Reading stabbings: Mass knife attack on people sitting in park declared terrorist incident

20 June 2020, 20:25 | Updated: 21 June 2020, 12:27

A stabbing in Reading is suspected to be terror-related
A stabbing in Reading is confirmed to be terror-related. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

Police have confirmed that a mass knife attack on a group of people in a park in Reading was a terrorist incident.

Three people were killed, with another three seriously injured.

Emergency services rushed to the scene in Forbury Gardens at around 7pm on Saturday, following reports of a knifeman who had "suddenly" started to attack a group of around 10 people who were sitting in the park.

Thames Valley Police said a 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene and remains in custody.

The suspect is a Libyan asylum seeker and mental health is being considered a major factor in the incident, a security source has told the PA news agency.

Detectives are not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack and there is no wider threat to the public, officers said.

It is understood the individual was reportedly rugby-tackled by a lone police sergeant who responded to the call.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, Senior National Coordinator for the Counter Terrorism Policing network, has this morning declared the incident a terrorist incident, and CTPSE will be taking over the investigation.

Chief Constable John Campbell of Thames Valley Police, said: “I am deeply saddened by the events of last night.

“This was a truly tragic incident and the thoughts of Thames Valley Police are with all those who have been affected.

“Incidents of this nature are very rare, though I know that will be of little comfort to those involved and understand the concern that this incident will have caused amongst our local community.

“We will be working closely with our partners over the coming days and weeks to support the Reading community during this time, as well as with CTPSE as they progress their investigation.

“Police cordons continue to be in place and are likely to be for some time as CTPSE work further to investigate this incident and establish exactly what happened.

“I would urge the public to avoid the area at this time and thank the community for their patience. We will let you know as soon as the area is back open.

“I would also ask that the public avoid speculation.

“We would like to hear from anyone who has video footage. Out of respect for those deceased and injured, along with their loved ones, please do not circulate this footage on social media – this will be incredibly distressing.

“If you have any information about this incident, please contact us on 101 quoting reference 1159 20/6.”

The head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said there is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the Reading attack and police are not currently seeking anyone else as part of the investigation.

He said: "Yesterday, a short time after 7pm, a man ran in Forbury Gardens in the centre of Reading and attacked people with a knife.

"He left three dead and a number of people needing hospital treatment.

"This was an atrocity. My deepest sympathies go out to the families who will be mourning loved ones today after this horrific act and to everyone who has been affected by it.

"We're working with a coroner to formally identify all those who have died and to inform and support their relatives.

"I'd like to praise the actions of Thames Valley Police colleagues who responded immediately and they detained the attacker nearby, unarmed and incredibly brave.

"I also want to pay tribute to the bravery of the public who provided emergency first aid at the scene.

"Counter terrorism policing officers also attended the scene immediately and they have worked through the night very closely with Thames Valley Police.

"And this morning I can formally confirm that this was declared a terrorist incident at 8.30 as a result of those investigations through the night.

"A 25 year old man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of murder and he remains in custody.

"From our inquiries undertaken so far officers have found nothing to suggest that there was anyone else involved in this attack and presently we are not looking for anyone else in relation to the incident.

"However, counter terrorism detectives work closely with the security services and will work closely with Thames Valley major crime colleagues and we continue to make enquiries to make sure that that is the case.

"Our priority will always be to make sure that there is no outstanding threat to members of the public.

"The motivation for this horrific act is far from certain."

Forensic investigators at the scene of the stabbing in Reading
Forensic investigators at the scene of the stabbing in Reading. Picture: PA

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort, 20, who said he was around 10 metres from the attack, said: "The park was pretty full, a lot of people sat around drinking with friends, when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around 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, and we turned and started running.

"When he realised that he couldn't catch us, he tried to stab another group sat down, he got one person in the back of the neck and then when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park."

The air ambulance is seen in attendance in Forbury Gardens after multiple people were stabbed
The air ambulance is seen in attendance in Forbury Gardens after multiple people were stabbed. Picture: PA
An armed officer is present at a nearby property following the stabbing
An armed officer is present at a nearby property following the stabbing. Picture: PA

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: "Multiple ambulance resources were sent to the scene including, five ambulance crews, one specialist practitioner, three ambulance officers, our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), the helicopter and critical care response unit from Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the critical care unit from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, two ambulance doctors and our colleagues from London Ambulance Service."

Several armed police officers were seen going into a block of flats off the Basingstoke Road on Saturday night.

The area had seen protesters gather for a Black Lives Matter protest earlier in the day, but the force says there is "no indication" the two events are linked.

DCI Ian Hunter said: There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public, however we urge people to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious by calling police.

“This is not currently being treated as a terrorism incident, however officers are keeping an open mind as to the motivation for the incident and are being supported by colleagues from Counter Terrorism Policing South East."

Counter terrorism officers are seen at a nearby address
Counter terrorism officers are seen at a nearby address. Picture: PA
Police seen outside the area where multiple people were stabbed
Police seen outside the area where multiple people were stabbed. Picture: PA

Videos posted on social media show an air ambulance landing nearby, while a second video shows least two bloodied people being given CPR.

DCI Hunter has asked for anyone who may have video footage of the incident to contact police and to refrain from sharing the footage.

"We are also aware that the incident was captured on mobile phones and would like to hear from anyone who has video footage. Out of respect for those deceased and injured, along with their loved ones, please do not circulate this footage on social media – this will be incredibly distressing," he said.

“Police cordons continue to be in place and are likely to be for some time as we work to establish the circumstances of what has happened. You will also see an increased police presence in the area as we continue to make enquires."

Police officers are seen near to the crime scene. People are being told to avoid the area
Police officers are seen near to the crime scene. People are being told to avoid the area. Picture: PA

Shortly after news of the stabbings broke, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with all of those affected by the "appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene."

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has described the stabbing in Reading as "very concerning".

Freelance journalist Claire Gould, 33, who lives near the scene, told reporters she saw the emergency vehicles land on the nearby Kings Meadow as a police helicopter circled overhead.

She described hearing lots of sirens and said surrounding roads and a retail park had been cordoned off by officers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted she was deeply concerned to hear reports of an incident in Reading. She said her thought were with "everyone involved, including police and emergency responders at the scene."

Anyone with information on what happened in Forbury Gardens should call Thames Valley Police on 101, quoting reference 1159 20/6.”

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