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Security guard tells of scene as Reading triple-murder suspect Khairi Saadallah was arrested

A security guard has revealed he saw the moment the suspect of the triple murder in Reading was rugby tackled by police yesterday, stating his hands were so covered in blood that it looked like he put them in ‘a bucket of red paint’. 

Three people were killed and another three were injured in a frenzied knife attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading on Saturday evening, with suspect Khairi Saadallah, 25, arrested for the rampage.

Now Saadallah’s brother has claimed the suspect was ‘defending himself’ and described his arrest for terrorism as being ‘racist’.

And security guard Sydney McDonald, 65, has revealed how he saw the suspect being detained by police. 

He said: ‘I had just finished work at about 7.10pm and as soon as I came out of the shop, there were about four police cars, they turned around in the middle of the road, they were driving pretty fast.

‘There was a guy and I saw him pointing to a man and saying ”There he is, there he is”. If he hadn’t, they would have missed him.

‘He was running really fast, properly fast. They put the emergency brakes on, jumped out of the car and rugby-tackled him to the floor.

‘He was on his stomach and the blood on his hands looked like he had put his hand in a big bucket of red paint.

‘They put the handcuffs on, he wasn’t putting up a fight or anything like that, they picked him up and put him in the van, he just sat there all quiet, he wasn’t saying nothing.’ 

Meanwhile, Saadallah’s brother Mo slammed his arrest for terror and wrote on Facebook: ‘This is not true. Khairi defended himself…racist countries. Freedom for my brother!’ 

Saadallah is thought to have come to the UK from Libya as a tourist in 2012 before claiming asylum as he was at risk from Islamic extremists in his homeland because he ‘liked to drink’ and didn’t lead a ‘strict religious life’.

He is thought to have spent at least 12 months in jail in the UK for non-terror offences, during which he converted to Christianity, according to his cousin, and is said to have a tattoo of a cross on one of his arms.  

Saadallah is also believed to have come to the attention of MI5 last year, after they suspected he was planning to travel to Syria for ‘extremist reasons’. However, an investigation revealed no immediate risk or threat and he was not under surveillance at the time of yesterday’s rampage.   

Speaking after the attack, which took place in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on Saturday evening, Saadallah’s cousin, who lives in Libya and did not wanted to be named, said: ‘I cannot believe this. I can’t believe he’d do anything like this or be involved in anything to do with terrorism.

Khairi had been to the UK a number of times but at the end of 2012 he travelled there as a tourist and decided to stay and claim asylum.

‘He was at risk of extremists in Libya because he liked to drink and socialise and didn’t really lead a strict religious life at all.

‘He did get in trouble in England and could be aggressive but I can’t ever imagine him getting drawn into something as serious as this.’

Speaking about his conversion to Christianity, the cousin said: ‘It might have been why about two or three years ago, he converted from Islam to Christianity.

‘He started going to church and had tattoos all over his body including one of a cross on his arm. I haven’t had contact with him since that time.

‘He lived in Manchester first and now lives in Reading. I think the authorities in Britain have tried to send him back to Libya but he doesn’t want to go back. He’s been in the UK for about seven years so is practically British now.’    

Police are thought to be looking at mental health as a reason for the attack. 

It comes as a ‘kind and inspiring’ history teacher was named as one of the three people killed in a frenzied terror attack. 

James Furlong, head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, was stabbed to death along with two other victims in Forbury Gardens on Saturday evening. 

Today tributes have been paid to Mr Furlong, the first victim of the attack to be named, with bosses from his school and parents sharing their shock. 

In a statement, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, the co-headteachers at the Holt School, said: ‘James was very kind and a gentleman. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and everyone of our students.

‘He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication.’

Local councillor James Box, who lives in Wokingham and whose daughter was taught by Mr Furlong, described him as an ‘excellent teacher’.

He said: ‘He was one of the teachers who taught my daughter Ellie. This has come as a real shock to us all. The school put out a message to parents to say he was one of these who died.’

Councillor Box added: ‘He was a very good teacher – excellent. I did not know him very well though. He was very popular at The Holt.’

