/Second victim of Reading attack is brilliant and loving American man

Second victim of Reading attack is brilliant and loving American man

The second victim of the Reading terror attack was today named as a ‘brilliant and loving’ 39-year-old American pharmaceutical worker who had been living in Britain for 15 years.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, from Philadelphia in the US, had been enjoying a picnic at Forbury Gardens in Reading with his friends, including fellow victim James Furlong, 36, a history teacher, when they were attacked on Saturday.

A third person died, two others were injured remain in hospital and one has now been discharged. Police including counter-terrorism detectives continue to question Libyan suspect Khairi Saadallah who is the alleged murderer.

A minute’s silence will be held in Reading at 10am today, while students of Mr Furlong, head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, will flock to a church to remember him by lighting candles and laying flowers.

Meanwhile a Sainsbury’s security guard has revealed how he saw the suspect get rugby tackled by a police officer in the park, adding that his hands were so covered in blood it looked like he had put them in ‘a bucket of red paint’.

Another onlooker said he saw the man stab three men ‘in the neck and under the arms’ before turning around and running towards him. He and his group fled and the attacker then tried to stab another group sitting down.

It also emerged that Saadallah arrived in the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 and three years ago started dating a British woman who was ‘very religious’ and started going to church, eventually converting to Christianity.  

Victim Mr Ritchie-Bennett had been working for a Dutch pharmaceutical firm in the Berkshire town for about a decade having previously been employed by a London law firm when he first moved to England. 

Joe Ritchie-Bennett

Joe Ritchie-Bennett

A family handout of James Furlong

A family handout of James Furlong

Joe Ritchie-Bennett (left), 39, from Philadelphia in the US, had been sitting in Forbury Gardens in Reading with his friends, including fellow victim James Furlong (right), 36, when they were attacked

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been accused of carrying out the knife rampage in Reading on Saturday that left three people dead

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been accused of carrying out the knife rampage in Reading on Saturday that left three people dead

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been accused of carrying out the knife rampage in Reading on Saturday that left three people dead

Witnesses said the suspect, Libyan-born Khairi Saadallah, first targeted a group of men who were sitting together and drinking in the early evening sunshine at Forbury Gardens in Reading on Saturday evening

Witnesses said the suspect, Libyan-born Khairi Saadallah, first targeted a group of men who were sitting together and drinking in the early evening sunshine at Forbury Gardens in Reading on Saturday evening

 Witnesses said the suspect, Libyan-born Khairi Saadallah, first targeted a group of men who were sitting together and drinking in the early evening sunshine at Forbury Gardens in Reading on Saturday evening

Mr Ritchie-Bennett (left) is pictured with his late husband Ian Bennett (right), whom he married in England in November 2006. Mr Bennett died in December 2014 aged 32 after a short battle with colon cancer

Mr Ritchie-Bennett (left) is pictured with his late husband Ian Bennett (right), whom he married in England in November 2006. Mr Bennett died in December 2014 aged 32 after a short battle with colon cancer

Mr Ritchie-Bennett (left) is pictured with his late husband Ian Bennett (right), whom he married in England in November 2006. Mr Bennett died in December 2014 aged 32 after a short battle with colon cancer

He comes from a family of police, with his brother Richard having been in the Philadelphia force for 24 years; his father – also Richard – a retired chief inspector; and his mother Charlene and sister-in law both retired officers.

His grandfather was in the Navy and fought in the Second World War and Korean War before being killed aged 38 in 1958 just several days before he was due to be honourably discharged.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father Robert told the Philadelphia Inquirer: ‘I absolutely love my son with all of my heart and all of my soul. We’re mourning, and we’re trying to decide what we’re going to do. It’s 3,500 miles away.

‘They are still in lockdown over there with the coronavirus, and I don’t know what else to say.’ He also told CBS News: ‘The family is heartbroken they have lost their brilliant and loving son. This was senseless.’

His brother Robert added: ‘I love him. I always have. I always will. He was a great guy. He was four years younger than me. Our family is heartbroken and beside ourselves. He did not deserve to go out like this.’

Mr Ritchie-Bennett also suffered his own tragedy after his husband Ian Bennett, whom he married in England in November 2006, died in December 2014 aged 32 after a short battle with colon cancer.

US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson said: ‘I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20. To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected. We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement.’

In other developments in the shocking terror attack which left Prime Minister Boris Johnson feeling ‘sickened’:

  • The parents of James Furlong, a teacher and the first confirmed victim of the rampage, paid tribute to him;
  • It emerged that Saadallah was released from HMP Bullingdon 16 days ago after less than half of his sentence;
  • Sources say Saadallah required medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and a form of schizophrenia; 
  • Anti-terror police believe that the suspect stopped taking his medication in the run-up to the knife rampage;
  • His cousin said Saadallah fled Libya to escape Islamists before later converting to Christianity in Britain;
  • He was flagged to MI5 as potentially wanting to travel to Syria for ISIS, but he was dismissed him as a threat.

Three people were killed and another three were injured in a frenzied knife attack in Forbury Gardens on Saturday evening, with suspect Mr Saadallah, 25, who was previously known to MI5, arrested for the rampage. 

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been arrested for the knife rampage in Reading that left three dead and another three injured

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been arrested for the knife rampage in Reading that left three dead and another three injured

Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been arrested for the knife rampage in Reading that left three dead and another three injured

Sainsbury's security guard Sydney McDonald saw the Reading terror suspect being rugby-tackled to the ground by police

Sainsbury's security guard Sydney McDonald saw the Reading terror suspect being rugby-tackled to the ground by police

Sainsbury’s security guard Sydney McDonald saw the Reading terror suspect being rugby-tackled to the ground by police

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre yesterday following the fatal stabbing on Saturday

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre yesterday following the fatal stabbing on Saturday

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre yesterday following the fatal stabbing on Saturday

Onlooker Lawrence Wort, 20, saw the man stab three men 'in the neck and under the arms' before turning around and running towards him

Onlooker Lawrence Wort, 20, saw the man stab three men 'in the neck and under the arms' before turning around and running towards him

Onlooker Lawrence Wort, 20, saw the man stab three men ‘in the neck and under the arms’ before turning around and running towards him

He was detained under the Terrorism Act, though police are thought to be looking at mental health reasons for the attack.

Terror attack timeline: How a lone attacker left three people dead 

Here is a timeline of the terror attack in Reading which led to the deaths of three people.

