The Reading terror suspect Saadallah ruled out as possible terrorist twice in two years
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The suspect in the Reading stabbings was twice assessed by security services but was deemed to pose no danger of staging an attack, it has emerged.
Khairi Saadallah, 25, was referred to Prevent, the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, and then to MI5 in the past two years. He was arrested on Saturday following the stabbing to death of three men in a park in Reading, Berkshire.
Investigators are picking through his life as they search for evidence of the motivation for the stabbings.
Saadallah was arrested shortly after 7pm on Saturday. The next morning, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, determined it should be treated as a terrorist attack, but with investigators keeping an open mind as to motivation.
Saadallah’s record of extensive mental health problems is understood to be considered a significant factor. Community concerns have been raised after it emerged that his three victims – James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails – were friends and members of the LGBT community.
In 2018, he is understood to have been assessed by Prevent and found to have no clear ideology. He was deemed to need additional mental health support. In the same year, the Libyan national was granted asylum in the UK.
In the middle of last year, MI5 had Saadallah under investigation as a person who might travel to Libya “for extremist reasons”. That claim was found to lack credibility and he was assessed as being far from the legal threshold for investigation.
The police investigation, with support from MI5, is being led by Counter-Terrorism Policing South-East, which covers the Reading area.
Detectives are also examining his mental health history. Saadallah had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and an emotionally unstable personality disorder.
He had also volunteered to help at a Christian church and reportedly at one point converted to Christianity.
On Friday, the day before the attack, a check on the Reading address where he was staying showed Saadallah was not present and a search found him in the street.
The chair of Reading Pride, Paul Britt, spoke of anxiety within the LGBT community and called for clarity from the police as soon as possible on motive. He said: “Because it’s so close to home everyone’s feeling anxious. I would say that some people are feeling a bit more anxious. The community is feeling grief, shock and sadness. All the emotions that come with such a terrible atrocity.
“There’s a sense of incomprehension. People are trying to understand what happened and why. People won’t get closure until there’s understanding. I don’t want to prejudice the investigation but some clarity would be helpful.”
John Campbell, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, said police officers do not believe there to be a wider risk to the public. He said: “I would like to reiterate that there is nothing to suggest that anyone else is involved in this offence and we are confident this is an isolated incident.
“In the past when there has been a terrorist attack, at home or abroad, we have seen the national terror threat level change increase. That has not happened in this case, which is confirmation of the security services assessment following this incident.”
Police are in discussions with lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service over possible charges.
Source: The Guardian