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Minute's silence held outside Reading LGBTQ pub where stabbing victims regularly hung out together

Friends David Wails, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong have been mourned by the city's LGBTQ community.

2020-06-23

A minute's silence was held on Monday night outside the Reading LGBTQ pub where the three friends killed in Saturday's suspected terror attack were regulars.

The knife attack in Forbury Gardens on Saturday evening left three men dead and another three injured.

On Monday (22 June), scientist David Wails, 49, became the third victim to be named, after tributes had earlier been paid to American Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, and teacher James Furlong, 36.

Scientist David Wails, 49 became the third victim to be named on Monday 

The trio were all friends and regularly frequented the The Blagrave Arms pub in Reading, which saw emotional scenes on Monday night as friends, family and members of the local LGBTQ community gathered to pay their respects.

Flowers and notes were left outside the venue in central Reading as a minute's silence was held and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' was played.

Jamie Wake, a friend of the victims, told Evening Standard: “I wish I could stand here and say that I can make sense of the senseless. Sadly today, like many others, I can’t

“We become so used to seeing incidents like this on the television. This time, we cannot change the channel. This time, it’s on our doorstep.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, was an American who moved to the UK 15 years ago

“And this time, it’s happened to people we know.

“The LGBT+ community and our allies, here in Reading, are close family, and we’re stood here outside the Blagrave, a place we call home, and a safe space for so many members of our community.
 
“A place that today we have all been drawn to as we unite together, to mourn as one.”

American Ritchie-Bennett had lived in the UK for 15 years, and tragically lost his husband to colon cancer in 2014.

His father Robert Ritchie told CBS the family was "heartbroken" as the loss of his "brilliant and loving" son

Mr Furlong, 36, was a teacher and head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham.

In a statement, his parents Gary and Janet described their son as "beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun".

James Furlong, 36 was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham

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

Martin Cooper, chief executive of LGBT+ charity Reading Pride and a friend of both Mr Ritchie-Bennett and Mr Furlong comfirmed that the pair were members of the LGBTQ community and "great supporters" of the local scene.

"Their loss is a tragedy to so many people," Mr Cooper said, adding the victims were "fun, engaging and a pleasure to be around".

Khairi Saadallah, 25, from Reading, is currently in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder. The incident is currently being treated as a terrorist attack.

Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE), said: “This investigation is continuing at pace. We have a large team of officers and staff working to establish exactly what happened in the lead up to, during and after this incident.

“Our thoughts very much remain with the family and friends of those who have lost loved ones and those who have been injured and affected as a result of this tragic incident.

“I would ask both the media and the public again not to speculate on any aspect of this case at this time as this could have an impact on the ongoing investigation and any future court appearances.”