Saturday

  • Around 6.45pm: Witnesses say a lone attacker with a knife targeted a group of people in Forbury Gardens near Reading town centre.
  • 6.56pm: First emergency call is made to Thames Valley Police. Chief Constable John Campbell said officers arrested a man within five minutes of the call.
  • Just before 10pm: Police ask members of the public not to share the graphic images or videos of the incident that are circulating on social media during the evening.
  • 10.38pm: A security source tells the PA news agency that the incident is suspected to be terror-related and that the man arrested is Libyan.
  • 10.56pm: Thames Valley Police says there is ‘no indication’ the incident is linked to the Black Lives Matter protest that took place earlier in the day.
  • After 11pm: Several armed police officers are seen going into a block of flats off Basingstoke Road in Reading.
  • Sunday
  • Around 1.30am: Thames Valley Police confirms three people have died and another three are seriously injured. The force confirms a 25-year-old man is under arrest on suspicion of murder.
  • 8.30am The incident is declared as terrorism, the head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu says, this is not made public until after 11am when Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) says it has taken over the incident.
  • 9am: Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds meeting with security officials, police and senior ministers in Downing Street.
  • 11.45am: Security source tells PA the suspect is a Libyan asylum seeker and mental health is being considered a major factor.
  • Just after 12pm: Mr Basu says there is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the attack and confirms it was not associated in any way with the Black Lives Matter protest in Reading earlier on Saturday.
  • After 1pm: Suspect is understood by PA to be named Khairi Saadallah.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is ‘appalled and sickened’ and pledges ‘we will not hesitate to take action’ if there are lessons to be learned.
  • 4: 55pm: One of the victims in the Reading terror attack is named by The Holt School in Wokingham as James Furlong, its head of history and government and politics.
  • Just before 6pm: Security sources reveal Saadallah briefly came to the attention of the security services in 2019, but the information provided did not meet the threshold for investigation.
  • 6pm: It is understood MI5 had received intelligence the suspect planned to travel abroad, possibly for terrorism purposes, but the threat was found to be insubstantial and no case file was opened.
  • 7.06pm: The suspect is re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, Counter Terrorism Policing South East announce.
  • 7.28pm: It emerges the suspect was jailed in October for a complex series of non-terror offences for a period of two years, one month and 20 days – his sentence was reduced to one of 17 months and 20 days’ imprisonment in the Court of Appeal on March 19 of this year.
  • 8.25pm: Mr Furlong’s family releases a statement through Thames Valley Police in which his parents describe him as ‘the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for’. They add: ‘We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.’ They request privacy to grieve in peace.

Saadallah’s brother Mo slammed the terror arrest and wrote on Facebook: ‘This is not true. Khairi defended himself… racist countries. Freedom for my brother!’

Meanwhile, security guard Sydney McDonald, 65, has revealed how he saw the suspect being detained by police. 

He said: ‘I had just finished work at about 7.10pm and as soon as I came out of the shop, there were about four police cars, they turned around in the middle of the road, they were driving pretty fast.

‘There was a guy and I saw him pointing to a man and saying ”There he is, there he is”. If he hadn’t, they would have missed him. He was running really fast, properly fast. 

‘They put the emergency brakes on, jumped out of the car and rugby-tackled him to the floor. He was on his stomach and the blood on his hands looked like he had put his hand in a big bucket of red paint.

‘They put the handcuffs on, he wasn’t putting up a fight or anything like that, they picked him up and put him in the van, he just sat there all quiet, he wasn’t saying nothing.’  

As well as witnessing the arrest on Saturday, Mr McDonald says he had previously been assaulted by the suspect last year when he stopped him from shoplifting from the Sainsbury’s store where he works in Reading town centre.

A former head of UK counter terrorism said police and security services face a ‘wicked problem’ deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack.

Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘What you end up with operationally is about, I think, about 3,000 people under investigation at one stage.

‘But there is 40,000 people… whose names have touched the system.

‘And in that 40,000 are lots of volatile people who dip in and out of interests in extreme ideology, and to spot one of those who is going to go from a casual interest into a determined attacker, which can happen in a matter of days, is the most wicked problem that the services face.’

Asked whether Labour would push for more resources for the security services, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Resources are of course an issue across the piece here.’

Referring to deradicalisation programmes in prison and risk assessment, he said: ‘The Ministry of Justice was an unprotected department which meant that it suffered around 40 per cent cuts over 10 years.

‘Clearly that issue of resources is something that has to be considered very seriously now, alongside other measures that may need to be taken.’

Security Minister James Brokenshire has paid tribute to first responders and members of the public after Saturday’s attack in Reading.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I want to pay tribute to the work of our emergency services, the police, all of those first responders who dealt with this appalling evil and callous act, but also those members of the public as well who supported the police, bravely dealt with those issues on the ground.

‘Our thoughts, our hearts go out to all of those this morning who have lost loved ones, who are mourning or have been affected by this appalling incident.’

When asked what he would say to people in Reading who are concerned, Mr Brokenshire added: ‘People should be alert, not alarmed.

‘People must remain vigilant, our terrorist threat level is at substantial – the third level which means an attack is likely.

‘But we need to go about our lives, we need to be able to ensure that those who would seek to intimidate, those who would seek to use terror to try and change our way of life, that they do not succeed but we remain vigilant.’

Mr Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast that there was no indication of a change to the UK’s threat level.

The Security Minister said: ‘The police have indicated they’re not looking for anyone else at the moment in terms of this particular incident and I think the point is we must allow them to get on with their investigation. 

A relative of Khairi Saadallah (pictured), 25, says the terror suspect arrived in the UK as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum because he was at risk from Islamic extremists due to him not leading a 'strict religious life' in Libya

A relative of Khairi Saadallah (pictured), 25, says the terror suspect arrived in the UK as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum because he was at risk from Islamic extremists due to him not leading a 'strict religious life' in Libya

Khairi Sadallah

Khairi Sadallah

A relative of Khairi Saadallah (pictured), 25, says the terror suspect arrived in the UK as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum because he was at risk from Islamic extremists due to him not leading a ‘strict religious life’ in Libya

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

‘This is very live, there are devices in terms of the phones and all those sorts of things, they’ll be interrogating, following through on the different statements, the searches that continue and it is absolutely right that they do follow it through in that way.’

Why was he not deported? Reading terror suspect is 25-year-old Libyan refugee who ‘came out of prison two weeks ago’, had mental health problems and was known to MI5 

The terror suspect accused of stabbing three people to death in Reading is believed to be a Libyan refugee who was released from prison just two weeks ago and was previously known to MI5.

Last October, Khairi Saadallah, 25, was sentenced to 28 months for breaching a suspended jail term.

He was released from HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, 16 days ago after less than half of his sentence.

Saadallah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and delusional and paranoid schizophrenia, requiring medication before his release, a source told the Sun.

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland because he ‘liked to drink’ and didn’t lead a ‘strict religious life’.

However, once in the UK, he ended up in prison after committing several non-terror offences. He is even thought to have converted to Christianity and has a tattoo of a cross on his arm.

