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Evidence concludes at inquest into deaths of Reading terror attack victims

Evidence has concluded at the six-week inquest into the deaths of James Furlong, Dr David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett who were murdered by Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah in a terror attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading, on 20 June 2020.

Posted on 23 February 2024

At a hearing on Friday 23 February 2024, Judge Coroner Sir Adrian Fulford said he intends to give his conclusion on Friday 26 April at the Old Bailey.

Counsel to the inquest and interested parties agreed that Article 2 should be engaged.

The inquest at the Old Bailey has heard substantial evidence about Saadallah’s extremist risk, offending history, and mental health issues, as well as how his risk of harm to the public was assessed, managed and responded following his release from prison on 5 June 2020 up to the terror attack itself on 20 June 2020.

The families of James Furlong, Dr David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett are represented by Leigh Day partner Benjamin Burrows, Leigh Day solicitor Lily Hedgman and Leigh Day partner Fiona Huddleston.

Following final legal submissions at a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday 23 February 2024, the families issued a statement, read outside the court by Gary Furlong, father of James Furlong.

Gary Furlong said:

“I speak for the families of Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, Dr David Wails and my son, James Furlong.

“For six weeks we have listened to evidence given in the inquests into the deaths of our beloved Joseph, David and James.

“We have listened as public bodies and individuals have given their account of their dealings with Khairi Saadallah in the years, months and weeks before he carried out his murderous attack.

“As we have listened, our shock and utter disappointment at the way these public bodies have functioned has deepened. It has deepened to the point that we fundamentally question whether our faith in their combined ability to protect our families was misplaced.

“Public bodies have explained the challenge they faced in measuring and balancing the risk that Saddallah posed. But we have heard evidence of poor communication, meaning the individuals tasked with monitoring Saadallah and protecting the public did not have full and accurate information about the risk of harm he posed.

“We trust the Judge Coroner will take all of this into account when he gives his conclusion.”

Leigh Day partner Benjamin Burrows said:

"The families of James Furlong, Dr David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett have listened bravely and intently to the witness evidence given over the past six weeks at the inquest into the deaths of their loved ones.

“It has not been easy for them to listen to the detailed and candid accounts given by public bodies and individuals and their legal team would like to pay tribute to the determination they have shown.

“We will now wait for the Judge Coroner to give his conclusion, and trust that it will be a fair and accurate measure of any missed opportunities on the part of those public bodies and individuals who worked with Saadallah and had responsibility for protecting the public from the risk of harm he posed.”

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Benjamin Burrows
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Benjamin Burrows

Benjamin is head of the prison team

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Fiona Huddleston (1)
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Fiona Huddleston

Fiona Huddleston is a partner in the consumer law team

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Lily Hedgman (1)
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Lily Hedgman

Lily is a associate solicitor in the medical negligence department