ONE of the UK’s top courts has thrown out an appeal to reduce the sentence of the terrorist who murdered three people in Forbury Gardens last year.

Khairi Saadallah, 27, who fatally stabbed James Furlong, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails in June 2020, launched a three-pronged appeal against the whole life sentence he was given in January 2021.

His legal team claimed Saadallah did not illustrate substantial planning in the days before his horrific attack, that his offences were not substantially ideologically motivated, and that he had ‘life-long’ mental health issues.

The court heard how Saadallah in the days after his detention, Saadallah 'howled like a dog', 'answered questions with random comments' and would randomly start doing press-ups while in custody in order to make it seem as though he had a mental health illness.

But the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett dismissed Saadallah’s appeal, stating his whole-life order could not be seen as ‘wrong’ or ‘excessive' and rejecting the 27-year-old was suffering from a mental health condition at the time of the stabbings.


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.”

'Strange behaviour'

Sitting wearing a dark jumper with his arms crossed, Saadallah did not appear to react to the decision.

Defending for Saadallah, Rossano Scamardella QC suggested the Libyan national, 27, could have been given a minimum 30-year prison sentence.

The defence counsel conceded Saadallah displayed an element of pre-meditation and planning in the build-up to the June 20, 2020 attacks, but that this was not “substantial” and therefore not enough to warrant a whole-life prison term.

He said: “Every criminal offence involves a certain degree of planning other than spontaneous offences.

"The pre-meditation must be substantial. In his case, there is evidence of planning but nothing which gets close to overcoming the threshold.

“The planning and pre-meditation was no more than was necessary to commit these offences.

"We argue there must be more to justify the sentence of last resort."

READ MORE: How terror attack events unfolded in June 2020

The defence said Saadallah used a cashpoint with gloves before the offence and bought clothes from Primark which he changed into before the attack.

These pieces of evidence were shown in court but he claims this was 'odd behaviour' and 'strange behaviour' that has been confused with substantial planning.

'Long-standing mental health issues'

Addressing the issue of Saadallah being an ideological extremist, Mr Scamardella QC said the 27-year-old "led a life inconsistent with being a fanatical Islamist."

He added: "So man features of his life could not be reconciled with this basis."

Mr Scamardella QC revealed Saadallah smoked, drunk, self-harmed and had tattoos.

The court heard how Saadallah admitted he carried out the acts in the name of Jihad, but Mr Scamardella told the judges that the appellant also mentioned the persecution of his sister on Facebook and his wish to be deported as reasons for the attack.

It was also claimed the defendant has had 'long-standing mental health issues’, something the defence claimed Justice Sweeney did not consider when sentencing Saadallah in January 2021.

Mr Scamardella argued not enough weight was given to Saadallah's guilty pleas to three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in November 2020.

At his sentencing in January, Saadallah was also handed concurrent 24-year jail terms for the attempted murders of Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan.

Prosecuting, Alison Morgan QC said this was a 'rare and exceptional case' that caused 'unimaginable shock, trauma and grief for the families of James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails.'

READ MORE: Heroic officers recount brave tackling of Reading terrorist

She also told the court a doctor who gave evidence about Saadallah's condition "made it clear that the appellant's culpability for his offending was in no way reduced by any possible mental health disorder."

Primark purchases

After a short break, the three judges told Saadallah, who was appearing via live video link from HMP Belmarsh, that they were refusing his appeal.

Lord Burnett said the bench disagreed with Mr Scamardella’s submissions, insisting Saadallah did plan the attacks, was ideologically motivated and did not have a mental health disorder.

The judge explained that Saadallah used extremist websites and shouted ‘God is great’ in Arabic as he carried out the attacks.

The court heard how the Libyan national ‘carefully selected’ the eight-inch knife he would use in the rampage and that he had specifically chosen Forbury Gardens as the location of his attacks.

He had planned his horrendous attacks immediately after leaving prison for a previous offence in early June 2020.

On the day of the attack, Saadallah bought clothes from Primark in order to 'blend in' with the public. 

He also carried a razor with him, which he intended to use on himself to make it appear as though he was a victim. 

'Howled like a dog'

READ MORE: Reading remembers victims of terror attack three years on

It was also heard that in the days after his detention, Saadallah 'howled like a dog', 'answered questions with random comments' and would randomly start doing press-ups while in custody.

At his sentencing hearing, the prosecution argued this was his attempt to illustrate a fake mental health disorder.

But the judges 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."

He added: “None should forget the consequences of these murders and attempted murders or the impact on the town of Reading.

"We do not forget those who died or those who were injured.

"We are satisfied that judge's sentence can not be faulted."

Saadallah’s hearing took place at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, October 14.