Saadallah is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year, after they suspected he was planning to travel to Syria for ‘extremist reasons’.

He allegedly claimed to have fought both for and against ISIS, though officials assessing him found he didn’t subscribe to any ideology or belief system and instead had mental health issues.

An investigation revealed no immediate risk or threat and he was not under surveillance at the time of his alleged rampage.

Despite his convictions, he is thought to have avoided deportation because of the UK policy not to deport foreign nationals to ‘failed states’ like Libya. 

Mr Brokenshire said he was unable to go into detail about the suspect and what was known about him due to the ongoing investigation.

He added: ‘What I would say is that the police and security services obviously deal with thousands of leads, that they have difficult challenges that they have in terms of prioritisation of resource, but I can assure that if there are lessons to be learned, there are policies that needs to be changed, if we need to do things differently, absolutely that is what we will do.’

When asked what type of terrorism currently poses the greatest threat, James Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast: ‘Threats obviously manifest themselves in a number of different ways.

‘Over the last three years, the police and security services have disrupted, prevented, 25 attempted terrorist attacks.

‘We’ve seen this, the shape has changed and this shift between the growth of right-wing terrorism as well as Islamist-related terrorism.

‘We obviously do guard against what are called these lone-actor isolated individuals, some of the issues that relate there in terms of radicalisation.

‘So I think it’s difficult to make generalities but we guard against all of these different types of risk and threats.’

Saadallah, who is thought to have only been released from prison for various offences 16 days ago, came to the attention of MI5 last year, after they suspected he was planning to travel to Syria for ‘extremist reasons’. 

He allegedly claimed to have fought both for and against Islamic State, although officials assessing him found he did not subscribe to any ideology or belief system and instead had mental health issues.  

An investigation revealed no immediate risk or threat and he was not under surveillance at the time of his alleged rampage. 

Saadallah is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland because he ‘liked to drink’ and didn’t lead a ‘strict religious life’.

Last October, Saadallah was sentenced to 28 months for breaching a suspended jail term, racially aggravated assault, criminal damage and affray.

He is said to have threatened a Sainsbury’s guard with a broken bottle of wine when he was challenged for stealing it.

He was released from HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, 16 days ago after less than half of his sentence. 

Saadallah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and delusional and paranoid schizophrenia, requiring medication before his release, a source told the Sun. 

Anti-terror police believe he stopped using his medication in the lead-up to Saturday’s horrific rampage. 

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens yesterday, the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place on Saturday

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens yesterday, the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place on Saturday

Forensic officers work near Forbury Gardens yesterday, the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place on Saturday

On Saturday, three people were killed and another three were injured in a frenzied knife attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading

On Saturday, three people were killed and another three were injured in a frenzied knife attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading

On Saturday, three people were killed and another three were injured in a frenzied knife attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland because he ‘liked to drink’ and didn’t lead a ‘strict religious life’. 

However, once in the UK, he ended up in prison after committing several violent, non-terror offences. He is even thought to have converted to Christianity and has a tattoo of a cross on his arm.

Security guard tells how terror attack suspect was held by police 

Sainsbury's Security guard Sydney McDonald, 65

Sainsbury's Security guard Sydney McDonald, 65

Sainsbury’s Security guard Sydney McDonald, 65

A security guard who saw the Reading terror suspect being rugby-tackled to the ground by police has described how it looked as if he had put his hands ‘in a big bucket of red paint’.

Sydney McDonald, 65, said: ‘I had just finished work at about 7.10pm and as soon as I came out of the shop, there were about four police cars, they turned around in the middle of the road, they were driving pretty fast.

‘There was a guy and I saw him pointing to a man and saying ‘There he is, there he is’. If he hadn’t, they would have missed him.

‘He was running really fast, properly fast.

‘They put the emergency brakes on, jumped out of the car and rugby-tackled him to the floor.

‘He was on his stomach and the blood on his hands looked like he had put his hand in a big bucket of red paint.

‘They put the handcuffs on, he wasn’t putting up a fight or anything like that, they picked him up and put him in the van, he just sat there all quiet, he wasn’t saying nothing.’

As well as witnessing the arrest on Saturday, Mr McDonald says he had previously been 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 the man from when he had attacked him in January 2019 by rushing at him with a broken wine bottle and whipping him with a belt.

He said: ‘I am sure he is the same bloke, he’s grown a beard but he’s the same height, same build, same age, same everything.’

Describing the previous incident, Mr McDonald said: ‘When he attacked me outside the shop he broke a bottle and threatened to stab me and I defended myself. I put him to the floor, held him there … and he couldn’t get away from me and I held him until the police came.’

He added: ‘If I couldn’t have defended myself he probably would have killed me. But I knew how to handle it.

‘He pulled the bottle of alcohol out that he had nicked from Sainsbury’s then he smashed the bottle and came at me. He punched me in my face and I hit him back, his nose was bleeding. I kept him down on the floor until the police came.

‘I thought he had a knife because of the way he was behaving.’

Last October, terror suspect Khairi Saadallah was sentenced to 28 months for breaching a suspended jail term, racially aggravated assault, criminal damage and affray, following the incident involving Mr McDonald.

Reading Crown Court was told in August 2019 that he had punched Mr McDonald in the face, rushed at him with the broken bottle and whipped his face with a belt. 

Despite his violent convictions, he is thought to have avoided deportation because of the UK policy not to deport foreign nationals to ‘failed states’ like Libya. 

Saadallah boasted to friends in the UK that he had fought as a child soldier against the forces of former Libya leader Colonel Gaddafi – which he said had forced him to flee the country.

However, his cousin disputed these claims and said Saadallah had fled to avoid conflict. 

She added that he heard voices and had psychotic episodes which left him thinking he was being followed.     

The cousin, speaking to the Daily Telegraph, added that, three years ago, Saadallah started dating a British woman who was ‘very religious’ and he started going to church, eventually converting to Christianity. 

Though the couple have since split, Saadallah maintained his faith, even have a tattoo of a cross etched onto his arm. 

His cousin added: ‘He’s not Muslim any more. It’s like he’s always been in the UK.’ 

In 2018, Saadallah was granted leave to remain in the UK for five years despite the convictions for violence. 

A source told the Sun: ‘Saadallah was on MI5’s radar for a few months last year over his aspirations to travel to Syria.

‘He had a history of violence and serious mental health problems so why was he granted leave to remain at all? There are major questions to be answered.’ 

His cousin in Libya said: ‘I can’t believe he’d do anything like this or be involved in anything to do with terrorism. He was at risk of extremists in Libya because he liked to drink and socialise and didn’t lead a strict religious life at all.

‘He started going to church and had tattoos all over his body including one of a cross on his arm. He did get in trouble in England and could be aggressive but I can’t ever imagine him getting drawn into something as serious as this.’    

