Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged the public to remain “vigilant”, “alert” and “mindful” in the wake of Saturday’s terror attack and at a time when coronavirus lockdown measures are being eased.
On a trip to Reading on Monday, the Berkshire town where three people were stabbed to death on Saturday evening, Ms Patel described the weekend’s attack as a “tragic, tragic event”.
The home secretary visited the scene of the weekend’s attack as a two-minute silence was held for the victims, including at The Holt School in Wokingham where James Furlong, 36, worked.
The history, government and politics teacher was the first of the three victims to be named.
Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, an American man who had been living in the UK for 15 years, has been named as one of the other victims.
A suspect – believed to be 25-year-old Khairi Saadallah – is in custody after being detained on suspicion of murder and re-arrested under the Terrorism Act.
He is a Libyan refugee who was granted asylum in the UK, Sky News understands.
It is understood he was briefly on the radar of MI5 last year but there was not enough concern to launch a full investigation.
Ms Patel said she was “very constricted and constrained” in what she could say about the ongoing investigation into the Reading attack, as she visited the town to meet with local police officers and lay flowers.
But she stressed that the UK’s security services “have records on thousands of people”.
“We have to look at all aspects of this individual’s history, which dates back over several years,” the home secretary said.
She added that police and security services needed to make sure they “learn the lessons” from the weekend to prevent future attacks.
With the government set to ease coronavirus lockdown measures further at the beginning of next month, Ms Patel was asked whether she could reassure the public they are not at risk when meeting in parks.
“We’ve got to absolutely recognise and think about what happened here on Saturday evening,” she said.
“It was a beautiful day on Saturday, people obviously out and about enjoying their freedoms, which is obviously what we want.
“Specific to what has happened here in Reading, one individual is in custody and the police have been clear, here, that they’re not looking for anybody else.
“But we should always be vigilant, we should always remain alert.
“As measures around social distancing and lockdown is eased and more people are out and about, of course we have to make sure we are vigilant, we’re alert and we’re mindful of the environments we are going into.
“What I would say, though, is policing and the security services throughout this whole COVID-19 epidemic – the last 13/14 weeks – they’ve been working in an incredibly integrated way.
“I’ve been seeing their work day in and day out.”
Britons should “take reassurance” from the fact that UK security services have prevented 25 terror attacks from taking place over the last three years, Ms Patel said.
She added: “What we saw here on Saturday evening in Reading were the actions of one lone individual.
“We should bear that in mind, the police have that individual in custody, they’re not looking for anybody else.
“We should all remain alert, we should all remain vigilant in terms of the fact that threats are all around us.
“But we’ve just got to respond in the right kind of way and be very mindful of the type of society that we live in.”
Ms Patel will make a statement to the House of Commons about the Reading attack later on Monday.
More than 100 students, some holding hands, gathered at the gates of The Holt School for Monday’s two-minute silence in memory of teacher Mr Furlong and the two other victims.
A flag in the school’s courtyard had been lowered to half-mast.
Co-headteacher Anne Kennedy said: “James was a very kind and gentle man. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students.
“He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication.”
Her fellow co-headteacher Katie Pearce added: “Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at this time. He was a cherished colleague and he will be very sadly missed.”
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