PC James Packman, Sgt Iain Watkinson, PC Liam Steele and PC Liam King all displayed quick thinking and incredible courage when they apprehended knife-wielding Khairi Saadallah after he stabbed six people – three of whom died – in Forbury Gardens in June 2020.
Their superb actions will now be celebrated alongside those of colleagues from across England and Wales at the prestigious Annual Police Bravery Awards in December.
PC Packham, who had only been an officer for two years, was off duty and enjoying a summer evening in Forbury Gardens with friends when he witnessed from afar the horrific stabbings. Without a thought, he ran after the attacker.
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!’”
The attacker ran off. PC Packham kept his eyes on the suspect while he called the police, then ran after him, out of the park. He was still describing Saadalah and his whereabouts in detail as he ran after him, despite having no protective equipment on him.
His precise instructions allowed nearby, unarmed uniformed response officers PC Steele, PC King, and Sgt Watkinson, to make their way by car to the top of Friar Street. They saw Saadalah running towards them, and despite not knowing if he was still armed, got out of their cars, chased him, rugby tackled him to the floor, restrained and arrested him.
PC Steele said: “En route, we started getting all the information that it was multiple people being stabbed… as we were coming down Friar Street I saw the suspect running down the road with blood-covered all over his hands.”
PC Steele recalls the rugby tackle and how the team made sure the terrorist “was controlled as best as we could while bringing him down to the floor.”
PC Packham said that despite his lack of protection and the danger of the situation, “adrenaline took over”.
He said: “I just did what I thought was best to do at the time. I don’t know if I believed it. My first thought was just to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t get away. Obviously, I didn’t know the extent of the injuries of the victims at that point.”
PC Packham concluded: “I felt very honoured when I got the email saying that I’d been nominated for the Bravery Awards – and I’m very glad some of the other officers involved got recognition as well.”
The quartet also wanted to pay tribute to the many Thames Valley colleagues who worked that night – including those who administered first aid to the victims – and the detectives who brought the attacker to justice.
Craig O’Leary, Chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, said: “The phrase ‘hero’ is often bandied about far too easily. But these fabulous four officers are just that. Complete and utter heroes. This man was a terrorist. These officers were unarmed and stopped him in his tracks before he could cause anyone else any harm.
“The actions of James – who let’s not forget was off duty – Iain and the two Liams were exemplary and in the highest standards and traditions of the British police service. They acted selflessly and with immense bravery in order to protect the public from the possibility of further attacks. We could not be prouder of them.”
Craig concluded: “Our thoughts remain with all those who were injured in this terrorist attack and the families of those killed in this devastating incident.”
The quartet will join colleagues from across the country at the prestigious 2021 National Police Bravery Awards in December. The Awards are sponsored by Police Mutual.
Khairi Saadallah pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in November 2020. The judge determined that the attack was conducted for a terrorist purpose, sentencing Saadalah to a whole life tariff without eligibility for parole for each count of murder, and 24 years’ imprisonment for each count of attempted murder.