Among his other offences, in March 2019 Saadallah spat at Judge Sophie Toms at Reading magistrates court as she sentenced him for previous offences.

He has also been convicted of possession of a bladed weapon and assaulting a police officer, which landed him an eight-month jail term.

He also threatened Sainsbury’s guard Mr McDonald with a broken bottle of wine when challenged for stealing it.

After witnessing Saturday’s arrest, Mr McDonald recalled: ‘When he attacked me outside the shop he broke a bottle and threatened to stab me and I defended myself. I put him to the floor, held him there … and he couldn’t get away from me and I held him until the police came.’

He added: ‘If I couldn’t have defended myself he probably would have killed me. But I knew how to handle it.

‘He pulled the bottle of alcohol out that he had nicked from Sainsbury’s then he smashed the bottle and came at me. He punched me in my face and I hit him back, his nose was bleeding. I kept him down on the floor until the police came.

‘I thought he had a knife because of the way he was behaving.’

The suspect was charged with affray, assault by beating and two counts of having an offensive weapon, according to a report of the case in the Reading Chronicle. 

Saadallah was given tough licence conditions after his release from prison, but lockdown-hit probation and social services struggled to monitor him. 

A source said: ‘The motivation remains unclear. His issues mean any trigger could have been very quick.’   

James Furlong, who is head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, was stabbed to death during the attack

James Furlong, who is head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, was stabbed to death during the attack

James Furlong, who is head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, was stabbed to death during the attack

In a statement Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, the co-headteachers at the Holt School, today said: 'James (pictured) was very kind and a gentleman. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and everyone of our students

In a statement Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, the co-headteachers at the Holt School, today said: 'James (pictured) was very kind and a gentleman. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and everyone of our students

Meanwhile, local councillor James Box, who lives in Wokingham, described Mr Furlong as an 'excellent teacher'

Meanwhile, local councillor James Box, who lives in Wokingham, described Mr Furlong as an 'excellent teacher'

Mr Furlong was described as ‘very kind and a gentleman’, with ‘a real sense of duty’ in his role as a school’s head of history

Speaking about his conversion to Christianity, the cousin said: ‘It might have been why about two or three years ago, he converted from Islam to Christianity.

‘He started going to church and had tattoos all over his body including one of a cross on his arm. I haven’t had contact with him since that time.

‘He lived in Manchester first and now lives in Reading. I think the authorities in Britain have tried to send him back to Libya but he doesn’t want to go back. He’s been in the UK for about seven years so is practically British now.’    

Parents of teacher James Furlong pay tribute to their ‘wonderful’ son

The parents of teacher James Furlong have paid tribute to him after he was named as one of the three victims of the Reading terror attack.

Mr Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, and died during the incident, which took place at 7pm on Saturday in Forbury Gardens, in the town centre.

His parents Gary and Janet, released a statement through Thames Valley Police which said: ‘James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun.

‘He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.’

They asked for their privacy to be respected and said they will not comment further at this time.

Co-headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce also paid tribute to Mr Furlong, and described him as a ‘kind and gentle man’ who had a ‘real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students’.

In a statement, they said: ‘He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication. He was determined that our students would develop a critical awareness of global issues and in doing so become active citizens and have a voice.

‘As a Holt community, we all now need to absorb this sad news. Counsellors will be available for students and staff.

‘Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at this time. Our thoughts are with his mum, dad, brother and family, and his friends and colleagues.

‘He was a cherished colleague and he will be sadly missed.’

Lessons for Monday have been cancelled for all year groups, and counsellors will be onsite for students wishing to come to school and talk.

The local church will also be opened from 9am for people to go and light a candle in his memory.

Former pupils have praised the ‘inspirational’ teacher, describing him as ‘the best’.

Jade Sirmon, a pupil at The Holt from 2012-2017, told the PA news agency: ‘He really was an incredible teacher.

‘He was funny and kind and always made history fun and entertaining. History was always one of my favourite subjects and Mr Furlong always encouraged it.’

Keith Power, whose daughter attends the school, said: ‘He was a wonderful man. He was so helpful and supportive of my daughter. He had a real passion for history and teaching and was so caring of his pupils.

‘It’s so senseless. So much hatred in the world right now. I fear for my kid’s futures.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson paid tribute to Mr Furlong.

He tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Reading. Very sad to hear that a teacher, James Furlong, was among the victims. Tributes paid by his colleagues reflect how much he will be missed.’

Responding to the news, Wokingham Labour tweeted: ‘Devastated to discover that James Furlong, one of the victims of the Reading stabbings, was a teacher at the Holt.

‘His loss is a devastating blow to his family, colleagues, students, the wider Holt family and our whole community. Our thoughts are with them all.’

Police are thought to be looking at mental health as a reason for the attack. 

It comes as the heartbroken parents of a ‘kind and inspiring’ history teacher have paid tribute to him this evening after he was named as one of the three people killed in the frenzied terror attack in Reading yesterday.

James Furlong, head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, was stabbed to death along with two other victims in Forbury Gardens on Saturday evening.

Another three people were seriously injured during the horrific attack, with suspect Khairi Saadallah, 25, arrested for the rampage. 

Students have rushed to express their grief at his death and described Liverpool-born Mr Furlong as someone who ‘inspired them’ and ‘went the extra mile’ to support them through school.

Former student Molly Collins told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘He was such a loved teacher I can’t find anyone who had a bad word to say about him. He was so passionate and enthusiastic about history and learning. Anything you found boring he would make interesting – he would spend time with you and get to know people individually. He always went the extra mile with everyone’.

Molly and her friends will be heading to church in Wokingham today and said: ‘Most of my year group are going down today to light candles and lay flowers. We’re putting together a memorial book with old photos and memories of him for his family.

Asked what she will write, she said: ‘I will say just thank you for everything he did when I was at school, for helping me with history and with A-Levels. I wouldn’t have gone to university if I hadn’t spoken to him about it – he really took the time to support me and make me more confident’.

Another former student, who went to Cambridge after leaving the Holt School said: ‘James Furlong was one of the most influential and exceptional people in my life. He fostered my love of history, nurtured me, and taught me resilience and kindness. The four years I spent with him were precious, and deeply treasured. I am absolutely devastated’. 

Grieving parents and children were seen arriving at the school in Wokingham today clutching bunches of flowers and.

One student, who was in the sixth form, said of Mr Furlong: ‘He was a past teacher of mine. He was very involved with my education and my A-levels and he was an amazing person.

‘He won’t be forgotten. For my GCSE open evenings and open evenings. He would dress up in historical outfits to promote the subjects. He wore one that was a King. He really promoted history as a subject.

‘When I found out what had happened to him, I just couldn’t stop crying. It was a state of shock, disbelief – it was overwhelming.’

