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Reading terror attack victims were beautiful and proud members of the LGBT+ community who wanted equality for all

Josh Milton June 22, 2020
Two queer men who lost their lives after a lone man began stabbing people in Reading, England, have been named as Joe Ritchie-Bennett (L) and James Furlong (R). (Facebook/Thames Valley Police)

Two queer men who lost their lives after a lone man began stabbing people in Reading, England, have been named as Joe Ritchie-Bennett (L) and James Furlong (R). (Facebook/Thames Valley Police)

Two of the three Reading attack victims have been named as Joe Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong – both were members of the LGBT+ community.

In the early evening of Saturday (June 20), a lone man began sporadically stabbing people, wounding several, in Forbury Gardens, Reading, according to the Thames Valley Police.

James Furlong and Joe Ritchie-Bennett were among countless people sat in the park, enjoying the sunny weather as an earlier Black Lives Matter protest petered out, when the assailant began his attack, The Mirror reported.

Reading attack victim James Furlong was a ‘proud gay man who wanted equality for all’.

Furlong, 36, was a teacher from the Reading area, his family said in a statement issued via the local police agency.

“James was a wonderful man,” the statement read. “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.”

Head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, Furlong was described by loved ones as a strident activist and plank of the LGBT+ community.

“James, a proud gay man, wanted equality for all,” a loved one wrote in a local paper’s condolences book. “[He] was at Reading Pride year in year out and was a strong advocate for the [Black Lives Matter] movement.”

“He was an incredibly accepting man,” another wrote. “He was open about his sexuality as a gay man and made it OK for more of us to be as well.”

Reading Pride organisers stressed on Twitter hours after the attack for “everyone to reach out to your social circle and check in on them at this difficult time”.

They sent condolences to the families of the Reading attack victims.

Tributes pour in for Reading stabbing victim, American Joe Ritchie-Bennett.

The second Reading attack victim, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, was an American from Philadelphia who had lived in Britain for the past 15 years and worked at a Dutch pharmaceutical company.

His late husband, Ian, 32, died in December 2014 after a short battle with cancer. “I’m happy for them that they’re back together,” a friend told the Inquirer.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett (L) and his husband Ian. (Facebook)
Joe Ritchie-Bennett (L) and his husband Ian. (Facebook)

Ritchie-Bennett’s father, Robert Ritchie, called the Reading attack “senseless” in an interview with CBS News.

“The family is heartbroken they have lost their brilliant and loving son,” added Ritchie senior, a retired police chief.

With border regulations stonewalling the US and the UK, Ritchie described a situation all too common for grieving relatives who have lost in the age of the coronavirus pandemic – paralysis.

He said: “I absolutely love my son with all of my heart and all of my soul.

“We’re mourning, and we’re trying to decide what we’re going to do.

“It’s 3,500 miles away. They are still in lockdown over there with the coronavirus, and I don’t know what else to say.”

Suspected arrested under terror act.

Some 40 miles from London, Forbury Gardens in Reading’s city centre is, to many, a place of quiet. For eating supermarket ready meals during lunch breaks, or, for locals complying with lockdown, a spot to get fresh air.

But scenes pinched with mayhem were described by witnesses, as a jarring and unexpected attack saw a man shouting a string of unintelligible words before stabbing three people in the neck and under the arms.

Police guard an entrance to Forbury Gardens on June 21, 2020. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Khairi Saadallah, a 25-year-old man who lived locally, then turned his attention to another group sitting in the park. He stabbed one of them in the neck, witnesses said, before fleeing the park.

The suspect was detained within five minutes of the first call made to emergency services. Various government sources claimed security services looked into Saadallah, from Libya, last year, based on a suspicion of planning terrorism abroad.

However, authorities found no evidence that he posed a threat.

A picture shows police tents and equipment at the scene of a fatal stabbing incident that is being treated as terrorism in Forbury Gardens. (AFP via Getty Images)

Counter-Terrorism Policing South East said in a statement issued June 20 that the suspect was re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 with the incident being treated as an act of terrorism.

 

More: Crime, England, reading, terrorism, terrorist attack

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