Reading terror attack victims remembered at memorial one year on

Families and friends share memories of three men killed in Forbury Gardens last June

Family and friends of the three men killed in a terror attack in Reading have told of their heartache at a memorial service.

James Furlong, a 36-year-old history teacher, Dr David Wails, a 49-year-old scientist, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, who worked for a pharmaceutical company, were murdered in Forbury Gardens on 20 June last year.

The three friends had been enjoying a summer evening together as lockdown restrictions eased when they were attacked by 26-year-old Khairi Saadallah.

Three wreaths dedicated to each of the victims.
The three friends were gathered in the park as coronavirus restrictions were relaxed last year. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

On Sunday afternoon a series of tributes to the victims were read out at a memorial service attended by hundreds to commemorate a year since their deaths.

Walis’s close friend Ken Murphy, speaking on behalf of family and friends, said: “They say time is a great healer but I don’t think we will ever recover from the loss of David, James and Joe in such a terrible way in these gardens.

“However, we pray they are now at peace and are able to look down at us, and are happy with the love shown for them and the tributes being paid to them by everyone here today.”

Furlong’s brother Gary noted the teacher’s positive impact on the lives of others. He said: “James was a gentle soul, kind and caring, his morals were impeccable, never swayed by personal incentives, no matter the cost and consequence to him.

Gary Furlong, the brother of James Furlong, addressing the service that was attended by hundreds of people.
Gary Furlong, the brother of James Furlong, addressing the service that was attended by hundreds of people. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

“He was truly a selfless man, his life was a story of triumph over adversity, coming out as a gay man so young in a time when acceptance was not where it is today.”

He said James’s lifelong goal had been to become a history teacher, and he had “brightened” so many lives.

Martin Cooper spoke of his friend Ritchie-Bennett’s sense of humour and the love he had for his family.

He said: “Joe was a blessing to the entire world but most importantly a blessing to our entire family for 39 years. To know Joe was to love Joe. We never met anyone who didn’t love Joe, his mere presence made you smile. It took very little effort on his part to make you laugh.

Martin Cooper.
Martin Cooper spoke of his friend Joseph Ritchie-Bennett’s sense of humour. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

“Joe was warm, he was genuine, he was welcoming, he loved people. In Joe’s heart there were no strangers, only friends he had yet to meet.”

Cooper added: “We love you Joe, we are so very sorry this happened to you, our heart aches for you every day.”

The service was led by David Stevens, the mayor of Reading, and was followed by the laying of floral tributes at the Forbury bandstand.

Stevens said: “David, James and Joseph, you will not be forgotten.”

Mourners leaving flowers at the park’s bandstand.
Mourners left flowers at the park’s bandstand. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Three other people – Stephen Young, 51, Patrick Edwards, 29, and Nishit Nisudan, 34 – were injured before Saadallah threw away his 8in knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.

Saadallah was handed a whole-life sentence in January after he pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.

PA Media

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
English pupils improve results in international reading exams
Children aged nine and 10 who took part in assessment of reading ability ranked joint eighth out of 50 participating countries

Sally Weale Education correspondent

05, Dec, 2017 @9:33 AM

Article image
Archaeologists scan Reading garden for bones of King Henry I
Researchers look for tomb of William the Conqueror’s fourth son, whose remains are believed to have been buried in local abbey

Maev Kennedy

13, Jun, 2016 @2:19 PM

Article image
Reading University in crisis amid questions over £121m land sales
University reports itself to regulators over loan taken from agricultural trust

Andrew McGettigan and Richard Adams

09, Feb, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Reading Abbey reopens to public – but there's no sign of Henry I
Ruined medieval church believed to be a royal burial place has been made safe for visitors again

Maev Kennedy

07, Jun, 2018 @2:27 PM

Article image
Westminster victims remembered on first anniversary of attack
Service and two minutes’ silence held for the five people killed in terrorist incident

Sarah Marsh

22, Mar, 2018 @3:15 PM

Article image
Reading jail to host two-month Oscar Wilde project
Ai Weiwei, Steve McQueen and Maxine Peake to feature in Artangel exhibition at site of writer’s imprisonment

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

21, Jul, 2016 @3:51 PM

Article image
Coming soon: £150m Hollywood-style film studios to Reading
US-based movie-maker Blackhall Studios says production complex could create up to 3,000 jobs

Mark Sweney

18, Feb, 2020 @10:30 PM

Article image
Man charged with murder of woman on Reading riverside
Asha Muneer, 18, was stabbed while walking alongside river Kennet

Adam Gabbatt and agencies

22, Jan, 2010 @6:07 PM

Article image
Holocaust Memorial Day: genocide victims remembered across world

Survivors, military veterans, politicians and schoolchildren mark day of remembrance with thousands of events

Amelia Hill

27, Jan, 2013 @4:37 PM

Article image
New Year honours list rewards terror attack responders
London and Manchester emergency workers recognised along with Twiggy, Margaret Atwood and Michael Palin

Caroline Davies

28, Dec, 2018 @10:30 PM