A 26-year-old murdered three men and injured more in “less than a minute” during an attack in a Reading park last year, a court has been told.
“Ruthlessly efficient” Khairi Saadallah was accused of shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he launched his fatal assault on 20 June last year, in what prosecutors claim was a terror attack.
He killed history teacher James Furlong, 36, scientist David Wails, 49, and US citizen Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, in Forbury Gardens, Reading.
Their friend Stephen Young was also injured, as were Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, who sat nearby.
Saadallah then got rid of the knife and fled from the park but an off-duty police officer called 999 and followed the attacker before he was caught.
The defendant admitted three murders and three attempted murders in November but said he did not substantially prepare or plan for the attack and was not motivated by ideology.
Prosecutors, however, claim Saadallah thought he was performing an “act of religious jihad” and Justice Sweeney adjourned the case to hear more evidence about the run-up to the murders.
Alison Morgan QC, prosecuting, said at the Old Bailey on Tuesday: “In less than a minute, shouting “Allahu Akbar”, the defendant carried out a lethal attack with a knife, killing all three men before they had a chance to respond and try to defend themselves.
“Within the same minute, the defendant went on to attack others nearby, stabbing three more people, Stephen Young, Patrick Edwards and Nishit Nisudan, causing them significant injuries.
“The defendant was ruthlessly efficient in his actions. The prosecution’s case is that the attack perpetrated by the defendant was carefully planned and executed with determination and precision.”
The Old Bailey was told Saadallah was released from prison on 5 June, days before the attack, and had searched the internet for “is Corona a sign of the end of the world” on 15 June.
The court also heard Saadallah accessed material about the Isis extremist Jihadi John, and searched images of military activity in Libya, body bags and the Reading park, later looking up how to “disappear with magic” with reference to witchcraft, the court heard.
The court heard he contacted a crisis team on 19 June, the day before the attack – and the day he bought a knife – but he did not open the door.
Police later visited after his brother raised concerns but he told them he was “alright”.
“The defendant believed that in carrying out this attack he was acting in pursuit of his extreme ideology, an ideology he appears to have held for some time,” Morgan said, describing his killings as “highly effective executions” designed to do as much damage in as little time.
“He believed that in killing as many people as possible that day he was performing an act of religious jihad.”
Eyewitness Andrew Cafe said Saadallah was “charging towards us” and “shouted ‘Allah Akbar’”.
Among the victims’ group was Roger Smith, who saw Ritchie-Bennett “just going over sideways, like a tree being felled” and described the attack as seeming like a “weird dream”.
A Muslim member of the public told Saadallah as he was arrested he had “nothing to do with Islam, b******”.
The court heard that after his arrest, the defendant said he wanted to plead guilty to the “jihad that I done” but feigned mental illness in interviews with detectives.
Court documents say Saadallah, of Reading, fled civil war in his home country Libya and arrived in the UK in 2012.
He had been involved with militias in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and was seen handling weapons, the Old Bailey heard.
He was refused asylum, and the court heard on Tuesday that he had developed an emotionally unstable and antisocial personality disorder which worsened with alcohol and cannabis misuse.
However, a psychiatrist has concluded his killings had nothing to do with his disorder or drug abuse.
Saadallah was jailed at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire in 2017, where he was seen mixing with radical preacher Omar Brooks, who is associated with banned terror group Al-Muhajiroun, the court was told.
Morgan said that showed Saadallah was still interested in ideology he encountered in Libya, and described the defendant as “impressionable and volatile”.
The hearing continues.
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