Tributes from friends, family and LGBT+ community pour in for the three men tragically killed in Reading terror attack
The three Reading victims killed in a suspected terror attack have been remembered as “true gentlemen” and proud members of the city’s LGBT+ community.
James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails tragically lost their lives on June 20, stabbed to death as they sat together in a park.
All three were members of the LGBT+ community. Furlong was a school teacher, described by friends as a “proud gay man who “wanted equality for all”. Ritchie-Bennett was an American who had lost his husband to cancer just over five years ago. Wails was a scientist who always “made people smile”.
After all three Reading stabbing victims were named Monday (June 22), there was an outpouring of grief from the queer community.
Reading victims remembered by local LGBT+ community.
“James, Joe, and David were true gentlemen. Each with their own unique personality,” said the CEO of Reading Pride, Martin Cooper, in a statement.
“It is with deep sadness that I write this. Friends of Reading Pride have been taken too soon due to the actions of an individual.
“The individuals taken were personal friends of mine. They were supporters of Reading as a community and of Reading Pride.”
He added that all three were popular at the Blagrave Arms, a Reading pub, “whose regulars will be in mourning”.
“They were a support network for individuals, and I know they will be sorely missed by many,” he added.
“Love unites, and we must rally together as a community. We must be there for each other.”
Reading victim and gay teacher remembered by students.
Jamie Wake, a spokesperson for the Blagrave Arms and a founding member of Reading Pride, added: “The LGBT+ community and our allies who live in Reading know the Blagrave as a safe space for so many members of our community, a place we have all been drawn to as we all unite together to mourn as one.
“There are many people inside and outside of Reading who may not have known these men personally, but will feel like they have lost members of their own community. To them I say you are a member of this family too and together we will work through this grief, together as one.”
The Prince of Wales, another gay pub often visited by the Ritchie-Bennett and Furlong, called the two men “truly beautiful souls who were very much loved by all”.
“We offer our deepest condolences to theirs and their friend David Wails’ families and friends,” a statement from the proprietors read.
Flowers were laid outside the Blagrave Arms on Monday, where around 100 people gathered to pay tributes to the three victims.
In nearby Wokingham, a two-minute silence was held at the school where Furlong worked at as head of history, government and politics.
Co-headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce delivered a statement as students stood still at the school gates.
“James was a very kind and gentle man. He had a real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students,” Kennedy said.
“He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication.”
Stonewall shared its condolences, and called on the LGBT+ community to come together after the tragedy.
“After such a violent act, we need to join together across communities & stand united,” the charity said.
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We now know 3 gay men died in Reading on Saturday. Everyone at Stonewall sends our love to their friends & families. We will remember you James Furlong, David Wails & Joe Ritchie-Bennett.
After such a violent act, we need to join together across communities & stand united
— stonewalluk (@stonewalluk) June 23, 2020
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.
Police arrested a suspect, Khairi Saadallah, 25, immediately after the attack.
The atrocity is being treated as a terrorist incident, though investigators have not ruled out any motive.