Mr Furlong’s parents Gary and Janet released a statement through Thames Valley Police tonight which said: ‘James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun.

‘He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.’

They asked for their privacy to be respected and said they will not comment further at this time. 

Other tributes have also flooded in for Mr Furlong, with bosses from his school and parents of his pupils sharing their shock. 

In a statement, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, the co-headteachers at the Holt School, said: ‘James was very kind and a gentleman. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and everyone of our students.

‘He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication.’

Local councillor James Box, who lives in Wokingham and whose daughter was taught by Mr Furlong, described him as an ‘excellent teacher’.

He said: ‘He was one of the teachers who taught my daughter Ellie. This has come as a real shock to us all. The school put out a message to parents to say he was one of these who died.’

Councillor Box added: ‘He was a very good teacher – excellent. I did not know him very well though. He was very popular at The Holt.’

Witnesses to the attack said a man with a ‘five inch knife’ targeted and stabbed people ‘at random’ before being ‘rugby-tackled’ to the ground by one unarmed police officer.

One witness said the attacker pulled a knife and ‘shouted some unintelligible words’ before trying to stab people in the packed park, which was said to be filled with families and young children at the time. 

Tributes have flooded in for Mr Furlong, whose students took to social media to praise him and will go to the church next to the school to remember him

Tributes have flooded in for Mr Furlong, whose students took to social media to praise him and will go to the church next to the school to remember him

Tributes have flooded in for Mr Furlong, whose students took to social media to praise him and will go to the church next to the school to remember him 

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of the Berkshire town

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of the Berkshire town

The video emerged as police today revealed that counter-terrorism officers have been called in to help detectives in their murder probe following the attack, which took place around 7pm on Saturday

The video emerged as police today revealed that counter-terrorism officers have been called in to help detectives in their murder probe following the attack, which took place around 7pm on Saturday

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of the Berkshire town.

Counter-terrorism police searched a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading (pictured yesterday) following the attack

Counter-terrorism police searched a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading (pictured yesterday) following the attack

Counter-terrorism police searched a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading (pictured yesterday) following the attack

Police outside a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday following a search after Saturday's attack

Police outside a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday following a search after Saturday's attack

Police outside a property on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday following a search after Saturday’s attack

Police collect floral tributes left at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading yesterday after three people died

Police collect floral tributes left at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading yesterday after three people died

Police collect floral tributes left at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading yesterday after three people died

A police officer places floral tributes yesterday near to the scene of the attack, which also left three people seriously injured

A police officer places floral tributes yesterday near to the scene of the attack, which also left three people seriously injured

A police officer places floral tributes yesterday near to the scene of the attack, which also left three people seriously injured

Onlooker Lawrence Wort, 20, saw the man stab three men ‘in the neck and under the arms’ before turning around and running towards him.

He and his group fled and, when he realised he couldn’t catch up with them, the attacker tried to stab another group sitting down.

On Saturday night, counter-terrorism police carried out a controlled explosion at the suspect’s home address. 

Meanwhile, head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, said on Sunday there is ‘nothing to suggest anyone else was involved’ and that police are not currently seeking anyone else as part of the investigation.

Police are considering mental health to be a major factor, according to security sources.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile said he was ‘appalled and sickened’ by the suspected terror attack and promised the government will ‘not hesitate to take action where necessary’ if lessons needed to be learnt. 

It come as today footage emerged which shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following the frenzied stabbing attack in the park, which took place around 7pm yesterday.

Witnesses said the attacker targeted a group of middle-aged men ‘sitting drinking beer’ and systematically stabbed them ‘in the neck and under the arms’.

Thames Valley police chiefs say the cordon (pictured yesterday) near the incident will likely remain up for 'some time'

Thames Valley police chiefs say the cordon (pictured yesterday) near the incident will likely remain up for 'some time'

Thames Valley police chiefs say the cordon (pictured yesterday) near the incident will likely remain up for ‘some time’

Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading at the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place at 7pm on Saturday

Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading at the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place at 7pm on Saturday

Police tents in Forbury Gardens in Reading at the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place at 7pm on Saturday

Police were standing guard on Sunday outside the corridor of a top-floor flat on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday

Police were standing guard on Sunday outside the corridor of a top-floor flat on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday

Police were standing guard on Sunday outside the corridor of a top-floor flat on Basingstoke Road in Reading yesterday

The suspect was arrested at the scene by a hero lone police sergeant who rugby-tackled him to the floor.  

Hero lone officer who rugby-tackled knifeman is praised by police union chiefs 

By Bhvishya Patel for MailOnline

The hero officer who rugby-tackled a Libyan knifeman who had only moments earlier stabbed three people to death has been praised by police chiefs.

The lone police sergeant was able to tackle the 25-year-old knife suspect to the ground, as he tried to flee the scene of the attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading, at around 7pm yesterday, according to witnesses.

Today police union chiefs praised the brave unarmed officer, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene after the alarm was raised, along with other members of staff for ‘running towards danger with the sole thought of protecting the public’.  

Today Thames Valley Police Federation chairman Craig O’Leary said: ‘First and foremost our thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones in the horrific incident last night and we wish our very best to those still injured.

‘There can be no doubt that the swift response of our Thames Valley Police colleagues saved further harm from being caused and potentially more lives from being lost.

‘There are barely words to describe their bravery – officers who ran towards danger with the sole thought of protecting the public we serve. Other colleagues valiantly rushed to the scene to try and save and preserve life.

‘While the investigation into this incident continues, what we can say is the public can rightly be proud of their emergency services today.’

 

The attack is believed to have taken place as people enjoyed the last of the day’s sunshine at the popular park.  

Personal trainer Mr Wort watched the terrifying scenes unfold in the park, which is popular with families and used as a venue for open air concerts and plays.

Mr Wort said: ‘The park was pretty full. One group of friends were sitting drinking when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around, trying to stab them.

‘He stabbed three of them, severely in the neck, and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me.

‘I saw a knife in his hand. Probably at least five inches minimum. And then he turned and started looking towards us and that’s when I just started shouting ‘run’.

‘When he realised that he couldn’t catch us, he tried to stab another group sitting down. He got one person in the back of the neck and then, when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out of the park.’ 

And speaking of the moment the suspect was arrested, a police source told the Sunday Mirror: ‘A man pulled a knife and started attacking people at random in Reading, near the Crown Court.

‘It is thought there was one attacker who has surrendered to police.

‘It appears the attack was stopped when a lone sergeant, who responded when the alarm was raised, ran to the scene, saw the attacker running away with a knife and rugby tackled him to the ground.’

Gruesome footage on social media revealed the attack’s appalling aftermath – three men lying a few feet apart on blood-soaked grass. Police arrived within minutes and frantically tried to keep them alive. 

