A man has admitted murdering three men in a Reading park during a stabbing spree.
Khairi Saadallah, 26, who prosecutors say was a terrorist, had been due to go on trial at the Old Bailey on 30 November. 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 20 June.
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.
Furlong, a history teacher, and Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen who worked for a pharmaceutical firm, were each stabbed once in the neck. Wails, a scientist, 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. 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.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the case merited a “whole life” sentencing. The judge adjourned sentencing until the week of 7 December.
The court heard several issues needed to be argued including whether there was a substantial degree of pre-meditation and planning, whether it was for a religious, political or ideological cause and to what degree Saadallah’s mental state influenced his actions.
On the afternoon of 19 June, Saadallah was captured on CCTV at Morrisons supermarket in Reading buying a large knife and a pair of gloves, according to a case summary. Just after 6pm the next day, he left his flat wearing denim shorts, a hooded top and carrying a rucksack with a bandana tied around his leg.
At 6.52pm, he was caught on CCTV discarding his rucksack and damaging what was believed to be a mobile phone which was later recovered.
He walked into Forbury Gardens at 6.54pm, as numerous people, including children, enjoyed the fine weather. According to eyewitnesses, he walked along a footpath and then suddenly ran towards a group of men sitting on the grass.
According to the case summary, the attack was “without warning or provocation and in rapid succession”. Witnesses were said to have heard him shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). After the attacks the defendant discarded the knife and ran out of the park.
An off-duty police officer called 999 and followed him, it is alleged.
Within minutes of the emergency call, he was apprehended by police.
Saadallah had a history of mental health issues, debt and homelessness, according to court documents. He arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in 2012, having fled the civil war in his home country of Libya in north Africa.
Saadallah had six previous convictions for 11 crimes between June 2015 and January last year, according to a 2019 court of appeal judgment obtained by the PA news agency.
He was originally jailed for 25 months and 20 days in October 2019 for a string of crimes but the sentence was reduced in March following an appeal.