News, Culture & Society

Boris Johnson promises action if there are ‘lessons to be learned’ from deadly Reading attack

Boris Johnson today signalled the Government could introduce a terror clampdown after the deadly attack in Reading which left three people dead.  

Downing Street today said he was being regularly briefed by  security officials over Saturday night’s rampage as Home Secretary Priti Patel became the most senior minister to visit the scene.

She said it was it was important to ‘learn the lessons’ of the bloody attack in the Berkshire commuter town as she met police officers in Forbury Gardens.

Police including counter-terrorism detectives continue to question Libyan suspect Khairi Saadallah over the multiple killing. 

Mr Johnson’s announcement came as the former head of UK counter-terrorism policing said that security services could not crack every ‘known suspect’.

Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, said forces and security services face a ‘wicked problem’ deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack.

This afternoon, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘The Prime Minister has said that if there are any lessons to be learned, or if there are any changes that need to be made to stop such events from happening again, we will not hesitate to act to take that action as we have before.’ 

The Home Secretary said it was it was important to ‘learn the lessons’ of the bloody attack in the commuter town on Saturday evening as she met police officers in Forbury Gardens

James Furlong

Khairi Saadallah

Police including counter-terrorism detectives continue to question Libyan suspect Khairi Saadallah (right) over the multiple killing. Those who died included history teacher James Furlong, 36 (left)

American Joe Ritchie-Bennett, who was from Philadelphia, was also killed, along with a third victim who is yet to be identified

American Joe Ritchie-Bennett, who was from Philadelphia, was also killed, along with a third victim who is yet to be identified

He added: ‘In February, following the Streatham attack, we brought forward legislation, the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act, which ended the automatic release of terrorists offenders at the halfway point of their sentence, This applied to all serving prisoners.

‘So we have shown that where there are lessons to be learned we will act, but in terms of this case, I can’t discuss it any further given it is a life investigation.’

Two of the dead from Saturday have so far been identified: American Joe Ritchie-Bennett and British history teacher James Furlong, 36, who were friends, were at the same picnic when a man with a knife struck. 

A third victim is yet to be identified, while two others who were injured remain in hospital and one has now been discharged. 

Saadallah, who is thought to have only been released from prison for various offences 17 days ago, came to the attention of MI5 last year, after they suspected he was planning to travel to Syria for ‘extremist reasons’. 

The 25-year-old, who lived a mile away from the scene and was said to enjoy smoking cannabis and drinking whisky, allegedly claimed to have fought both for and against Islamic State – although officials assessing him found he did not subscribe to any ideology or belief system and instead had mental health issues.

At the scene, Ms Patel today told reporters: ‘I mean this is a tragic, tragic event, it really is. We’ve seen three people die, so there is extensive work that’s taking place, yes, with the police but obviously now with CT (counter-terrorism) police as well, and the intelligence community and all aspects of policing.

‘We’ve got a lot of information to gather, we have to look at all aspects as to what happened on Saturday, the individual that’s in custody as well, to ensure that, yes, justice is served.

‘But, also, we make sure that we learn the lessons from what has happened over the weekend to prevent anything like this from happening again.’ 

In Reading today, a minute’s silence was held at 10am, while students of Mr Furlong, head of history at the Holt Community School in Wokingham, will flock to a church to remember him by lighting candles and laying flowers. 

Mr Ritchie-Bennett had been working for a Dutch pharmaceutical firm in the Berkshire town for about a decade having previously been employed by a London law firm when he first moved to England.

Sir Mark had earlier told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘What you end up with operationally is about, I think, about 3,000 people under investigation at one stage.

‘But there is 40,000 people… whose names have touched the system.

‘And in that 40,000 are lots of volatile people who dip in and out of interests in extreme ideology, and to spot one of those who is going to go from a casual interest into a determined attacker, which can happen in a matter of days, is the most wicked problem that the services face.’

Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, said forces and security services face a 'wicked problem' deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack

Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, said forces and security services face a ‘wicked problem’ deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack

One onlooker, Lawrence Wort (in blue), said he 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 the attacker then tried to stab another group sitting down. Two of the three victims, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and James Furlong, 36, are also pictured above (in green)

One onlooker, Lawrence Wort (in blue), said he 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 the attacker then tried to stab another group sitting down. Two of the three victims, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and James Furlong, 36, are also pictured above (in green)

Asked about concerns among the public, Ms Priti Patel said she was ‘very restricted and constrained’ in what she was able to answer due to the ongoing investigation but said security services ‘work intensively’ to look at risks posed by individuals.

‘The security services have records on thousands of people, and rightly so, subjects of interest, people of concern,’ she told reporters.

‘There is very little I can say, but at the end of the day when it comes to MI5 and our intelligence and security services, they work intensively to look at the backgrounds of individuals to see what kind of risk they pose to society, to our communities.

‘And they act accordingly in terms of what kind of protective measures are put in place around those individuals, and what kind of protections are needed.’

On the current terror threat level, Ms Patel said that police had been ‘clear’ they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack, but added that the public should ‘always be vigilant’ and ‘always remain alert’.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk