Police officer unaware terrorist had knife in flat day before attack

UK

A police officer who paid a “welfare visit” to a violent offender the day before he launched a terrorist attack has described how he was unaware the man had a knife for the attack in his flat.

Khairi Saadallah was acting “shiftily” and positioned himself between the officers and a Morrisons supermarket bag containing the knife, the inquest into the deaths was told.

His brother had dialled 999 saying Saadallah had told him he wanted to “go to heaven” and was going to “blow himself up” but the information was not passed to the officers.

Saadallah, 25, stabbed to death three men who were meeting in Forbury Gardens, Reading, 15 days after his release from prison on licence.

History teacher James Furlong, 36, pharmaceuticals manager Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and scientist David Wails, 49, were killed and three others injured on 20 June 2020.

Saadallah, who was later handed a whole life tariff, had viewed ISIS material before the attack and was heard yelling “Allahuakbar” [god is great] and “God accept my jihad”.

PC Lewis Perham had already responded to four incidents involving Saadallah, on one occasion because he was carrying a knife and a second when he attacked a security guard with a broken wine bottle.

On a third occasion, PC Perham responded to a call from Saadallah himself who was complaining about “negative comments on Facebook causing him to be down”.

The last time he had responded to an incident on 6 August 2019 was when he was fighting in the street with a walking stick and punched the officer in the chest.

Saadallah spent the next 10 months in jail before he was released on 5 June 2020 but, on 19 June, police received a 999 call from his brother saying he feared Saadallah was going to hurt himself and others.

It took police nearly four hours to respond and PC Perham was incorrectly told that Saadallah had swallowed a number of tablets and was threatening to commit suicide.

Saadallah had been given a crisis mental health appointment but had failed to turn up and PC Perham and two colleagues were sent to his council flat.

“I remember it being a welfare check,” PC Perham told the inquest.

Image:
James Furlong (L), Joe Ritchie-Bennett (C) and David Wails (R) were killed during Saadallah’s rampage

‘I didn’t believe he was in crisis’

He agreed he had not been given “highly relevant” information that would have helped him assess the risk Saadallah posed to himself and others.

PC Perham told the inquest: “I didn’t believe he was in crisis when I met him. It was probably the best I had ever seen him. He was most talkative and able to have a conversation.”

Richard Boyle, for the inquest, asked: “We know there was a Morrisons bag which may have contained the knife in the attack and [Saadallah] placed himself between you and the bag. Did you notice that at the time?”

“No,” PC Perham said.

Peter Skelton KC, for the victims’ families, asked if he had known that Saadallah had threatened to blow himself up, whether he would have asked different questions at the flat.

“Yes,” the officer replied.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, the officer was on duty when Saadallah launched his attack.

He responded to the emergency call to Forbury Gardens and described a scene of chaos – and heard Saadallah’s name on the police radio as he was detained in a nearby street.

Mr Boyle asked: “Were you surprised?”

“Yes,” the officer replied.

The inquest continues.

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