Reading terrorist expressed a desire to ‘blow people up’, inquest hears

The Reading terror attacker expressed a desire to start a revolution in Libya and then return to Britain to “blow people up”, an inquest has heard.

Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails were murdered by Khairi Saadallah – who had a history of offending – on June 20 2020 in Forbury Gardens, Reading.

On Monday, the inquest into the attack at the Old Bailey saw written evidence from March 2018 that while at HMP Bullingdon, Saadallah had expressed a desire to start a revolution in Libya and then come back to Britain to “blow people up”.

Forbury Gardens incident
Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails were killed in the Reading terror attack (Family handout/PA)

When asked by Nicholas Moss KC, the witness said: “No, I don’t think we were aware of that specifically.”

This meant that at the time of MI5’s second “triage” exercise into Saadallah in 2018, it was wrongly thought that the risk level posed would have been mitigated by his deportation to Libya.

Giving evidence from behind a blue screen, the witness said: “The simple fact that this man was still in the country should have been enough to open a lead investigation”.

The witness, described at the inquest as a “senior manager at MI5”, said the counter-terror system relied on accurate information being shared.

The witness said: “MI5 is part of a counter-terror system. It is not an alternative to it”.

The witness added that it was only two years after the fact that MI5 became aware that, in 2017, Saadallah was keen to speak with Islamist terrorist Omar Brooks, also known as Abu Izzadeen, in prison.

The witness said: “It wasn’t (the information) sent to us. I’m not sure I can explain why.”

Forbury Gardens incident
A general view of Forbury Gardens in Reading where David Wails, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong, were killed in the Reading terror attack (Steve Parsons/PA)

The security services witness said the purpose of an investigation into a subject of interest was to “separate the things they say about themselves and the things that are actually true”.

They added that Saadallah’s behaviour was “much more complex” than a “linear path of progression” towards the attack.

The witness said: “Given the intelligence, no proportionate actions we could have taken would have changed the outcome.”

They added: “I have seen no material to suggest the conclusion would have been different.”

The witness said the process for the closure of a subject of interest was based on the “likelihood of re-engagement and the potential impact if that re-engagement occurs”.

They added that the post-attack investigation was “rigorous and detailed”.

Asked by Mr Moss, if “in layman’s terms, he (Saadallah) was acting alone”, the witness replied: “Yes, that’s right”.

Asked if there was no indication that Saadallah had any “specific targets in mind”, the witness replied: “Yes, that remains the assessment.”

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.

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