The LGBTIQ community in the UK town of Reading have paid tribute to the three gay men killed in a mass stabbing attack in a park.
James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails (all pictured, left to right) were killed in the attack in Reading in southern England on Saturday evening, UK time.
Witnesses said a lone attacker went on a rampage in Forbury Gardens, a park in the centre of town. Police arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene and later declared the crime a terror incident. Three others suffered serious injuries in the attack.
Joe Ritchie-Bennett was an American man who’d lived in the UK for 15 years. The 39-year-old worked in Reading for a pharmaceutical company.
James Furlong was a beloved teacher at the Holt School in Wokingham. David Wails was a senior scientist at a British company.
The three gay men were regular patrons at the Blagrave Arms pub in Reading’s town centre.
After the men were identified, mourners gathered outside the pub for a minute silence and played Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Community raises thousands for men’s families
Jamie Wake, a Reading Pride co-founder and friend, said, “I wish I could stand here and say 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. And this time, it’s happened to people we know.
“The LGBT+ community and our allies, here in Reading, are close family. 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 we have all been drawn to as we unite together, to mourn as one.”
Local residents have also raised thousands of pounds for a special memorial to the “Forbury Three” and to pay funeral costs.
Reading Council leader Jason Brock promised a permanent memorial where people can pay their respects to the victims.
Reading Pride says men’s death is a ‘tragedy to so many’
Chief executive of Reading Pride, Martin Cooper, also paid tribute to the three men, describing them as personal friends and community supporters.
“It was always a pleasure drinking and socialising and just being in their company,” he said.
“They should be remembered as extremely friendly gentleman who were always fun, engaging and also a pleasure to be around.
“They were their own little support network for anybody to offload their troubles and concerns and gave great advice.
“They’ll be sorely missed by myself personally and many in the community. Their loss is a tragedy to so many people.
“We need to ensure a thorough investigation is done to understand why and how this happened and to ensure it never happens to anyone else again.”
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