The family of one of the men murdered in the Reading terror attack has demanded to know why the failed Libyan asylum seeker was even in the country at the time of the outrage.
Khairi Saadallah was told on Monday he would spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett in a knife rampage in Forbury Gardens on the evening of June 20 last year.
The 26-year-old admitted murder but denied it had been a terror attack, claiming instead that he had been suffering from mental illness.
But the court heard how Saadallah had a long history of links to Islamic extremism and had shouted Allahu Akbar as he attacked his victims.
The judge Mr Justice Sweeney said it was a “swift, ruthless and brutal” attack for which he had no choice but to give Saadallah a whole life tariff.
But Mr Furlong’s family said there were serious questions around why the former child soldier from Tripoli was free to carry out his murderous attack in Britain.
Saadallah, who was a member of a banned terrorist group in Libya, first came to the UK seeking asylum in 2012 but was turned down by the Home Office.
Despite racking up a string of criminal convictions for violence he remained in the country for the next eight years and just days after being released from prison last June, bought a knife and went on his murderous rampage.
It has also emerged that while he was serving a prison sentence in 2013 he fell under the spell of the radical preacher, Omar Brooks, who is suspected of further radicalising him.
Nick Harborne, chief executive of the Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG), who had dealt with Saadallah since 2016, also claims to have warned the authorities four times that he could commit a violent crime if he did not receive appropriate support.
Speaking after Monday’s sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, Mr Furlong’s father, Gary, said: “On the facts of this case, there are now serious questions that need answering, most notably, how the killer was ever in a position to commit these horrific acts.
"Seeking asylum here in 2012 he has obtained a litany of criminal convictions, including assaults on the public, police, and emergency services, along with carrying a bladed weapon.
"Whilst in prison it was decided by the Secretary of State on June, 4 2020, just two weeks prior to the attack, that his deportation was in the public interest but for legal reasons it could not happen.”
Mr Furlong added: "I've got to be really realistic and you look at this person and you've got to say how was he ever allowed to stay in this country? How was he allowed into this country in the first place?"
He went on: "The Secretary of State needs to tell us why this guy wasn't put into some sort of detention centre before they could deport him. He wasn't safe to put back on the streets."
Saadallah claimed asylum in October 2012, arguing his life would be killed by armed militia, Ansar Al-Sharia, if he returned to Libya.
He told the Home Office he had joined the group in order to overthrow the Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi but his only role had been to guard hospitals.
But images retrieved from his mobile phone showed him in military fatigues and handling automatic weapons.
Mr Justice Sweeney said he was in no doubt Saadallah had lied about his role with Ansar Al Sharia and had held extremist Islamic views.
After his asylum application was rejected Saadallah appealed the decision but was again turned down.
However, he was not deported and in 2013 he absconded and was only tracked down months later.
He initially agreed to leave the UK voluntarily but later changed his mind and despite amassing seven convictions for 19 offences remained in the UK.
In 2018 he was granted temporary leave to remain until 2023, but last June, just days before the attack and as he was about to be released from prison, was informed that the Home Office had concluded his deportation was in the public interest.
Despite this, officials accepted this could not happen immediately because of a “legal barrier,” thought to be the unstable political situation in Libya.
Calling for an independent inquiry into the tragedy, Mr Harborne from the Reading Refugee Support Group said: “We believe that the crimes in Forbury Gardens could have been prevented. We all need to collectively examine this to ensure that lessons are learned.
“RRSG tried to raise his case with a number of agencies including Prevent, the NHS clinical commissioning group, and the prison and probation services.”
There are also questions around Saadallah’s time within prison after it emerged that he had been able to become close to a notorious hate preacher and former member of banned terror group Al Muhajiroun.
Despite an acknowledgment by the authorities that Saadallah was “impressionable and volatile,” he was allowed to spend time with Omar Brooks, praying with him and visiting the gym while they were both being held at HMP Bullingdon.
Eilish O’Gara, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and former Prison Service counter-terrorism adviser, said: “Given, the tragic events in Reading, the Prison Service must urgently explain why dangerous radicalising offenders like Omar Brooks, continue to be placed with vulnerable prisoners, despite facilities existing to isolate them.”