26 April 2024

Reading terror attack: Police facing more offenders with ‘mental health needs’

26 April 2024

Counter terrorism police are facing more cases of individuals with “complex mental health” needs, a senior officer has said after the conclusion of the Reading terror attack inquest.

Police are also having to deal with more cases involving “individuals with mixed or unclear ideology – which are harder to deal with”.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Metcalfe, lead for Counter Terrorism Policing South East on behalf of Thames Valley Police, was speaking after Judge Coroner Sir Adrian Fulford said the deaths of James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, were “contributed to by the failings of multiple agencies”.

Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah shouted “Allahu akhbar” as he fatally stabbed the friends.

Thames Valley Police failed to find a knife at Saadallah’s home during a welfare check the day before he carried out the attacks, because officers were not told he was threatening to harm himself and others, the hearing was told.

Mr Metcalfe said in a statement: “Today, my thoughts, and those of everyone at Counter Terrorism Policing and Thames Valley Police are with the families and friends of James Furlong, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, and Dr David Wails.

“They are also with the people of Reading, who I know have been deeply affected by what happened.

“We acknowledge the conclusions given by the Judge Coroner today, which we will of course need time to fully consider and we await the full details of any formal recommendations.

“However, we in policing have not waited until this point to make changes where needed. When reviewing our actions in relation to this case, we identified a number of areas where changes were needed or processes could be improved.

“Many of the cases we are working on now involve people with complex mental health and social needs. We also are seeing more individuals with mixed or unclear ideology, who can be more difficult to assess and manage.

“Policing is full of people who work hard every single day to help protect others and help them in their hour of need.

“We heard evidence during the inquest about the bravery of on-duty and off-duty officers who administered first aid and who ran towards the attacker to arrest and detain him.”

Judge Coroner Fulford will be issuing a Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Justice, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

In January 2021, the killer was handed a whole-life sentence at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

Judge Coroner Fulford recorded a conclusion of unlawful killing for the deaths.

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