Reading terror attacker LOSES Court of Appeal challenge against his whole-life sentence for murdering three men after stabbing them to death in park rampage

  • Khairi Saadallah, 26, killed three people during attack in Reading last year
  • James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, all died 
  • This year Saadallah was given three consecutive life sentences for the murders 
  • He challenged the length of his sentence but was today told it was unsuccessful 

The Reading terror attacker has lost a bid to bring a Court of Appeal challenge against his whole-life sentence for the murders of three men.

Khairi Saadallah, 27, was sentenced to die in prison after he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 last year.

Three other people were injured in the approximately minute-long rampage in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on June 20 last year before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch knife he used and attempted to flee.

Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced him at the Old Bailey to a whole-life order in January, saying it was a ‘rare and exceptional’ case.

He was also handed concurrent 24-year jail terms for the attempted murders of Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.

Today Saadallah appeared at the Court of Appeal in London via video-link from Belmarsh Prison, wearing a dark jumper, to challenge the length of his sentence.

However, after a hearing, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb and Mr Justice Henshaw, said his challenge had been unsuccessful. 

Khairi Saadallah has lost a bid to bring a Court of Appeal challenge against his whole-life sentence for the murders of three men in Reading

Lord Burnett said: ‘We have concluded that there is no substance in any of the criticisms made of the judge’s conclusions. In these circumstances we refuse leave to appeal.’

The killer had previous convictions including possessing knives, violence and criminal damage.

He had been released from prison just 15 days before he launched the ‘ruthlessly efficient’ attack, a court heard. 

Saadallah’s three consecutive life sentences for the murders and 24 years imprisonment for the attempted murders meant he would never be eligible for parole and would spend his life behind bars. 

Joseph Ritchie-Bennett (left), James Furlong (centre) and David Wails (right) were killed during the attack

The jihadist killer targeted the victims as they enjoyed the sunshine at Forbury Gardens after the first Covid lockdown restrictions were eased.

His deadly rampage was likened to a game of ‘duck, duck goose’ by a witness as he ran around trying to kill ‘as many people as he could,’ the Old Bailey heard.

Saadallah served as a ‘proud’ soldier of Libyan terror cult Ansar Al Sharia during the country’s civil war before fleeing Tripoli for the UK in 2012, a court was told.

He was known to the Home Office as a violent offender and was freed from HMP Bullingdon, where he befriended notorious hate preacher Omar Brooks, 15 days before the murders.

On June 4 he had received a letter from the Secretary of State stating he would be deported for ‘the public good.’

Saadallah then set about plotting his murderous spree, carrying out reconnaissance on the park and buying a Huawei phone in addition to his probation handset.

Data recovered from the device after the atrocity showed he had been using it to browse YouTube videos of Jihadi John and search the internet for information about extremist ideology.

Images accessed through Facebook also revealed him posing in military fatigues and flaunting guns while he fought in the civil war.

A court artist sketch Khairi Saadallah appearing via video-link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in June

The incident took place in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of Reading, Berkshire, on June 20

History teacher Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen, were each stabbed once in the neck. 

Scientist Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back and all three were declared dead at the scene.

One of the survivors, Stephen Young, needed 28 stitches to his forehead after suffering a ‘serious and deep’ cut to his face.

Saadallah also attacked Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan in the bloodbath.

Saadallah admitted murder and attempted murder but submitted a basis of plea, denying he had been motivated by extremist beliefs or put significant planning into the attack.

But after a two-day hearing held to determine the facts, his claims were rejected by Mr Justice Sweeney, who ruled he had been ‘advancing’ his terrorist cause.


Passing sentence the judge said: ‘Having jettisoned the knife he got away from the scene but he was followed and arrested.

‘The two groups were each doing no more than sitting in the gardens a focal point in reading since the 18th century enjoying being able to be together after lockdown restrictions when without warning the defendant attacked and murdered James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, each with a single thrust of the knife.

‘His attack on them was so swift, ruthless and brutal that none of them had a chance to react let alone defend themselves.

‘It was only because of the loss of the element of surprise that his attempts to murder Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan failed.

‘The statements speak volumes of the love and esteem in which they were and always will be held by their respective families, friends and professional colleagues and associates and for the devastating consequences of each for their loss.

‘The defendant has declined to give or to call evidence and has made clear he no longer relies on the evidence of the defence psychiatrist.’

The judge said Saadallah had held extremist beliefs and ‘continued to do so alone it with lapses for example in relation to drink and drugs up to and including the events on June 20, 2020.’

‘As of his release on June 5 he planned the attack.

‘The clothing he wore was intended to blend in with others in the gardens so as to achieve maximum surprise when the attack was launched.

‘His intention for the purpose of advancing his extremist Islamic cause was to kill as many people as possible.

‘As planned, he cut himself with the razor and endeavoured to make off. The seriousness of the murders [is] exceptionally high.

‘I have concluded that on each of counts one to three the appropriate starting point is a whole life order.

‘I am sure that the defendant was not suffering from a mental disorder that reduced his culpability for any of the offences.

‘It is clear the defendant did not and does not have any major mental illness.

‘To the extent that aspects of the defendant’s behaviour on 18 and 19 June caused concern to others they were the product of drug consumption had resolved by the 19 and played no part in the events of 20.

‘I am sure that during his police interviews he made crude attempts to portray himself as mad at the material time.

‘It is aggravating that the defendant has six previous convictions racially aggravated harassment eight for offences of violence and two for the possession of a knife or bladed article.

‘There can be no discount for plea in counts one to three.

‘There are no mitigating features but that the defendant is entitled to discount for his guilty pleas in counts four to six (attempted murder).

‘All six offences had a terrorist connection in consequence of which and academic the defendant will be subject to notification requirements for a period of 30 years.

‘Having no doubt that this is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires you be kept in prison for the rest of your life, also [you will be sentenced to] a whole life order.’

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