The suspect in the Reading stabbing attack shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar’ as he stabbed six people, a court heard today.
Khairi Saadallah, 25, is accused of killing James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49 and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, as they enjoyed a socially-distanced drink in a park on June 20.
Witnesses heard him shout the phrase, meaning ‘God is greatest’ as he attacked the men and chased their friends as well as another group of people sitting nearby, according to prosecutors.
He was said to have used a knife bought from a local supermarket the day before.
Saadallah, who came to the UK from Libya in 2012 as a refugee, is believed to have converted to Christianity at some point after his arrival and spent time volunteering at a church.
Reports previously suggested he showed no strong religious leanings towards his friends but suffered from mental health problems.
His sister told the Daily Mail his conversion was motivated by a wish to ‘marry a British girl’ and caused a rift with his family.
A friend told The Times he had expressed no such wishes and converted because ‘he wanted to change his life and get away from the life he was forced to live in his home country’.
While the phrase ‘Allahu Akhbar’ is a staple of practising Muslims globally, it can also be used by some Arab Christians.
Saadallah is also charged with the attempted murder of Patrick Edwards, Stephen Young and Nishit Nisudan, who survived with serious injuries.
Defence lawyer Shibil Hammudi said his client’s ‘mental health is deteriorating and it is not possible to take instructions’, although he had given ‘a full account during interview on the third day in custody’.
Jan Newbold, prosecuting, said: ‘The brief circumstances are the day before that incident Mr Saadallah was seen to purchase a knife from a local supermarket which police say was used as the murder weapon.
‘The following day at 6.10pm he was seen to leave his flat in Basingstoke Road in Reading and he walked towards Forbury Gardens. Before entering he was seen to discard his rucksack and mobile phone.
‘At 8.54pm he was walking into Forbury Gardens. There were families present and it was a pleasant Saturday evening in terms of the weather.
‘Mr Saadallah was seen to walk along the path before suddenly moving towards a group of seven friends who were sitting on the grass. Without warning or provocation he proceeded to stab four members of that group. Three of those members suffered fatal stab wounds.
‘One member, Stephen Young, suffered a serious and deep cut to his forehead which required 28 stiches.
‘At the time of the incident he was heard to shout Allahu Akbar. He gave chase to two of the males who ran away and then he turned his attention to five friends sitting nearby.
‘He stabbed two of the men in that group. Patrick Edwards was stabbed once in his back and Nishit Nisudan who was stabbed to his head and right cheek.
‘After the incident the defendant discarded the knife in the park which was subsequently discovered and he ran back to the area where he discarded his rucksack. He was seen to deliberately cut his right hand in an attempt to allege he had been a victim of a robbery himself.
‘Fortunately there was an off-duty police officer (PC Pakman) who saw the incident. He called 999 and followed the defendant out of the park. The pursuit is captured on CCTV and the defendant can be seen walking briskly away, at times running, looking furtively behind him.
Police arrived shortly afterwards and arrested him.
He did not enter any pleas and has not admitted the offences.
He was remanded in custody until Wednesday when he will appear at the Old Bailey.
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