26 April 2024

Timeline of events around Reading terror attack

26 April 2024

The Reading terror attacker who murdered three men in a knife attack is serving a whole-life sentence.

Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah shouted “Allahu akbar” as he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 2020.

Three others – Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan – were also injured before Saadallah threw away the 8in (20cm) knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.

Here is a timeline of events leading up to and after the terror attack:


Saadallah is said to have joined a terrorist group in Libya, which is proscribed in the UK, during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship, the inquest hears in 2024.

The hearing was told that Saadallah said he fled the group when he was asked to engage in torture.


Saadallah arrives in the UK as an asylum seeker in 2012, having fled the civil war in his home country of Libya in North Africa.


Between 2013 and 2020, he is repeatedly arrested and convicted of various offences, including theft and assault.

In 2017, he is in jail at HMP Bullingdon at the same time as prominent radical preacher Omar Brooks, who is associated with the banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun.

The prosecution during his sentencing says Saadallah was observed to be keen to associate with Brooks and was “impressionable and volatile”.

Saadallah has six convictions for 11 crimes between June 2015 and January 2019, according to a 2019 Court of Appeal judgment obtained by the PA news agency.

Saadallah is declared a “subject of interest” by MI5 in 2019, but months later he became a “closed subject of interest”, the inquest hears in 2024.

He is jailed for 25 months and 20 days in October 2019 for a string of crimes but the sentence is reduced in March 2020 following an appeal.


May 28

Home Office staff email Thames Valley Police on May 28 2020, saying they planned to deport Saadallah but were unable to “until the impending charges had been dealt with”.

He was facing a trial accused of eating a mattress at a police station and spitting at an officer in July 2019, inquest hearings were later told.

Other Home Office staff were arguing against deporting him, as it was dangerous for him to return to Libya at the time, the inquest heard.

The charges were dropped on June 1 2020.

June 5

Saadallah is released from HMP Bullingdon on June 5.

June 15

He searches the internet with the question “Is Corona a sign of the end of the world” and looks up images of military activity in Libya and body bags, the court was told during during his sentencing.

He also accesses images of the gardens where he is to carry out his attack.

June 17

Saadallah searches the internet for how to “disappear with magic” with reference to witchcraft, the Old Bailey heard during his sentencing.

The same day, the defendant is caught on CCTV footage as he carries out “reconnaissance” of Forbury Gardens, it was alleged during sentencing.

June 18

Saadallah accesses a website with the flag associated with the so-called Islamic State and has contact with his probation officer.

The officer alerts his mental health team after becoming concerned about comments Saadallah made about “magic”.

June 19

Saadallah is caught on CCTV footage at Morrisons supermarket buying a knife.

The crisis team visits after he contacts them, but when they arrive on June 19, he does not open the door.

Thames Valley Police fails to find a knife at Saadallah’s home during a welfare check the day before the attacks, and officers were not told he was threatening to harm himself and others, the inquest hears in February 2024.

June 20

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.

June 21

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 a terrorism incident by police.

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.

7.06pm: The suspect is re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, Counter Terrorism Policing South East announce.

June 22

The two other victims of the attack are named locally as 39-year-old Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen who reportedly moved to the UK 15 years previously, and David Wails.

Lessons are cancelled at The Holt School and more than 100 pupils gather to lay flowers and other tributes at the gates.

June 26

Police confirm the three friends killed in the attack each died from single stab wounds.

Three other victims who were taken to hospital with stab injuries were also discharged.

June 27

Thames Valley Police charge Saadallah with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

The mayor of Reading, David Stevens, says the town’s community “shall not be divided” by the recent terror attack at a vigil held in memory of the victims one week on.

June 28

The Government renews calls for schools, offices, hospitals and other public places to be prepared for terrorist attacks following the stabbings.

July 1

Saadallah appears at the Old Bailey in London via video-link from Belmarsh Prison for a brief hearing where he only confirms his name, date of birth and his nationality as Libyan.

November 11

Saadallah returns to the Old Bailey where he pleads guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

He had been due to go on trial at the same court on November 30.

The judge tells the court the defendant has submitted a basis of plea, denying substantial preparation or planning, and saying he was not motivated by an ideological cause, in contrast with the prosecution case which is that it was a terror attack.

The judge adjourned sentencing.



Saadallah is handed a whole-life sentence by Mr Justice Sweeney during the sentencing, saying it is a “rare and exceptional” case.

He is also sentenced to concurrent 24-year jail terms for each count of attempted murder.


Saadallah loses a bid to bring a Court of Appeal challenge against his whole-life sentence.



Former home secretary Suella Braverman says the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme needs “major reform” and must focus on security “not political correctness”, after a long-awaited report was published that made 34 recommendations for an overhaul of Prevent.

A litany of concerns had been raised about how the deradicalisation programme was working after it emerged several terror attacks were carried out by extremists who had been referred to Prevent, including the Reading attack.


January and February

Full inquest begins.

Staff members in probation, immigration, police and MI5 all give evidence over the course of a number of weeks – with one probation witness breaking down in court as she recalls unknowingly “managing an unconvicted murderer”.

The inquest also hears the Home Office dealt with Saadallah with “woeful inadequacy” before the killings, when the director of the department’s Foreign National Offenders Returns Command (FNORC) answered questions.

A counsellor says he “harassed” mental health services to examine the terror attacker in the year before the killings, with his mental state forming a large part of proceedings.

The inquest hears Saadallah had killed people and thrown explosives into government premises while fighting in his home country of Libya before coming to the UK.

The inquest at the Old Bailey into their deaths hears the terrorist was “in limbo” for a number of years as his asylum application in the UK was refused, and he was also ineligible for deportation to Libya because of the country’s civil war.

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