Today the Thames Valley Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in the area, praised the bravery of officers who responded to the attack.

Chairman Craig O’Leary said: ‘First and foremost our thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones in the horrific incident last night and we wish our very best to those still injured.

‘There can be no doubt that the swift response of our Thames Valley Police colleagues saved further harm from being caused and potentially more lives from being lost.

‘There are barely words to describe their bravery – officers who ran towards danger with the sole thought of protecting the public we serve. Other colleagues valiantly rushed to the scene to try and save and preserve life.

‘While the investigation into this incident continues, what we can say is the public can rightly be proud of their emergency services today.’   

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading yesterday following the frenzied stabbing attack

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading yesterday following the frenzied stabbing attack

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading yesterday following the frenzied stabbing attack

Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park yesterday

Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park yesterday

Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park yesterday

Around 20 officers swarmed into the four-storey block of flats about a mile from the park on Saturday night

Around 20 officers swarmed into the four-storey block of flats about a mile from the park on Saturday night

Around 20 officers swarmed into the four-storey block of flats about a mile from the park on Saturday night

‘My heart, prayers and thoughts are with all of those affected and to the people of Reading who will be deeply shocked and concerned by this terrible incident.

Reading stabbing attack: What we know so far 

Three people have died following a knife attack in Reading’s town centre on Saturday night.

Here is what we know so far about the incident:

– A number of people were stabbed by a man in Forbury Gardens in Reading’s town centre around 7pm on Saturday night, leaving three dead.

– Three others were taken to hospital, although one has now been discharged.

– One of the dead has been named as teacher James Furlong – head of history, government and Politics at the Holt School in Wokingham.

– A second victim has been named locally as American citizen Joe Ritchie-Bennett. The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported that he was 39 and had moved to England from the US around 15 years ago.

– A 25-year-old man, understood to be named Khairi Saadallah, was arrested at the scene and taken into police custody.

– The attack is being treated as terrorism and counter-terror police have since taken over the investigation from Thames Valley Police.

– The suspect, who was initially arrested on Saturday on suspicion of murder, was rearrested on Sunday under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

– The suspect is a Libyan refugee understood to have been granted asylum in the UK.

– Mental health is being considered a major factor in the incident, a security source told the PA news agency.

– Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with Saturday’s attack.

– Saadallah briefly came to the attention of the security services in 2019, but the information provided did not meet the threshold for investigation, PA understands.

– It is understood M15 had received intelligence he planned to travel abroad, possibly for terrorism purposes, but the threat was found to be insubstantial.

– The suspect was jailed in October for a complex series of non-terror offences for a period of two years, one month and 20 days.

– His sentence was reduced to one of 17 months and 20 days’ imprisonment in the Court of Appeal on March 19 of this year.

– One of the appeal judges who gave the judgment in March, Mr Justice Goss, noted Saadallah’s various mental health issues in reducing the sentence.

– Saadallah was ‘silent and staring’ as he was arrested, covered in blood, a short distance from the scene, a witness said, and ‘wasn’t even blinking’.

– The attack was not in any way associated with the Black Lives Matter protest which took place peacefully earlier on in the day, police have confirmed.

– Police forces have urged social media users not to post any footage out of respect for the victims’ families after a graphic clip circulated online.

– Lawrence Wort, 20, who said he was around 10 metres from the attack, said the attacker ‘shouted unintelligible words’ before attacking multiple groups of people, adding: ‘When he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park.’

– Five ambulance crews as well as two air ambulance services were among the resources sent to treat the casualties, South Central Ambulance Service said.

– The Prime Minister has held a meeting with security officials, police and senior ministers over the incident.

‘I am in contact with the police and will ensure they have all the support they need. I would like to thank Thames Valley Police and the emergency services for their response.’ 

Speaking today at Downing Street Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘I’m appalled and sickened that people should lose their lives in this way and our thoughts are very much with the family and the friends of the victims today.

‘I’ve obviously talked to the chief constable at Thames Valley Police, thanked him and his officers for their bravery in tackling the suspect.

‘We now have someone in custody. The police must get on with their job, get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and so it would be difficult really to comment in detail.

‘Except to say this, if there are lessons we need to learn about how we handle such cases, how we handle the events leading up to such cases, then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary.’

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer described the stabbing as ‘horrific’ and said this is ‘not a time for party politics’.

He said: ‘It’s horrific that it happened at all wherever it happened, and across Reading, across the country there will be communities really upset and worried about this, united in their grief.

‘And all of our thoughts are with those who have lost someone in this.’

He added: ‘It’s very important that the investigation runs its course but I will want to work with the Government in response to this, to look at whether there’s lessons that can be learned, whether there need to be changes to the law.

‘But I think as a constructive opposition, I will want to speak to the Prime Minister to discuss how together, we can improve the response, learn from this. The investigation must be completed, but of course, this is not a time for party politics.’

Thames Valley Police Chief Constable John Campbell described the scene of the attack as ‘horrific’.

At a short press briefing, he said: ‘As you can imagine the scene we came across was pretty horrific.

‘We had a number of officers that were in the community because they were patrolling around Reading and they were there very quickly.

‘We also had a number of people in the park that were witnesses to this incident and they saw the terrible tragedy unfold.

‘So you can imagine both for my officers but also for those that were involved it was very distressing and we are doing all that we can to make sure we are supporting them as well as progressing the criminal inquiry.’  

A witness, named Dan, told the Sunday Mirror that the group of people who were attacked were ‘just in a circle chatting.’ 

He said how he thought the people were playing, ‘duck duck goose’, a children’s game which sees participants sit in a circle while someone taps them on the head. 

‘He [the attacker] was tapping them on the head. Then I thought someone had been sick. But it was blood spraying out,’ he said. 

The man said he and his friends then got up and began to run away when the attacker began running toward Reading Station.  

Another witness told Mirror Online he saw blood spurting from victims, who dropped to the ground ‘like a weight’. 

A fourth described how they saw CPR being performed on at least three people. 

