A probation officer for the Reading terror attacker said she was unknowingly “managing an unconvicted murderer” while in charge of his case in the lead-up to the attacks, an inquest has heard.
Laura Rixon cried during her evidence after being told by counsel that Khairi Saadallah had killed people and thrown explosives into government premises while fighting in his home country of Libya before coming to the UK.
She told the inquest she had no knowledge of Saadallah ever “fighting” in Libya and managed him on the belief – from the information she had – that he had mixed ideologies, was not a national security threat and that his risk of extremism was low.
Ms Rixon qualified as a probation officer in 2016 and was allocated Saadallah in August 2019, remaining in charge of his case until the day of the attack.
The inquest heard it was Ms Rixon’s first “Prevent case” – a reference to the Government counter-terrorism programme.
Giving evidence to the inquest at the High Court on Friday, she said she was told by Thames Valley Counter-Terrorism Police shortly after taking the case on that Saadallah displayed a “lack of ideology” and was not in their view a national security threat.
The probation counter-terrorism team made the same observations about his lack of ideology and said stabilising his mental health was the priority to mitigate any risk he might pose to the public, the inquest heard.
Ms Rixon said her understanding of the extremism risk Saadallah posed remained generally unchanged from that early exchange, explaining: “All that had been indicated to me… was that there had been a mixed ideology, he did not know what he believed, and risk to national security and risk of extremism was low.”
Asked about his actions in Libya, Ms Rixon said her understanding was that he had been recruited as a child soldier but primarily his role was moving people who had been injured or who had died to hospital.
She said she did not know he had been involved in fighting.
“Not until this second,” Ms Rixon replied.
Mr Skelton asked whether she knew it had been “self-reported” to mental health services that he had “thrown explosives into government premises” before he “masqueraded as a rescuer”.
Ms Rixon began to cry, responding: “No. I didn’t know.”
Asked if those were the kind of details relevant when she was assessing the risk he may pose to the public, Ms Rixon said: “Yes. I was managing an unconvicted murderer and I didn’t know.”
She told the inquest that if that information had been known she, as a relatively junior officer, would likely not have been in charge of Saadallah’s case.
And she said she would have assessed the risk he posed to the public as “very high” instead of “high” with the new information.
She said she had not been aware of that and had she known it would have caused her to be more concerned about the extremist side of the risks in Saadallah’s case.
The inquest also heard about a phone call Saadallah’s brother made to police, reporting that Saadallah had made reference in the days before the attacks to harming himself and others, which he later passed off as a joke.
The probation officer said she was not made aware of that phone call and that she would have recommended Saadallah be recalled to prison if she knew.
Stabilising Saadallah’s mental health had been Ms Rixon’s priority throughout the time she managed his case, the inquest heard.
She said she tried on numerous occasions, numerous different avenues to try and get mental health support for Saadallah, and encountered a great deal of difficulty with referrals being rejected by the community mental health team and NHS pathfinders.
In January 2021, Saadallah was handed a whole-life sentence at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.
The inquest continues on Monday.