03/09/21

UK - Reading stabbings: Bravery awards for police who tackled terrorist

Four police officers who captured a terrorist after he killed three men in a park are to receive bravery awards.

James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, were stabbed to death on the afternoon of 20 June 2020 in Reading's Forbury Gardens.

PC James Packman, Sgt Iain Watkinson, PC Liam Steele and PC Liam King are each being honoured for their "quick thinking and incredible courage".

Khairi Saadallah, 27, was handed a whole-life jail term for the murders.

The officers will be presented with their Thames Valley Police Federation Bravery Awards at a ceremony on 9 September.

London's Old Bailey heard the Islamic extremist "executed" the men as an "act of religious jihad".

Saadallah later admitted the murders, and pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of three other men who were also in the park.

PC Packman was off duty in the busy park with friends at the time of the attack, which came the day after the first lockdown restrictions had been relaxed in England.

He said: "I was sitting on the grass, facing towards where the victims were and I don't know what got my attention first - I think it was a scream.

"I looked up and there was the suspect and he was going around the group who were sitting on the floor, stabbing them. I shouted 'knife!'"

He said "adrenaline took over" as he chased Saadallah out of the park while calling for backup, which brought the other three officers to the scene.

"I just did what I thought was best to do at the time... my first thought was just to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't get away," he said.

PC Steele remembered seeing the suspect "running down the road with blood covered all over his hands".

The officers then got out of their cars, and rugby tackled him to the floor.

Craig O'Leary, chairman of the Thames Valley Police Federation, called them all "complete and utter heroes".

"This man was a terrorist," he said. "These officers were unarmed and stopped him in his tracks before he could cause anyone else any harm."

He said their actions were "exemplary" and "in the highest standards and traditions of the British police service".


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