A Libyan refugee has pleaded guilty to murdering three friends and attempting to kill three others while shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’ in a terror attack in Reading.
Khairi Saadallah, 26, had been due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in central London on November 30.
But at a hearing on Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.
Saadallah launched a two-minute stabbing spree in Forbury Gardens, Reading, shortly before 7pm on Saturday June 20.
James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, all died, while three others – their friend Stephen Young, and Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, who were sitting in a nearby group – were injured.
History teacher Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen, were each stabbed once in the neck while scientist Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back. All three were declared dead at the scene.
Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, entered his guilty pleas in the dock of court two of the Old Bailey.
Wearing a red and white beany hat and grey jacket, the defendant’s voice appeared muffled as he spoke while wearing a face mask.
Members of the victims’ families sat in court for the hearing before Mr Justice Sweeney.
The judge told the court the defendant had 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.
Khairi Saadallah, 25, has been accused of carrying out the knife rampage in Reading that left three people dead
The incident took place in Forbury Gardens, in the centre of Reading, Berkshire, on June 20
Saadallah is charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder following the incident at Forbury Gardens (pictured)
A police forensic officer searches floral tributes laid at the scene of the incident in Forbury Gardens
Prosecutor Jan Newbold told the court Saadallah is alleged to have bought the murder weapon, a large kitchen knife, from a supermarket the day before the attack on June 20. Pictured: A court sketch of Saadallah appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link
The defendant allegedly stabbed Mr Ritchie-Bennett and Mr Furlong, delivering one blow to each of their necks. He then stabbed Mr Wails once in the back, prosecutors said.
Saadallah then allegedly stabbed Stephen Young once in the head causing a deep laceration which required 28 stitches.
The defendant also chased two other men as they ran away.
He then quickly headed towards a second group sitting nearby, made up of five friends including Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.
Mr Edwards was allegedly stabbed in the back and Mr Nisudan in the face and hand as he tried to protect himself.
Ms Newbold prosecuting said Saadallah cut himself after fleeing the scene to make it look like had been the victim of a robbery.
After the attack he was chased by an off-duty police officer and arrested in a nearby street by another officer.
Saadallah was said to have been seen throwing away his rucksack and appeared to damage what prosecutors believe was his mobile phone, which was then found by the police.
In June he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link from Coventry Magistrates’ Court 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 in June charged with the murder of three men in the suspected terror attack
Wearing a grey prison issue tracksuit and a blue surgical mask, he spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and that he lived in Reading.
Saadallah came to the UK from Libya in 2012 and originally claimed asylum before being given leave to remain in 2018.
Following the attack, dozens of floral tributes were left at the scene for the victims, who were all friends.
Dozens of floral tributes have been left near to the scene of the attack on June 20
People are seen adding to the mass of floral tributes following the attack in Forbury Gardens
Home Secretary Priti Patel visited Reading on Saturday when a vigil was held for the three victims
Tributes were paid to the victims, including Mr Ritchie-Bennett who was from Philadelphia, but had been living in Britain for 15 years.
Mr Ritchie-Bennett (pictured) had been ill with coronavirus and Mr Furlong, who also died in the attack, had been delivering his meals to him in isolation
He had been working for a Dutch pharmaceutical firm in Reading for about a decade, after working for a London law firm when he first moved to England.
His spouse Ian Bennett, whom he married in England in November 2006, died in December 2014 aged 32 after a short battle with colon cancer.
Mr Ritchie-Bennett had been ill with coronavirus and Mr Furlong, who also died in the attack, had been delivering his meals to him in isolation.
Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s brother said he had never got over the death of his spouse, but had made a home in Reading.
Robert Ritchie added: ‘We last spoke a week on Sunday. He sounded great, the happiest I’ve ever heard him. He loved the people in the UK, he really found a home there. Everybody loved Joe, he was the life of the party from the time we were kids.’
Mr Furlong was head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham
Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father Robert, 71, a retired police chief inspector, is now a college professor who lectures on counter terrorism. ‘I’m devastated,’ he said. ‘He was a very caring and loving guy.
‘He just loved life and it was a blessing to be his father. We’ve decided to bring him home, he’s not going to be buried in the UK.’
Students of Mr Furlong, who was head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, flocked to a church to remember him by lighting candles and laying flowers.
Students rushed to express their grief at his death and described Liverpool-born Mr Furlong as someone who ‘inspired them’ and ‘went the extra mile’ to support them through school.
David Wails, 49, was a scientist who specialised in clean energy
Former student Molly Collins told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘He was such a loved teacher I can’t find anyone who had a bad word to say about him.
‘He was so passionate and enthusiastic about history and learning.
‘Anything you found boring he would make interesting – he would spend time with you and get to know people individually. He always went the extra mile with everyone’.
The third victim, Mr Wails, 49, was a scientist who specialised in clean energy.
He was described by his parents as a ‘kind and much loved son, brother and uncle who never hurt anyone in his life’.
In a tribute, the said: ‘We are broken-hearted at losing him and in such a terrible way.’