Yesterday witnesses to the attack said a man with a ‘five inch knife’ targeted and stabbed people ‘at random’ before being ‘rugby-tackled’ to the ground by one unarmed police officer.

One witness said the attacker pulled a knife and ‘shouted some unintelligible words’ before trying to stab people in the packed park, which was said to be filled with families and young children at the time. 

Onlooker Lawrence Wort, 20, saw the man stab three men ‘in the neck and under the arms’ before turning around and running towards him.

He and his group fled and, when he realised he couldn’t catch up with them, the attacker tried to stab another group sitting down.

Last night counter-terrorism officers were called in to help detectives following the attack, which police said at first was not thought to be terrorism-related, and carried out a controlled explosion at the suspect’s home address.

But this morning Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, Senior National Coordinator for the Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) network, announced the attack to be a ‘terrorist incident’. They will take over the investigation from Thames Valley Police.  

Meanwhile, head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, today said there is ‘nothing to suggest anyone else was involved’ and that police are not currently seeking anyone else as part of the investigation.

Police are considering mental health to be a major factor, according to security sources.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile said he was ‘appalled and sickened’ by the suspected terror attack and promised the government will ‘not hesitate to take action where necessary’ if lessons needed to be learnt. 

It come as today footage emerged which shows a man being detained by officers in the middle of a street following the frenzied stabbing attack in the park, which took place around 7pm yesterday.

Witnesses said the attacker targeted a group of middle-aged men ‘sitting drinking beer’ and systematically stabbed them ‘in the neck and under the arms’.

The injured victims were last night understood to be in a critical condition at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

One of the patients admitted to Royal Berkshire Hospital after the attack has been discharged, while another remains in a stable condition under observation, a spokeswoman said. 

The suspect was arrested at the scene by a hero lone police sergeant who rugby-tackled him to the floor.  

The attack is believed to have taken place as people enjoyed the last of the day’s sunshine at the popular park.  

Personal trainer Mr Wort watched the terrifying scenes unfold in the park, which is popular with families and used as a venue for open air concerts and plays.

Mr Wort said: ‘The park was pretty full. One group of friends were sitting drinking when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around, trying to stab them.

‘He stabbed three of them, severely in the neck, and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me.

‘I saw a knife in his hand. Probably at least five inches minimum. And then he turned and started looking towards us and that’s when I just started shouting ‘run’.

‘When he realised that he couldn’t catch us, he tried to stab another group sitting down. He got one person in the back of the neck and then, when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out of the park.’ 

And speaking of the moment the suspect was arrested, a police source told the Sunday Mirror: ‘A man pulled a knife and started attacking people at random in Reading, near the Crown Court.

‘It is thought there was one attacker who has surrendered to police.

‘It appears the attack was stopped when a lone sergeant, who responded when the alarm was raised, ran to the scene, saw the attacker running away with a knife and rugby tackled him to the ground.’

Gruesome footage on social media revealed the attack’s appalling aftermath – three men lying a few feet apart on blood-soaked grass. Police arrived within minutes and frantically tried to keep them alive. 

Today the Thames Valley Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in the area, praised the bravery of officers who responded to the attack.

Chairman Craig O’Leary said: ‘First and foremost our thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones in the horrific incident last night and we wish our very best to those still injured.

‘There can be no doubt that the swift response of our Thames Valley Police colleagues saved further harm from being caused and potentially more lives from being lost.

‘There are barely words to describe their bravery – officers who ran towards danger with the sole thought of protecting the public we serve. Other colleagues valiantly rushed to the scene to try and save and preserve life.

‘While the investigation into this incident continues, what we can say is the public can rightly be proud of their emergency services today.’   

Late last night 20 armed officers swarmed into a four-storey block of flats about a mile from the park as a helicopter circled overhead. 

They were seen by neighbours with their guns pointed up and one officer carried an enormous disc cutter.

