Who is Reading terror suspect Khairi Saadallah?

Luke Powell and Flora Thompson, PA
·3-min read

Reading terror suspect Khairi Saadallah had a history of mental health issues, debt and homelessness, according to court documents.

The 25-year-old arrived in the UK as a refugee, having fled the civil war in his home country of Libya in North Africa.

He was granted asylum for five years in 2018, according to The Sun newspaper.

Saadallah was known to security services prior to Saturday’s fatal knife attack in a Reading park which left three people dead.

He briefly came to the attention of MI5 last year, but the information provided did not meet the threshold of investigation.

A security source said MI5 had received intelligence he planned to travel abroad, possibly for terrorism purposes, but the threat was found to be insubstantial.

Forbury Gardens incident
Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Saadallah had six previous convictions for 11 crimes between June 2015 and January last year, according to the papers obtained by the PA news agency.

He was originally jailed for 25 months and 20 days in October for a string of crimes and the sentence was later reduced, the Court of Appeal judgment shows.

Offences included racially aggravated assault, knife offences and criminal damage.

In November 2018 he called a police officer a “slave” and spat in her face while being detained under the Mental Health Act after reports he was attempting suicide.

The police officer described the act as “being the vilest thing she had been subjected to as a police officer”, according to the court documents.

He admitted possessing a bladed article and criminal damage after being found “apparently very drunk” by police officers in December 2018 with a butter knife in his waistband, claiming he was “out for revenge”, the judgment said, having “been attacked” and left with a head injury that required stitches.

While in custody he defaced a copy of the police code of practice “with his own excrement”.

In January 2019 he was also involved in an altercation with a security guard, during which he struck the man in the face with his belt, court documents show.

He was convicted of affray and assault by beating an emergency worker.

Security guard Sydney McDonald, 65, told PA he was assaulted by the suspect last year when he stopped him from shoplifting from the Sainsbury’s store where he works in Friar Street in Reading town centre.

Mr McDonald said he recognised him from when he was attacked with a belt by a man brandishing a broken wine bottle.

Sainsbury’s security guard Sydney McDonald
Sainsbury’s security guard Sydney McDonald (Thomas Hornall/PA)

In September 2019 Saadallah was jailed for 10 weeks after admitting spitting at District Judge Sophie Toms as she sentenced him six months earlier at Reading Magistrates’ Court for two previous convictions.

He had also breached an earlier suspended sentenced for carrying a knife in a plastic bag at a supermarket, according to the court papers.

Saadallah, who had lived in Basingstoke Road in Reading, had his overall sentence reduced to 17 months and 20 days behind bars at the Court of Appeal in March this year.

His mental health problems were noted by Mr Justice Goss, one of the appeal judges who handed down the judgment.

Forbury Gardens incident
Armed police officers at a block of flats off Basingstoke Road in Reading (Steve Parsons/PA)

According to the court papers, he had a history of debt and homelessness, alcohol and substance misuse, and “suffered from the effects of” post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and a personality disorder.

In the document he was also described as being “aggressive and unpredictable”.

In the judgment Mr Justice Goss said the sentencing judge had “observed that numerous outside agencies had attempted to help him, but he kept on committing deeply unpleasant violent offences”.

It is understood Saadallah was released from prison earlier this month and the Covid-19 pandemic played no part in the decision to free him.

He left HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, 17 days ago after serving less than half of his sentence, according to The Sun.