Studying terror assault victims remembered at memorial one yr on | Studying

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.

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.

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