It was unclear last night whether officers were hunting for suspects inside the flats, or whether they were looking evidence. Armed officers were also seen at Forbury Gardens, the scene of the stabbing. Police, with their guns pointed up, were seen walking past a window on the first floor. 

The BBC has reported that its Home Affairs correspondent, Daniel Sandford, had been told the suspect has previously been to prison in the UK for relatively minor offences – not linked to terrorism.

Automatic deportation for ‘foreign nationals’ who commit criminal offences starts at 12 months imprisonment. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel has meanwhile condemned the ‘senseless’ attack on people ‘enjoying a Saturday evening with family and friends.

Responding to the attack, Ms Patel said in a statement: ‘This evening we saw a senseless attack on people simply enjoying a Saturday evening with family and friends.

‘My heart, prayers and thoughts are with all of those affected and to the people of Reading who will be deeply shocked and concerned by this terrible incident.

‘I am in contact with the police and will ensure they have all the support they need. I would like to thank Thames Valley Police and the emergency services for their response.’ 

Speaking today at Downing Street Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘I’m appalled and sickened that people should lose their lives in this way and our thoughts are very much with the family and the friends of the victims today.

‘I’ve obviously talked to the chief constable at Thames Valley Police, thanked him and his officers for their bravery in tackling the suspect.

‘We now have someone in custody. The police must get on with their job, get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and so it would be difficult really to comment in detail.

‘Except to say this, if there are lessons we need to learn about how we handle such cases, how we handle the events leading up to such cases, then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary.’

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer described the stabbing as ‘horrific’ and said this is ‘not a time for party politics’.

He said: ‘It’s horrific that it happened at all wherever it happened, and across Reading, across the country there will be communities really upset and worried about this, united in their grief.

‘And all of our thoughts are with those who have lost someone in this.’

He added: ‘It’s very important that the investigation runs its course but I will want to work with the Government in response to this, to look at whether there’s lessons that can be learned, whether there need to be changes to the law.

‘But I think as a constructive opposition, I will want to speak to the Prime Minister to discuss how together, we can improve the response, learn from this. The investigation must be completed, but of course, this is not a time for party politics.’

Thames Valley Police Chief Constable John Campbell described the scene of the attack as ‘horrific’.

At a short press briefing, he said: ‘As you can imagine the scene we came across was pretty horrific.

‘We had a number of officers that were in the community because they were patrolling around Reading and they were there very quickly.

‘We also had a number of people in the park that were witnesses to this incident and they saw the terrible tragedy unfold.

‘So you can imagine both for my officers but also for those that were involved it was very distressing and we are doing all that we can to make sure we are supporting them as well as progressing the criminal inquiry.’

He declined to comment on whether the 25-year-old suspect currently in custody was previously known to police for extremism but said an arrest was made just five minutes after police were called at 6.56pm on Saturday.

Yesterday an air ambulance was pictured landing near the scene of the stabbings before it carried the injured victims to hospital.

Forbury Gardens was the site of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest which took place earlier on Saturday but ended three hours before the stabbings. Police and organisers stressed that the attack was completely unrelated to that event.  

Following the attack the area was then locked down amid fears there could be a second suspect. 

Counter terror police were then pictured raiding an address less than two miles from the park. There were unconfirmed reports that a second man was arrested. 

However Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, today said there is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the Reading attack and police are not currently seeking anyone else as part of the investigation.

He said: ‘From our inquiries undertaken so far, officers have found nothing to suggest that there was anyone else involved in this attack and presently we’re not looking for anyone else in relation to the incident.

‘However, counter-terrorism detectives work closely with the security services and will work closely with Thames Valley major crime colleagues and we continue to make inquiries to ensure that is the case.

‘Although the motivation for this horrific act is far from certain, counter-terrorism policing have taken responsibility for leading the investigation.

‘However we’re clear that it was not associated in any way with the Black Lives Matter protest which took place peacefully earlier on in the day.’

Meanwhile a witness, named Dan, told the Sunday Mirror that the group of people who were attacked were ‘just in a circle chatting.’ 

He said how he thought the people were playing, ‘duck duck goose’, a children’s game which sees participants sit in a circle while someone taps them on the head. 

