The man suspected of fatally stabbing three people in a Reading park was known to British authorities, and had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom, authorities believe.
Khairi Saadallah, a 25-year-old Libyan refugee, was arrested on Saturday night after three people were stabbed to death on a sunny summer evening in Forbury Gardens, at around 7pm UK time.
James Furlong, a teacher at Holt Community School in Wokingham, has been identified as one of the victims. The other two victims have not yet been named.
Saadallah was apprehended within five minutes of police being called at 6.56pm and was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder.
He is currently in custody and has been rearrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act.
WHO IS KHAIRI SAADALLAH?
Saadallah was briefly on the radar of MI5 last year, but there wasn’t enough concern to warrant a full investigation.
He had arrived in the UK on a tourist visa and sought asylum, claiming he would be victimised in Libya because of his anti-Muslim views.
The man had been living in a council flat not far from the crime scene and there were various reports he might be mentally ill, and that he had spent time in jail for various non-terror offences.
In August last year, a man of the same name, age, and address appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after allegedly assaulting a judge at Reading Magistrates’ Court while being sentenced for two previous convictions, The Sun reported.
In April last year, a man of the same name and age was imprisoned for two months for assaulting an emergency worker, and was fined £115 ($A208) for possession of a blade, the Reading Chronicle reported.
‘I HAD NO IDEA HE COULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS’
Officers searched the top floor of the block of flats where Saadallah was believed to live in Basingstoke Road, near Forbury Gardens, on Saturday night.
One neighbour from the same floor of the building, who did not want to be named, said: “I‘ve only spoken to him for 30 minutes, I didn’t know the guy but it makes me scared. I have a son. I had no idea he (the suspect) could do something like this.”
Another resident, Nathalie Hickson, said it was “horrendous” for those who lived in the building.
“I heard on the radio that there had been stabbings, then I could see a helicopter so I knew there was something major going on.
“There were loads of police, all sorts of cars, van. There wasn‘t noise at first, like waiting for something to happen, with police, counter-terrorism all here.
“Basically it was like watching a film, I was scared, petrified. You just don‘t know what’s going to happen next. I heard explosions going off.
“It‘s just horrendous for the people who have gone through (it).”
Neil Basu, the head of Counter Terror Police, said officers were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
“There is no specific intelligence to suggest that anyone attending crowded places is at risk,” he said
The UK’s Mirror newspaper reported one eyewitness as saying he saw blood spurting and victims dropping “like a weight” as a man appeared to be ”tapping them on the head” as they were sat in a circle.
A second witness told the paper that the park was full of people drinking with friends when the man approached one group.
“(He) suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went round a large group – of around 10 – 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 when we turned and started running.
“When he realised that he couldn’t catch us he tried to stab another group sat down.”
Another person said, “A man pulled a knife and started attacking people at random”.
Mr Basu, the head of Counter Terror Police, said officers were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
“There is no specific intelligence to suggest that anyone attending crowded places is at risk,” he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier described it as an “appalling incident”.
Mr Johnson is being briefed on developments, with his office confirming he had met security officials, police and senior ministers on Sunday morning for an update on the investigation.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “closely monitoring the situation”.
Britain has witnessed two terror-related attacks in the past year. A convicted jihadist who was out on parole after serving a sentence for terror offences was shot dead by police after stabbing five people – two fatally – by London Bridge in the heart of the British capital in November.
Police killed another assailant who injured three people in another London stabbing attack in February.
An overwhelming majority of Britain’s serious crimes are committed with knives and other stabbing weapons because of the country’s very strict gun ownership laws.