Reading terror attacker loses bid to challenge whole-life sentence

·3 min read

The Reading terror attacker has lost a bid to bring a Court of Appeal challenge against his whole-life sentence for the murders of three men.

Khairi Saadallah, 27, was sentenced to die in prison after he fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on June 20 last year.

Three other people were injured in the approximately minute-long rampage in Forbury Gardens, Reading, before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch knife he used and attempted to flee.

Saadallah, of Basingstoke Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced him at the Old Bailey to a whole-life order in January, saying it was a “rare and exceptional” case.

He was also handed concurrent 24-year jail terms for the attempted murders of Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.

Reading attack victims
(left to right) Joe Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails, the three victims of the terror attack (Thames Valley Police/PA)

On Thursday Saadallah appeared at the Court of Appeal in London via video-link from Belmarsh Prison, wearing a dark jumper, to challenge the length of his sentence.

However, after a hearing, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb and Mr Justice Henshaw, said his challenge had been unsuccessful.

Saadallah’s barrister, Rossano Scamardella QC, told the court that the life-long sentence was excessive and that the sentencing judge should have given a life sentence with a minimum prison term.

He argued that the attacks were not terror-related and that even “mundane day-to-day tasks” had been “demonised” as preparation for the murders.

“The way Mr Saadallah led his life was utterly inconsistent with being an Islamist extremist. He smoked cigarettes, abused alcohol, he took drugs, self-harmed, he had tattoos,” he continued.

Mr Scamardella also told the court that there was evidence that Saadallah identified as a Christian “as much, if not more”, than he did as a Muslim.

Khairi Saadallah
Khairi Saadallah (Facebook/PA)

He added: “Anyone genuinely fanatical about Islam would not countenance adopting another faith, even fleetingly.”

Mr Scamardella later told the Court of Appeal that while it was “impossible to deny” there was some planning, it was not substantial enough to justify the sentence.

The barrister also argued the prosecution had “demonised almost everything done by Mr Saadallah in the days leading up to the killings” without linking them to the crime.

This included purchasing clothes at Primark and changing into them, wearing gloves to use a cashpoint and repeatedly going to the communal rubbish bins outside his flat, the court heard.

Mr Scamardella described these as “confusing and strange behaviours” but said they were not evidence of substantial preparation for the murders.

However, the three senior judges said Saadallah’s appeal was not arguable.

Saadallah sat with his arms folded as the judgment was read out.

Lord Burnett said: “We have concluded that there is no substance in any of the criticisms made of the judge’s conclusions. In these circumstances we refuse leave to appeal.”

The senior judges found that Saadallah’s planning and premeditation was “clearly substantial”.

They also rejected the argument that Saadallah was suffering a mental illness at the time of the killings.

“Each of the conclusions reached by the judge… were in our view obviously open to him (the sentencing judge),” Lord Burnett said.

“The whole life order made by the judge cannot be suggested as even arguably wrong in law or manifestly excessive.”

Lord Burnett later said it was important not to “forget the consequences of those murders and attempted murders on those left behind and injured, or indeed the impact on Reading”.

“We do not forget the families, friends and professional colleagues of those who died or those who were seriously injured,” he concluded.

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