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Three Gay Friends Killed in U.K. Terror Attack

James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, and David Wails
James Furlong and Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails

The LGBTQ+ community in Reading is mourning the deaths of James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bernett, and David Wails.


Three gay men have died in a terror attack in the United Kingdom.

Friends James Furlong, 36, Joe Ritchie-Bernett, 39, and David Wails were stabbed to death Saturday evening in Forbury Gardens in Reading, a town in Berkshire County 40 miles outside of London.

The Thames Valley Police, which oversees Reading, arrested Khairi Saadallah for the crime. The 25-year-old, initially charged with murder, was rearrested under the U.K.'s Terrorism Act 2000.

Saadallah, a Libyan refugee, was detained within minutes of a call to the police Saturday. Witnesses reported to the BBC seeing a man with a "massive knife" who "suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went round a large group trying to stab them."

Prior to the murders of the three men, a Black Lives Matter protest had taken place in Forbury Gardens, a public park that is also the site of the historic Reading Abbey. Police said there is no connection between the events.

In a statement, Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes also asked the public "not to speculate on any aspect of this case," including whether it might be a hate crime, "as this could have an impact on the ongoing investigation and any future court appearances." Barnes added that police are "keeping an open mind as to the motive."

The LGBTQ+ community is mourning the deaths of the men. Furlong was a history teacher. Ritchie-Bernett, an American, had lived in the U.K. for 15 years and worked at a pharmaceutical company. Wails was a scientist.

Stonewall, a leading LGBTQ+ group in the U.K., posted a remembrance on social media and stressed that "we can't let Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic rhetoric be used to divide us. We must stand together to make progress."

Martin Cooper, CEO of Reading Pride, also released a statement honoring his late friends. "James, Joe, and David were true gentlemen. Each with their own unique personality," he said. "They were regulars of the Blagrave, a [queer-inclusive] community pub, whose regulars will be in mourning."

The Guardian reports that, on Monday, at least 100 people gathered outside the Blagrave Arms to place flowers, mourn, and comfort one another.

Jamie Wake, a founding member of Reading Pride, called the Blagrave "a safe space for so many members of our community, a place we have all been drawn to as we all unite together to mourn as one."

"There are many people inside and outside of Reading who may not have known these men personally, but will feel like they have lost members of their own community," Wake said. "To them, I say you are a member of this family too and together we will work through this grief, together as one."

The families of the deceased also released tributes through the Thames Valley Police.

Wails's parents: "David was a kind and much-loved son, brother and uncle who never hurt anyone in his life. We are broken-hearted at losing him and in such a terrible way. We will treasure our wonderful memories of him and he will always be with us in our hearts."

Furlong's parents: "James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun. He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for. We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him. He will live in our hearts forever."

Ritchie-Bernett's father: "I was absolutely blessed and proud to be Joe's father for 39 years and we are heartbroken by what has happened."

A GoFundMe, launched to raise money for funeral costs, has collected PS9,926 of a PS15,000 goal.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.