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Reading park attacker receives whole-life term for murder of three gay friends

Khairi Saadallah, 26, will never be released from prison after killing James Furlong, David Wails and Joe Ritchie-Bennett on 20 June last year.

2021-01-11

A man who stabbed three men to death in a Reading park last June has been handed a whole-life jail term.

Khairi Saadallah, 26, will never be released from prison after killing friends James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, on 20 June last year, BBC News reports.

Sentencing Saadallah, who had pled guilty to the killings, Judge Mr Justice Sweeney said all his offences "had a terrorist connection".

Khairi Saadallah, 26, will never be released from prison

American citizen Mr Ritchie-Bennett and teacher Mr Furlong died from single stab wounds to their necks, while scientist Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back during the "swift, ruthless and brutal" attack in Reading's Forbury Gardens last year.

Saadallah also pled guilty to three charges of attempted murder of three other men - Nishat Nisudan, Patrick Edwards and Stephen Young - who were also in the park at the time.

A whole-life term is reserved for Britain's most dangerous offenders, with only around 100 being issued since their introduction in 1983. Others serving whole-life tariffs include 'Grindr killer' Stephen Port, who drugged, raped and killed four men between 2014-15.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39

Victims Furlong, Wails and Ritchie-Bennett were all friends and highly-engaged members of Reading's LGBTQ community.

American Ritchie-Bennett had lived in the UK for 15 years, and tragically lost his husband to colon cancer in 2014.

Victim Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39

His father Robert Ritchie told CBS shortly after the attack that the family was "heartbroken" at the loss of his "brilliant and loving" son.

Mr Furlong, 36, was a teacher and head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham.

Victim James Furlong, 36

In a statement, his parents Gary and Janet described their son as "beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun".

James Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham.

"He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all," they said. "We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever."

Reacting to Saadallah's sentence, Paul Britt, Chair of Reading Pride, said: "With the tragic loss of life, the sentencing today may help provide closure to help start the healing process within our community.

Victim David Wails, 49

"We continue to urge the prime minister, central and local government along with support organisations to work together and implement future safeguards to help prevent this from happening again.

"We confirm our commitment to work with the Reading community to remember Joe, James and David. Our thoughts go out to the families, friends and colleagues during this difficult time."