Man held in custody on suspicion of murder after attack at public park in which a number of people were rushed to hospital
Three people are dead and three people have been seriously injured after a man went on a frenzied stabbing spree in a park where a Black Lives Matter protest had taken place two hours earlier.
Police, air ambulance, helicopters and ambulance crews rushed to Forbury Gardens in the heart of Reading, Berkshire – 40 miles from London – at around 7pm on Saturday to find bodies soaked in blood lying unresponsive on the grass.
Eyewitnesses said they saw a man shouting “unintelligible words” then get out a knife and start randomly stabbing about 10 to 12 people in the back of the neck and under the arms who were sitting in different groups enjoying the sunshine. A lone police sergeant is reported to have rugby tackled the suspect to the ground and arrested him. Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was a “senseless attack on people simply enjoying a Saturday evening”.
Those seriously injured have been taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital where they are being treated for stab wounds.
By 10pm local time police confirmed they had arrested one 25-year-old man from Reading at the scene on suspicion of murder. He is being held in police custody and is said to be a Libyan national.
Armed police dressed in body armour were seen armed with assault rifles raiding a block of flats in the city after the attack. Police and counter-terrorism detectives swarmed the town all night. It remained totally closed off with police cordons and road blocks.
Police are not currently treating the incident as a terrorism incident but counter-terrorism detectives are on the scene helping with the investigation, Thames Valley Police said.
Detective chief superintendent Ian Hunter, Head of Crime, said: “The Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit has launched a murder investigation following this incident. We have made one arrest and at this stage we are not looking for any other people in connection with this incident. 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.”
He said the incident was “not linked to the Black Lives Matter protest.” “It occurred around three hours after the protest had concluded,” he said.
A spokesperson for South Central Ambulance Service said a huge number of ambilance resources were sent to the scene including five ambulance crews, one specialist practitioner, three ambulance officers, the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), air ambulance helicopters, critical care response units and ambulance doctors. The spokesperson said they assessed and treated “a number of casualties”.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene.”
Agra-born Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West and business secretary, said: “My thoughts are very much with all at Thames Valley Police and others who are dealing with this incident and those who have been affected.”
A graphic video emerged on social media – which police urged people not to share – showing three young people soaked in blood lying on the grass being given CPR by police officers and young members of the public. A peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest had taken place in the same location, concluding two hours earlier.
Nieema Hassan, who organised the Reading BLM protest, said the stabbings “had nothing to do with the protests.” She said the protests were “very peaceful.” “I am praying for the people that have been affected. I hope they are ok. The people from BLM are all safe and we had all left by the time this happened,” she said in a video posted on Facebook.
The poster advertising these BLM protests said it was to be a “peaceful protest” that was to start at 1pm with a march, then followed at 2pm by “voices of the community” and at 4pm there was to be a “silence for victims unjustly killed”.
“We need to put steps in place to dismantle the system,” the poster read. The Reading BLM protest was one of several protests that took place in different cities across Britain on Saturday, including London.