Family and friends pay tribute to Reading terror victims in memorial service

Forbury Gardens memorial service (PA Wire)
17:41pm, Sun 20 Jun 2021
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Family and friends of the three men killed in a terror attack in Reading have told of their heartache in a memorial service to commemorate one year since their deaths.

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

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

On Sunday afternoon, a series of tributes were read out about them in a memorial service attended by hundreds to commemorate one year since their deaths.

Forbury Gardens memorial service (PA Wire)

Dr Walis’ 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.”

Also speaking at the service was the brother of Mr Furlong, Gary, who told of how so many people lost someone close due to the impact he had 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.

“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.”

Mr Furlong told of how James’ “lifelong goal” was to become a history teacher, saying he “brightened” so many lives.

Forbury Gardens memorial service (PA Wire)

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

He added: “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.

“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.”

Mr Cooper went on to say: “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 Cllr David Stevens, Mayor of Reading, and was followed by the laying of floral tributes at the Forbury Bandstand.

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

Three other people – Stephen Young, 51, Patrick Edwards, 29, and Nishit Nisudan, 34 – were also injured before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch 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.

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