Reading stabbing victims' families embrace and light candles at emotional vigil a week after terror attack killed three

READING has held a vigil tonight in memory of the three friends killed in last week's terror attack in the town.

The families of victims David Wails, Joseph Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong linked arms in Market Place as candles were lit in tribute to the men.

Earlier this evening, terror suspect Khairi Saadallah, 25, was charged with three murders and three attempted murders.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, who is MP for the Reading West constituency, were among those to light candles at the vigil.

Mr Sharma said the attack had been "incredibly shocking for everyone in Reading, but also across the country".

He added: "Our deepest sympathies and condolences go to the families who came here today and have shown such dignity at this service.

"I also want to say that the emergency services, and I think particularly the police, were absolutely heroic in the way that they have dealt with this situation, on the day and since, with great sensitivity.

"The event today has shown that the whole of Reading has come together and demonstrated the great community spirit that we have in our town."

The mayor of Reading said the town's community "shall not be divided" by the shocking attack.

Cllr David Stevens said the incident had left the town "feeling a mix of horror, disbelief and immense sadness and grief".

The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, James Puxley, praised the emergency services and members of the public who helped the victims of the attack, some of whom "tore off their shirts to make bandages".

Friends Mr Furlong, 36, Mr Wails, 49, and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, 39, were killed as they sat in a circle of about 10 people enjoying a socially distanced drink in Forbury Gardens shortly before 7pm on June 20.

Mr Furlong's family released a new tribute today thanking those who had rushed to help the three men in the aftermath of the attack.

Mr Furlong's family said: "We would like to start by thanking the police for their ongoing help, including their remarkable bravery. They have been a pillar of support.

"Equally, we would like to express our gratitude to the emergency services, members of the public and the wider Reading community, who did all they could to help and save the lives of those who had been injured that night."

The statement added: "To James' colleagues and pupils at the Holt School: he spoke often of how much he loved where he worked and his passion for developing the students. He cared so much and was very proud of each and every one of you.

"James was passionate about creating a more loving and caring society. His time with us was cut far too short but the impact he made will live on, long long into the future. His family, his friends and those who have met him – he made us all a better person.

"We are so proud of him. James was, and always will be, so very much loved by us all."

The family of Mr Ritchie-Bennett also released a statement, telling of their "deep sorrow".

The statement said: "We LOVED Joe so much and we are in such deep sorrow. We need all the prayers for Joe and the Ritchie and Bennett families."

On Friday, police confirmed that post-mortem examinations showed each man died from single stab wounds.

Three other victims were taken to hospital with stab injuries and have since been discharged.

Saadallah is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday.

He arrived in Britain eight years ago, initially living in Manchester, and was granted refugee status in 2018.


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