Reading Pride launches crowdfunder to raise funds for families of LGBT+ victims of heinous terror attack
Reading Pride has launched a crowdfunder to cover the funeral costs for the three victims of the Reading attack, all members of the LGBT+ community, who lost their lives in a brutal stabbing spree last weekend.
James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails were sat in Forbury Gardens in the south England town of Reading on June 20. The temperature was mild as the park hummed with the chit-chat of locals, some of whom were relaxing after taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest earlier on.
But it all took an ugly turn when a 25-year-old man, wielding a 5-inch blade, began stabbing park-goers.
Furlong, a teacher from the area, Ritchie-Bennett, an American from Philadelphia who had lived in Britain for the past 15 years and Wails, a scientist, all lost their lives in the Reading attack, since declared a terrorist incident by law enforcement.
As tributes pour from community leaders and lawmakers, Reading Pride is asking people to donate to its GoFundMe to help cover funeral expenses for grieving loved ones as well as to build a permanent memorial for the victims.
Reading attack victims set to be honoured with memorial.
Organisers told PinkNews they hope to erect the memorial in Fordbury Gardens – a green space once popular with city centre workers taking lunch breaks – but understand this needs to be approved by Reading Council.
Paul Britt, Reading Pride chair, told PinkNews: “I think, as a community, people felt helpless and wanted to do something and share in the collective grief.
“We had discussed within the Reading Pride committee that we would like to do something to honour James, Joe and David and support their families and those affected if we can.”
Britt stressed that, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rampage Britain and crater the economy, he understands not all can donate. All the more reason why he and the team were so stunned by the “absolutely amazing” response to the rally, which, at the time of writing, has smashed its £5,000 target by £74.
Reading Pride chief executive Martin Cooper said in a statement sent to PinkNews that the three victims were not only friends of Reading Pride, but friends of his own.
“The individuals taken were personal friends of mine,” he wrote.
“They were supporters of Reading as a community and of Reading Pride. James, Joe, and David were true gentlemen. Each with their own unique personality.
“They were regulars of the Blagrave, a community pub, whose regulars will be in mourning
“They were a support network for individuals, and I know they will be sorely missed by many.”
Suspect arrested under terror act.
Thames Valley Police said a suspect in the Reading attack was apprehended and arrested within five minutes of a call to emergency services.
More from PinkNews
Scenes pinched with mayhem were described by witnesses, as a jarring and unexpected attack at 7pm saw a man shouting a string of unintelligible words before stabbing three people in the neck and under the arms.
Khairi Saadallah, 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.
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.
Three people suffered serious injuries during the attack and were taken to hospital. They have since been discharged.