner said.

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Robert Ritchie Bennett, the brother of Joseph, an American citizen who was killed in the attack, told the inquest over a video link: "When you think of Joe, you smile because he was lovable."

He added: "He was funny - hilarious at times. He was sincere. He listened. He ensured everyone felt included. He ensured everyone had a voice. He was the definition of the word ambassador."

He described his brother as a "blessing to the entire world" and that his parents still had a calendar on their fridge "as if our family is frozen in time".

"There is a hole in our hearts and a void that will never be filled since you were taken from us," he said.

"Time has stood still for us. They say people move on. We have not been able to move on without you. It has been too painful."

The last line of a Father's Day card, sent a few days before the attack read: "I will be thinking of you from afar."

His brother said: "We don't think Joe knew how afar he would be away from us when he wrote those words.

"It is unfair what happened to Joe. He did not deserve to be murdered."

The inquest continues.