The mass stabbing led to at least two victims being taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital following the 'serious incident' in Forbury Gardens in Reading's town centre. Pictured: Paramedics and investigators in forensic suits at the scene

The mass stabbing led to at least two victims being taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital following the 'serious incident' in Forbury Gardens in Reading's town centre. Pictured: Paramedics and investigators in forensic suits at the scene

The mass stabbing led to at least two victims being taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital following the ‘serious incident’ in Forbury Gardens in Reading’s town centre. Pictured: Paramedics and investigators in forensic suits at the scene

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is said to be closely monitoring the situation, said she was 'deeply concerned' by the incident

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is said to be closely monitoring the situation, said she was 'deeply concerned' by the incident

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is said to be closely monitoring the situation, said she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the incident

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the 'appalling' attack and thanked the emergency services

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the 'appalling' attack and thanked the emergency services

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the ‘appalling’ attack and thanked the emergency services

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as 'very concerning'

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as 'very concerning'

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as ‘very concerning’

A distressing video posted on social media showed four wounded people lying on grass as officers gave them CPR

A distressing video posted on social media showed four wounded people lying on grass as officers gave them CPR

The officers were seen running towards the people on the ground

The officers were seen running towards the people on the ground

A distressing video posted on social media showed four wounded people lying on grass as officers gave them CPR. The officers were seen running towards the people on the ground

Forbury Gardens has been the site of recent Black Lives Matter protests, including one which ended around two hours before the stabbings

Forbury Gardens has been the site of recent Black Lives Matter protests, including one which ended around two hours before the stabbings

Forbury Gardens has been the site of recent Black Lives Matter protests, including one which ended around two hours before the stabbings

The last confirmed UK terror attack took place in February when Sudesh Amman stabbed three people in Streatham, South London, before being shot dead by police.   

Allister Smith, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital on Sunday, told BBC Radio 5 Live that a nurse had told him that three people were killed in the attack.   

‘I was being seen by a nurse who was taking my vitals,’ he said. 

‘She seemed a bit shaken. She was chatting to one of her colleagues and then she turned round to me and said three people are dead.’  

The distressing video of the aftermath of the attack showed police giving CPR to one injured person as someone else could be heard saying ‘he’s still breathing’.  

Why was he not deported? Reading terror suspect is 25-year-old Libyan refugee who ‘came out of prison two weeks ago’, had mental health problems and was known to MI5

The terror suspect accused of stabbing three people to death in Reading is believed to be a Libyan refugee who was released from prison just two weeks ago and was previously known to MI5.

Last October, Khairi Saadallah, 25, was sentenced to 28 months for breaching a suspended jail term, racially aggravated assault, criminal damage and affray.

He was released from HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, 16 days ago after less than half of his sentence. 

Saadallah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and delusional and paranoid schizophrenia, requiring medication before his release, a source told the Sun. 

Anti-terror police believe he stopped using his medication in the lead-up to Saturday’s horrific rampage. 

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland because he ‘liked to drink’ and didn’t lead a ‘strict religious life’. 

However, once in the UK, he ended up in prison after committing several violent, non-terror offences. He is even thought to have converted to Christianity and has a tattoo of a cross on his arm.

Saadallah is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year, after they suspected he was planning to travel to Syria for ‘extremist reasons’. 

He allegedly claimed to have fought both for and against ISIS, though officials assessing him found he didn’t subscribe to any ideology or belief system and instead had mental health issues.  

An investigation revealed no immediate risk or threat and he was not under surveillance at the time of his alleged rampage. 

Despite his violent convictions, he is thought to have avoided deportation because of the UK policy not to deport foreign nationals to ‘failed states’ like Libya. 

Saadallah boasted to friends in the UK that he had fought as a child soldier against the forces of former Libya leader Colonel Gaddafi – which he said had forced him to flee the country.

However, his cousin disputed these claims and said Saadallah had fled to avoid conflict. 

She added that he heard voices and had psychotic episodes which left him thinking he was being followed.     

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland

He is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland 

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

Saadallah, pictured smoking cannabis, is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of the Berkshire town

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of the Berkshire town

The video emerged as police today revealed that counter-terrorism officers have been called in to help detectives in their murder probe following the attack, which took place around 7pm on Saturday

The video emerged as police today revealed that counter-terrorism officers have been called in to help detectives in their murder probe following the attack, which took place around 7pm on Saturday

Footage shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following a frenzied stabbing attack in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of Reading

Police at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre following a multiple stabbing attack in the gardens which took place at around 7pm on Saturday

Police at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre following a multiple stabbing attack in the gardens which took place at around 7pm on Saturday

Police at the Abbey gateway of Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre following a multiple stabbing attack in the gardens which took place at around 7pm on Saturday 

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading after a frenzied stabbing attack left three people feared dead and another three seriously injured

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading after a frenzied stabbing attack left three people feared dead and another three seriously injured

Counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in Reading after a frenzied stabbing attack left three people feared dead and another three seriously injured 

The cousin, speaking to the Daily Telegraph, added that, three years ago, Saadallah started dating a British woman who was ‘very religious’ and he started going to church, eventually converting to Christianity. 

Though the couple have since split, Saadallah maintained his faith, even have a tattoo of a cross etched onto his arm. 

His cousin added: ‘ He’s not Muslim any more. It’s like he’s always been in the UK.’

Foreign nationals who are convicted of criminal offences can be deported under the UK Borders Act 2007 if certain conditions are met. 

The offender must be convicted in the United Kingdom of an offence and sentenced to a prison term of 12 months or more.  

In 2018, however, Saadallah was granted leave to remain in the UK for five years despite the convictions for violence.  

A source told the Sun: ‘Saadallah was on MI5’s radar for a few months last year over his aspirations to travel to Syria.

‘He had a history of violence and serious mental health problems so why was he granted leave to remain at all? There are major questions to be answered.’ 

His cousin in Libya said: ‘I can’t believe he’d do anything like this or be involved in anything to do with terrorism. He was at risk of extremists in Libya because he liked to drink and socialise and didn’t lead a strict religious life at all.

‘He started going to church and had tattoos all over his body including one of a cross on his arm. He did get in trouble in England and could be aggressive but I can’t ever imagine him getting drawn into something as serious as this.’    

Among his other offences, in March 2019 Saadallah spat at Judge Sophie Toms at Reading magistrates court as she sentenced him for previous offences.

He has also been convicted of possession of a bladed weapon and assaulting a police officer, which landed him an eight-month jail term.

He threatened a Sainsbury’s guard with a broken bottle of wine when challenged for stealing it.

Saadallah was given tough licence conditions after his release from prison, but lockdown-hit probation and social services struggled to monitor him. 

A source said: ‘The motivation remains unclear. His issues mean any trigger could have been very quick.’ 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was 'deeply concerned' by the incident in Reading

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was 'deeply concerned' by the incident in Reading

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the incident in Reading

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the 'appalling' attack and thanked the emergency services

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the 'appalling' attack and thanked the emergency services

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also responded to the ‘appalling’ attack and thanked the emergency services

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as 'very concerning'

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as 'very concerning'

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as ‘very concerning’

Three people were killed and another three were injured in the attack on Saturday evening.  

The head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said there is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved.  Police are not currently seeking anyone else as part of the investigation, Mr Basu said. 

Lawrence Wort, 20, who said he was around 10 metres from the attack, said the attacker ‘shouted unintelligible words’ before attacking multiple groups of people, adding: ‘when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park.’

