Amo­ment to re­mem­ber: town gath­ers to hon­our For­bury Three

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

READ­ING came to­gether on Satur­day night for a mov­ing mo­ment of re­flec­tion to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of the For­bury Gar­dens at­tacks.

Around 200 peo­ple gath­ered in For­bury Square, com­ing to­gether on a drab, wet evening to hon­our the lives of James Fur­long, DavidWails and Joseph Ritchie-Ben­nett.

The trio were stabbed as they sat in the park on Satur­day, June 20. Three other peo­ple were in­jured and Khairi Saadal­lah, 25, of Bas­ingstoke Road has been charged with the mur­der of the three vic­tims as well as the at­tempted mur­ders of the in­jured men.

The vigil was or­gan­ised by Ber­nadette Martin and at­tended by a wide cross-sec­tion of the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing Read­ing Pride sup­port­ers and Read­ing East MP Matt Rodda.

It was live-streamed for those who couldn’t be there in per­son.

Ms Martin gave a short speech to thank peo­ple for com­ing and ex­plain­ing why she wanted to hold the vigil.

“What hap­pened in the park two weeks ago has shifted ev­ery­one’s view of Read­ing,” she said.

“Things like that didn’t hap­pen in Read­ing or even to peo­ple we knew, worked with or loved — it was some­thing that hap­pened in big cities.

“I want to pass on my sin­cere con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of James, Joe and David. I can­not imag­ine how they are feel­ing.”

For those griev­ing, Ms Martin raised aware­ness of the sup­port avail­able on the night, in­clud­ing Read­ing Street Pas­tors, Vic­tims First and Sup­portU, and thanked them for their help in or­gan­is­ing the vigil.

She also re­as­sured peo­ple that the flo­ral tributes left out­side the for­mer Post Of­fice in Read­ing’s Mar­ket Place had been moved to the

Abbey Gate­way. They­will move again into For­bury Gar­dens when it re­opens and all the mes­sages and tributes will be stored at the Berk­shire Records Of­fice.

The event ended with a minute’s si­lence for James, Joe and David. After­wards, Ms Martin told

Wok­ing­ham.To­day that the idea for the event came after hear­ing BBC Ra­dio Berk­shire present Sarah Walker’s per­sonal trib­ute to Joe, some­one that she knew as well.

“It moved me re­ally sig­nif­i­cantly,” she said. “I was sit­ting in my car in Tesco’s car park and I be­came quite tear­ful. I re­gained my­self and went home.

“Ini­tially, I just mes­saged some friends and said this is what I was think­ing of do­ing, I put a post on my Face­book page and off the back of that peo­ple started shar­ing it.”

This then grew into an event page: “It just grew legs and just went crazy within the space of 48 hours,” she said – more than 1,000 peo­ple ex­pressed in­ter­est in at­tend­ing, but the rain did dampen some of those num­bers.

“It’s still a good num­ber of peo­ple con­sid­er­ing the weather be­ing rub­bish,” she said.

Ms Martin also praised the re­sponse of Read­ing’s Street Pas­tors, who had been walk­ing the town cen­tre help­ing those who have been af­fected by the events two weeks ago.

“I want peo­ple to be able to talk about it freely,” she added. “And I thought that maybe this might be one way of just be­ing able to get peo­ple to open up.”

Matt Rodda, whose Read­ing East con­stituency in­cludes parts of Wood­ley and Ear­ley, said: “I’ve come this evening to pay my re­spects to the three peo­ple who died. Like many other peo­ple, I’m think­ing about their fam­i­lies and peo­ple who knew them.

“I feel that we should pay our re­spects to them and try to con­tinue to show sol­i­dar­ity in the face of this aw­ful tragedy.

“It was in­cred­i­bly mov­ing and I’m a lit­tle bit over­whelmed.”

Matt Rodda (left) was among those pay­ing their re­spects to the vic­tims of the For­bury at­tack

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