This article contains graphic, distressing and potentially triggering information.
Three men were stabbed to death only a short 30 minutes away from Egham, in Reading’s Forbury Gardens last Saturday. Here are the events as they unfolded.
Saturday 20th June.
It was a bright and sunny day in Berkshire. The Prime Minister had re-opened non-essential shops only five days earlier. As the lockdown had been partially eased and the threat of Covid-19 was beginning to appear less menacing, many locals decided to spend the afternoon shopping and socialising around the large town’s central attractions, which include The Oracle, Broad Street and Forbury Gardens.
Approximately 6:45pm: Witnesses report seeing a lone attacker with a knife target a group of people in Forbury Gardens.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court has since heard that just before 7pm, the attacker targeted a group of seven sitting on the grass, stabbing four of them before turning to a group of five nearby and stabbing one in the back and one in the face.
The three friends who were killed at the scene have since been identified as James Furlong, David Wails, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett. Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett were each stabbed once in the neck, while Mr Wails was stabbed once in his back.
6:56pm: An off-duty police officer who witnessed the attack, calls 999. The first emergency call is made to Thames Valley Police. Chief Constable John Campbell has since stated that officers arrested a man within five minutes of this call.
News of the incident quickly breaks on television, radio and social media.
Locals are advised to avoid Reading town centre, whilst police begin to investigate the incident.
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 a Libyan national.
10:56pm: Thames Valley Police publicly declares that there is “no indication” that the incident is linked to the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading earlier on in the day.
After 11pm: Several armed police officers are witnessed entering a block of flats near Basingstoke Road in Reading.
Sunday 21st June.
Approximately 1:30am: Thames Valley Police confirm that three people have died and another three are seriously injured.
The force also confirm that 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 privately labels the incident terrorism.
However, this information is not made public until after 11am when Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) state that they have taken over the incident.
9am: Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a meeting with security officials, police and senior ministers in Downing Street.
Approximately 12:10pm: Mr Basu states that there is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the attack, and confirms that the attack was not associated in any way with the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading on the same day as the incident.
After 1pm: The suspect is understood by PA to be named Khairi Saadallah.
Media outlets quickly report that Saadallah is a Libyan national who sought asylum in the UK, after travelling to the country in 2012 as a refugee. Saadallah is reported to have been living in Reading at the time of the incident.
Saadallah is kept in custody.
The Prime Minister states that he is “appalled and sickened” by the incident, and pledges that his government “will not hesitate to take action” if there are lessons to be learned.
4:55pm: The first victim to be named by the media is James Furlong, 36. Mr Furlong was the Head of History at The Holt School in Wokingham.
19:06: Counter Terrorism Policing South East announce that Saadallah is re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
20:25: Mr Furlong’s family release a statement through Thames Valley Police in which his parents describe him as “the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for”. Mr Furlong’s family continue that “we are thankful for the memories he gave us all, we will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.”
Mr Furlong’s family request privacy to grieve in peace.
Monday 22nd June.
10am: A two minute silence is held in Reading to remember those who were killed in Forbury Gardens. The town flag is flown at half-mast as a mark of respect.
The Holt School in Wokingham also falls silent and mourners lay bouquets of flowers at the school’s entrance gates.
The second victim to be named by the media is Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a 39 year old US-born pharmaceutical firm worker.
Speaking to Eyewitness News, Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father Robert Ritchie said “the family is heartbroken, they have lost their brilliant and loving son. This was senseless.”
11am: A vigil is held at Abbey Gate with public figures such as the Home Secretary Priti Patel, MP Alok Sharma and MP Matt Rodda in attendance.
The Home Secretary urges the public to remain ‘vigilant’ and ‘alert’ whilst speaking to press shortly before her meeting.
4:05pm: The third victim to be named by the media is David Wails, a 49 year old senior scientist for chemical company Johnson Matthey.
The government publishes a Media Advisory Notice online, in which The Solicitor General Rt. Hon Michael Ellis QC MP reminds everyone of the requirement (under the Contempt of Court Act 1981) not to publish material which could jeopardise the defendants’ right to a fair trial:
“In particular, the Solicitor General draws attention to the requirement not to publish material that asserts or assumes the guilt of any of those who have been arrested. That is an issue to be determined by the jury during any future proceedings. The Solicitor General also wishes to remind journalists and members of the public that it can amount to contempt of court to publish information relating to a suspect’s alleged previous convictions”.
Tuesday 23rd June – Tuesday 30th June.
Reading East MP Matt Rodda states that he was proud of the way people in Reading are supporting each other through this “difficult time”.
Mr Rodda adds that, ”Reading is a friendly and peaceful town with a diverse and tolerant community and this whole incident is completely unknown to us, it is something which has never occurred before in our community and as such is deeply upsetting.”
A minute’s silence is held outside the Blagrave Arms Pub for the victims of the attack.
The Blagrave Arms informs the media that the Mr Furlong, Mr Ritchie-Bennet and Mr Wails were regular customers, and describes them as the “kindest, most genuine, and most loveliest people in our community”.
Saadallah’s brother makes a public statement expressing his condolences to the victims families. Members of the public condemn the broadcasting of this statement, and argue that it detracts attention from the victims.
Khairi Saadallah was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Saadallah appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link from Coventry Magistrates’ Court. Saadallah is reported to have been dressed in a grey, prison-issue tracksuit. Saadallah spoke only to confirm his name and address and did not enter a plea.
Prosecutor, Jan Newbold stated that Saadallah attacked his victims in Forbury Gardens, ”without warning or provocation”.
Saadallah was also charged with attempting to murder Stephen Young, as well as Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, who were sat nearby.
The court heard that Mr Young needed 28 stitches for a “serious and deep” cut to his forehead, while Mr Edwards was stabbed in the back and Mr Nisudan suffered wounds to his cheek and hand.
All three men have since been released from hospital.
Saadallah was questioned under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, before being charged on Saturday 27th June.
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told him that the case was being referred to the Crown Court and that he would appear at the Old Bailey on Wednesday 1st July.
The Reading Attack is believed to have been an isolated incident and police are not looking for other suspects or accomplices.
The Police have urged the public not to share footage of the attack on social media.
A range of support services have been collated on the new website; http://together.reading.gov.uk/get-support/
Local bereavement support groups for children can be found at; https://servicesguide.reading.gov.uk/kb5/reading/directory/advice.page?id=yNt3VfUWL
Mental health support can be found at; https://www.england.nhs.uk/london/our-work/help-and-support/ and https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
Thames Valley Victims First provide emotional support to victims of crime across Berkshire.
TEL: 0300 1234 148
24/7 VICTIM SUPPORT WEBCHAT: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/support-near-you/live-chat
Healthwatch Reading provides information for anyone affected by grief in the local area.
Cruse Bereavement Care offers support to anyone affected by grief.
LOCAL HELPLINE: 01344 411919
LOCAL EMAIL CONTACT: [email protected]
Local mental health support.
24/7 HELPLINE: 116 123
Talking Therapies Berkshire.
Free mental health support for anyone in Reading aged 18 or over.
Local mental health service (CAMHS)
LOCAL EMAIL CONTACT: [email protected]
TEL: 0300 365 1234
The Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality (ACRE) have teamed up with local groups such as Utulivu and Reading Community Learning Centre to provide assistance to the BAME community in Reading.