South Central Ambulance Service said five ambulance crews as well as two air ambulance services were among the resources sent to treat the casualties.

Last night counter-terrorism officers were were called in to help detectives following the attack, which police said at first was not thought to be terrorism-related

Last night counter-terrorism officers were were called in to help detectives following the attack, which police said at first was not thought to be terrorism-related

Last night counter-terrorism officers were were called in to help detectives following the attack, which police said at first was not thought to be terrorism-related

Pictured: Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park on June 21

Pictured: Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park on June 21

Pictured: Counter-terror offices raiding a flat around a mile from the park on June 21

One of the patients admitted to Royal Berkshire Hospital has been discharged while another remains in a stable condition under observation, a spokeswoman has said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the ‘senseless attack’ while Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene.’

The Prime Minister has held a meeting with security officials, police and senior ministers over the incident. 

A tap on the head… then carnage: Chilling movements of the Reading attacker as he chose his victims before hero PC tackled him to the ground

As the knifeman approached his first victims, picnickers in the park believed he was simply playing a game.

They described watching people collapse after the man appeared to ‘tap’ them. 

Moments later, they spotted the knife and the blood, and heard people start to scream and run for their lives.

A man killed three people in a knife attack at a park in Reading (pictured: the entrace being closed by police) and witnesses have revealed their first-hand accounts of the attack

A man killed three people in a knife attack at a park in Reading (pictured: the entrace being closed by police) and witnesses have revealed their first-hand accounts of the attack

A man killed three people in a knife attack at a park in Reading (pictured: the entrace being closed by police) and witnesses have revealed their first-hand accounts of the attack

The Mail analyses the events that took place in Reading's Forbury Gardens on Saturday night

The Mail analyses the events that took place in Reading's Forbury Gardens on Saturday night

The Mail analyses the events that took place in Reading’s Forbury Gardens on Saturday night

Witnesses said the man, believed to be Libyan-born Khairi Saadallah, first targeted a group of men who were sitting together and drinking in the early evening sunshine in Forbury Gardens, in Reading, on Saturday evening.

The park was busy with friends and families enjoying the relative freedom of being able to meet up after months under coronavirus lockdown.

A witness saw the man approach a group of friends sat ‘just in a circle chatting’.

He thought initially they were sat in a circle to play a children’s playground game, Duck Duck Goose, where one person taps the others on the head, moving around the circle. 

The witness, named only as Dan, said: ‘He was tapping them on the head. Then I thought someone had been sick. But it was blood spraying out.’

Lawrence Wort saw the attack from around 30ft away and said it appeared ‘completely random’.

The personal trainer from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said he heard the knifeman shout incoherently just moments before he lunged for his first victim.

Mr Wort, 20, said: ‘One lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around ten, trying to stab them.

‘He stabbed three of them, severely in the neck, and under the arms.’ The man was carrying a ‘massive knife… probably at least 5 inches minimum’, Mr Wort said, and ‘darted’ between victims.

Capture: Mobile phone footage of a man, circled, on the floor as he is arrested by police

Capture: Mobile phone footage of a man, circled, on the floor as he is arrested by police

Capture: Mobile phone footage of a man, circled, on the floor as he is arrested by police

He added: ‘Then he turned and started looking towards us and that’s when I just started shouting ‘Run’.’ 

The knifeman initially chased after Mr Wort’s group, but then targeted another gathering who were still sitting down, stabbing at least one more victim.

On the other side of the park, Greg Wilton was enjoying a picnic with his wife Amy and their friends. They ran over to try to help the victims and described a horrifying scene. 

Mr Wilton said: ‘We ran over and without seeing an attacker we found three men lying on the floor bleeding profusely from what we thought was their heads, necks or body.’

Mr Wilton added: ‘Me and my friend Tom put a second victim in the recovery position and tried to stem his bleeding from his ear with my canvas shopping bag.

‘His breathing became increasingly irregular, and shallower until the police and paramedics arrived to help us.

‘Another friend of mine, Ranveer, helped an Asian man who had also been stabbed in the face.’

The knifeman ran from the park but was tackled to the ground minutes later as he fled down a nearby street.

Police said he was arrested within five minutes of the first 999 calls, which were made at 6.56pm.

Aftermath: Police tents at the scene of the attack at Forbury Gardens in Reading (pictured) yesterday. Officers arrested the knifeman around five minutes after the first 999 calls made at 6.56pm

Aftermath: Police tents at the scene of the attack at Forbury Gardens in Reading (pictured) yesterday. Officers arrested the knifeman around five minutes after the first 999 calls made at 6.56pm

Aftermath: Police tents at the scene of the attack at Forbury Gardens in Reading (pictured) yesterday. Officers arrested the knifeman around five minutes after the first 999 calls made at 6.56pm 

Forensic police fly a drone (pictured) over the crime scene at Forbury Gardens, Reading

Forensic police fly a drone (pictured) over the crime scene at Forbury Gardens, Reading

Forensic police fly a drone (pictured) over the crime scene at Forbury Gardens, Reading 

Deliveroo driver Amir Hadyoon, 31, said he saw four or five officers chasing the knifeman before he was ‘slide tackled’ to the ground by the police. 

He added: ‘When he was on the ground there was nothing, he wasn’t even blinking.

‘The police got on top of him and one of them just handcuffed him. I could see his hand was full of blood.’ 

Mr Hadyoon described the suspect as lying on the ground, seemingly not reacting to the situation which was unfolding.

He said: ‘When he [the suspect] was on the ground there was nothing – he was completely silent, he was barely blinking.

‘He didn’t care, he was just staring in front of him. For him, the job was done, you know, from the way he looked.’ 

Meanwhile, two air ambulances took victims to hospital and Reading was put into lockdown as officers began shutting streets and placing a cordon around the murder scene.

Around an hour after the first 999 calls, police began evacuating residents from a block of flats in Basingstoke Road in Reading.

Home: Flats (pictured) believed to be the suspect’s residence which was visited by armed officers

Home: Flats (pictured) believed to be the suspect’s residence which was visited by armed officers

Home: Flats (pictured) believed to be the suspect’s residence which was visited by armed officers

Armed officers entered the block of flats (pictured) at around 11pm on Saturday evening carrying semi-automatic weapons

Armed officers entered the block of flats (pictured) at around 11pm on Saturday evening carrying semi-automatic weapons

Armed officers entered the block of flats (pictured) at around 11pm on Saturday evening carrying semi-automatic weapons

At about 11pm, around a dozen counter-terrorism officers carrying semi-automatic weapons entered the building. 

They wore helmets, body armour and respirator masks and one carried a massive circular saw.

A neighbour who witnessed the raid said: ‘I looked outside my door and there were armed police everywhere. 

‘I came out and police were on all the floors and in every stairwell. They had the place surrounded.’

Original Source