The Wokingham Paper

Reading Together: Communities unite to mark one week since Forbury Gardens incident

Forbury Gardens
The families of James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett came together and linked arms after lighting candles to remember their lives

A CIRCLE of love. 

The families of James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett came together and linked arms after lighting candles to remember their lives. 

They were joined by civic leaders from across the spectrum for a special vigil held in Reading’s Buttermarket and broadcast live on BBC Radio Berkshire and on the Reading Borough Council’s YouTube channel. 

The event was held on Saturday night to allow residents to come together and pay their respects to the three men who lost their lives in Forbury Gardens last Saturday night. 

Three other people were injured in the incident and a 25-year-old from Reading has been charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. 

The vigil was introduced by the mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens and saw a number of people come forward to light candles, including the headteachers of The Holt School in Wokingham, where Mr Furlong taught. 

Other guests included home secretary Priti Patel and Reading’s two MPs, Alok Sharma and Matt Rodda. 

Forbury Gardens
The mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens

Cllr Stevens said: “This evening gives us the opportunity to bring people together and to reflect on a week, which has left Reading feeling a mixture horror disbelief,” he said reminding people of the location’s proximity from Forbury Gardens. 

“(They were) just a few yards from here, making the most of the warm weather, the summer’s evening, enjoying one another’s company.”

He addressed the three friends’ families: “We can only imagine your grief.

“After the initial shock, there’s been an outpouring of sadness in Reading, across the whole country and indeed the rest of the world.

“For those of us that know Reading, we’re not surprised to see all sections of our community, pulling together and supporting each other in a way that has demonstrated the remarkably united spirit we all know exists in this town.

“Reading will always be an inclusive and diverse town, we stand together as a community, and shall not be divided.

“This evening on behalf of the people of Reading, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families who are with us here this evening, and everybody else affected by the dreadful attack.”

Forbury Gardens
James Puxley, the Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire

The next speaker was James Puxley, the Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, who represents the Queen. 

“I wish so much that circumstances that have led me to be here had not occurred,” he said. 

“They were just lovely upstanding people and good law-abiding citizens. They don’t deserve what happened to them – they had so many years ahead of them.”

John Campbell, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police

John Campbell, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, spoke next. 

“On behalf of the force and the wider police family. I send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of David, James and Joe. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham

The Rt Revd Olivia Graham, the Bishop of Reading read a poem by Irish poet John O’Donohue before leading a prayer. 

Reading Borough Council leader Cllr Jason Brock

And Reading Borough Council leader Cllr Jason Brock said: “Reading is a big bustling successful town, but what really sets it apart is that we are this maintaining that sense of togetherness that is more typical of a small village.

“A Little Big Town, if you will, a town like no other, and I’m sure that none of you would have it any other way. 

“Over the past week that spirit and pride shone through like never before. The response has been dignified and it has been magnificent – Reading has never been more together.

“To those who have lost their lives, we must say, you will never be forgotten.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel reflects after lighting a candle
The Holt School headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce lit candles to honour history teacher James Furlong
Matt Rodda and Alok Sharma
Matt Rodda and Alok Sharma light candles

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