Home Office dealt with Reading terrorist with ‘woeful inadequacy’ before attack

The Home Office dealt with triple killer Khairi Saadallah with “woeful inadequacy” before the Reading terror attack, an inquest has heard.

The director of the Home Office’s Foreign National Offenders Returns Command (FNORC), Jane Sutton, said the quality of work and interactions with the Libyan refugee “fell below the standards that would have been expected”.

Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, James Furlong and David Wails were murdered by Saadallah on June 20 2020 in Forbury Gardens.

The inquest at the Old Bailey into their deaths heard the terrorist was “in limbo” for a number of years as his asylum application in the UK was refused, and he was also ineligible for deportation to Libya because of the country’s civil war.

Two prison associates of Saadallah (pictured) gave statements to the inquest in which both spoke of his desire to kill people and of his “obvious” mental health issues.

Director of Prevent Michael Stewart, who also gave evidence on Monday, apologised to those affected by the attacks.

Ms Sutton said there was no opportunity to deport Saadallah because of the civil war in Libya, but conceded some options were not considered, such as deporting him via a third country.

Giving evidence to the inquest, she said: “There are a number of errors that were made throughout KS’s engagement with the Home Office and the immigration department and at times the quality of our work and interactions with him fell below the standards that would have been expected.”

Counsel to the inquest Nicholas Moss KC asked: “Did it, at times, fall well below the standard?”

Ms Sutton replied: “Yes.”

Mr Moss continued: “On multiple occasions?”

Ms Sutton said: “Yes.”

Continuing the questioning, the families’ legal representative, Peter Skelton KC, said some people would say there was “woeful inadequacy” in the way the Home Office dealt with Saadallah in the years leading up to the attack.

He said: “Is that a conclusion that is justified?”

Ms Sutton responded: “Yes.”

One of Saadallah’s associates in prison, Harley David Webb, gave a statement to the inquest in which he said: “He said he was going to body people, meaning he was going to kill people.

“I can’t believe what has happened – I thought he was talking shit.

“It was obvious that he had mental health issues.

“Three weeks before his release his mental health got worse. About three weeks before his release, (Saadallah) was really messed up in his head.”

Speaking about the comment Saadallah made about wanting to “body” people, Mr Webb said: “I didn’t know whether he meant people on the inside or the outside.

“I remember asking him what was going on in his head, all he kept saying was he was going to body someone.”

Another of Saadallah’s prison associates, Anthony Bloomfield, said he was once involved in a group discussion in February 2020 with other prisoners, including Saadallah, where “the subject of jihad was raised”.

His statement read: “He said if he had the opportunity he would be one of the first people to start chopping people.

“He said if he could get away with murder, he would.

“From my understanding, (Saadallah) would do something if given the chance.”

Director of Prevent Michael Stewart said he and his colleagues went to work in the Home Office to prevent attacks such as Forbury Gardens, but added: “We know that we will not always be able to do so, but that does not make us any less sorry for a case like this.”

In January 2021, Saadallah was handed a whole-life sentence at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

The inquest continues.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2024, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Thames Valley Police / PA.