Reading park knife attack: Who were the victims?

Forbury Gardens incident
Forbury Gardens incident (PA Media)
17:26pm, Wed 11 Nov 2020
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The three friends killed in the Reading park knife attack were described as kind, gentle and the “loveliest” of people in the local community.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, originally from Philadelphia in the US, history teacher James Furlong, 36, and David Wails, 49, all died in the knife attack on June 20 by Khairi Saadallah.

Forbury Gardens incident (PA Wire)

Mr Furlong was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, Berkshire.

He was described by co-headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce as a “kind and gentle man” who had a “real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students”.

Mr Furlong’s parents Gary and Janet said in a statement shortly after his death: “James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun.

“He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever.”

The three men were said to be regulars at The Blagrave Arms pub in the town.

Forbury Gardens incident (PA Media)

Martin Cooper, who is chief executive of LGBT+ charity Reading Pride, said Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett were “great supporters” and members of the community.

“Their loss is a tragedy to so many people,” he said. “It was always a pleasure drinking and socialising and just being in their company.”

Mr Ritchie-Bennett had reportedly moved to the UK from the US 15 years ago.

The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper spoke with Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father and said he initially worked for a law firm in London after moving to the UK.

He joined a Dutch pharmaceutical company which has its headquarters in Reading about 10 years ago.

His father, Robert Ritchie-Bennett, said: “I was absolutely blessed and proud to be Joe’s father for 39 years and we are heartbroken by what has happened.”

Forbury Gardens incident (PA Media)

Mr Wails, who worked as a scientist, was described by his parents as a “kind and much-loved” son, brother and uncle who “never hurt anyone in his life.”

They said in a statement at the time of his death: “We are broken-hearted at losing him and in such a terrible way.

“We will treasure our wonderful memories of him and he will always be with us in our hearts.”

A heart-shaped floral tribute to the three men was left outside The Blagrave Arms after the attack.

A message among the flowers paying tribute to the three said: “Our friends were the kindest, most genuine, and most loveliest people in our community that we had the pleasure in knowing.”

Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett were each stabbed once in the neck while Mr Wails was stabbed once in the back. All three were declared dead at the scene.

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