‘He [the attacker] was tapping them on the head. Then I thought someone had been sick. But it was blood spraying out,’ he said. 

The man said he and his friends then got up and began to run away when the attacker began running toward Reading Station.  

Another witness told Mirror Online he saw blood spurting from victims, who dropped to the ground ‘like a weight’. 

A fourth described how they saw CPR being performed on at least three people.

Officers carrying semi-automatic rifles stormed the four-storey flats complex of nearby flats after evacuating residents shortly after 8pm. 

A neighbour who witnessed the raid on the flats said: ‘I was making dinner and I heard some noise. I looked outside my door and there were armed police everywhere.

‘I came out and police were on all the floors and in every stairwell. They had the place surrounded.’

The last confirmed UK terror attack took place in February when Sudesh Amman stabbed three people in Streatham, South London, before being shot dead by police. 

It was unclear last night whether officers were hunting for suspects inside the flats, or whether they were looking for weapons.

Officers, with their guns pointed up, were seen walking past a window on the first floor.

Allister Smith, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital earlier today, told BBC Radio 5 Live that a nurse had told him that three people were killed in the attack.   

‘I was being seen by a nurse who was taking my vitals,’ he said. 

‘She seemed a bit shaken. She was chatting to one of her colleagues and then she turned round to me and said three people are dead.’  

The distressing video of the aftermath of the attack showed police giving CPR to one injured person as someone else could be heard saying ‘he’s still breathing’. 

Freelance journalist Claire Gould, 33, who lives near the scene, said she saw the air ambulances land on the nearby Kings Meadow as a police helicopter circled overhead.

She described hearing lots of sirens and said surrounding roads and a retail park had been cordoned off by officers. 

The organiser of Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest which took place at the scene of the stabbings, said on Facebook the earlier demonstrations were ‘very peaceful’.

Nieema Hassan said: ‘I have goosebumps knowing that this has happened only a few hours after we all peacefully came together today to talk about change and equality, and it’s pretty heartbreaking that this day has been tarnished with violence.

‘It [the incident] had nothing to do with the protests. 

‘They were very peaceful and we worked with police liaison officers the entire time.

‘They actually commented on how peaceful and well done and well thought out the protest was today. 

‘I am praying for the people who have been affected. I hope they are okay.’ 

Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter of Thames Valley Police said officers were keeping an open mind as to possible motives for the incident.

He said: ‘We have made one arrest and at this stage we are not looking for any other people in connection with this incident. 

‘There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public, however we urge people to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious by calling police.

‘This is not currently being treated as a terrorism incident, however officers are keeping an open mind as to the motivation for the incident and are being supported by colleagues from Counter Terrorism Policing South East.’ 

He said a police cordon would continue to remain up in the area ‘for some time’ and there would be an increased police presence in the area as office continue to make enquires.

DCS Hunter added that the attack took place ‘three hours’ after the Black Lives Matter protest had finished and was not connected.

Thames Valley Police earlier said on Twitter: ‘Police attended at around 7pm along with other emergency services. 

‘Officers arrested a man at the scene who is now in police custody.

‘A number of people sustained injuries and were taken to hospital. 

‘A police cordon is in place in Forbury Gardens as officers investigate. We are asking the public to avoid the area at this time.’

‘There is no indication that this incident is linked to the Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading today.’

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said five ambulance crews were dispatched to the scene along with two air ambulances 

They said in a statement: ‘We were assessing and treating a number of casualties who had sustained injuries as a result of the incident. 

‘Thank you to all those people who stopped and helped those who were injured as a result of this situation.’ 

The leader of Reading Council, Jason Brock, earlier urged people to stay away from the town centre.

He tweeted: ‘Concerning reports from Reading town centre – please stay clear of the area as Police are dealing with a serious incident.’  

Policing minister Kit Malthouse tweeted: ‘An horrific, dreadful incident. Deepest sympathies to all affected. 

Please do not speculate or share footage online. Help the police. All information should be provided to @ThamesVP.’

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