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26 April 2024

Reading terror attack families ‘disgusted’ by catastrophic state failures

26 April 2024

The families of three men murdered in the Reading terror attack have described their “disgust” and called for urgent change after an inquest ruled their deaths were “probably avoidable”.

Judge Coroner Sir Adrian Fulford said the deaths were contributed to by the failings of multiple agencies.

Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah shouted “Allahu akhbar” as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 2020 in the town’s Forbury Gardens.

Responding to the Judge Coroner’s conclusion, Gary Furlong, the father of James Furlong, said the three victims had been failed by “virtually all state agencies” who dealt with their attacker.

“Our boys did not stand a chance,” he said outside the Old Bailey.

Mr Furlong said he has “very little confidence” that an attack like this will not happen again after the inquest conclusion.

He added: “The problem is not the system. The problem is the people operating the system. And that starts at the bottom and goes right through.

“What we’ve seen is the lack of supervision, right throughout the process.

“There were clear warnings of (Saadallah’s) extremist risk and becoming a ‘lone-wolf’ attacker. We have been sat in court demoralised, bewildered and disillusioned by the agencies’ failure to effectively communicate, assess the risk and protect the public.

“It is clear to us that the boys were failed by the agencies who were entrusted to protect them.

“We cannot carry on listening to agencies saying, ‘lessons will be learnt’. What we now need to hear is ‘what actions will be taken’ by the Government and agencies involved.

“We must try and find a way to live our lives without James. The pain of his loss, under such horrific circumstances, is with his family, friends and former colleagues and students, forever.”

Mr Furlong said a minute’s silence held in court after the conclusion brought him to tears, adding “it was a touching tribute by the judge and it’s something we’ll never ever forget”.

The “failings of the state exposed by this inquest sicken and disgust me”, Dr Wails’s brother Andrew Wails said.

He went on: “These state agencies have let us down. The failure to prevent this attack has destroyed our lives.

“The state catastrophically failed in its’ duty to identify the risks he posed, and protect us the public from those risks. A cowardly terrorist killed my brother David, his friends James and Joe, and tried to kill three others.

“He attacked them from behind as they sat in Forbury Gardens with no chance whatsoever to defend themselves.

“As a family we have many questions and concerns about what various state agencies knew or ought to have known about this terrorist before he carried out his attack, and whether they could have done something to prevent it.

“This coward had been a member of a proscribed terrorist group and murdered people, he confessed to throwing grenades at people in public places in Libya, yet he was let into the UK and allowed to remain here.”

Benjamin Burrows, solicitor to the three families, said his clients were now having to “come to terms with the reality that the loss of their loved ones was preventable”.

He said: “Despite understandable anger, they have shown strength and dignity as evidence unfolded during the inquest of the extent of failings by multiple state agencies over several years.

“The evidence painted a picture of none of these agencies wanting to take the overall lead in managing the complex individual who killed our clients’ loved ones, instead doing their utmost to shift the responsibility on to others.

“It is a day of very mixed emotions for the families we represent as they begin to come to terms with the reality of the Judge Coroner’s clear finding that the loss of their loved ones was preventable.”

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