Reading Borough Council shares in the grief of people in our town, and around the world. We are working with the families of the victims and the local community to create a permanent memorial that will become a place for remembrance and reflection. Forbury Gardens has been at the centre of our town, both physically and spiritually for centuries, and the image of the Maiwand Lion stands as a constant reminder of the town’s strength, compassion and unity. The permanent memorial will be a calm and peaceful space sitting within the historic Abbey Quarter serving as a place of reflection and remembrance for the lives so tragically cut short and for all those affected by the attacks that have devastated the entire community of Reading.
Fundraising for the families of those who have died, and anyone who has been affected by the attack at The Forbury Gardens.
A vigil was held on Saturday 27 June 2020, one week on from the attacks. You can watch a video and view pictures of the vigil here.
I’d like to begin by thanking every one of you for joining us this evening to honour and pay our respects to the victims of the appalling incident in the Forbury Gardens last Saturday.
This evening gives us the opportunity to bring people together - if only virtually for many – and to reflect on a week which has left Reading feeling a mix of horror, disbelief, immense sadness and grief. Our thoughts are also firmly with the people and city of Glasgow at this time, following yesterday’s events.
Just one week ago, friends and families were sat in Forbury Gardens, just a few yards from here, making the most of the warm weather on a summer’s evening and enjoying each other’s company.
It was around now, the happiness and tranquillity of the evening was shattered in the cruellest and most horrific way. Three men lost their lives and several people sustained injuries. Others were forced to witness the most horrendous scenes.
Last Saturday, Reading lost James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails. To their families and close friends, we can only imagine your grief. Our thoughts are always with you.
After the initial shock, there has been an outpouring of sadness in Reading, across the whole country and indeed across the rest of the world.
For those of us that know Reading, we are not surprised to see all sections of our community pulling together and supporting each other in a way that has demonstrated the remarkable united spirit that we know exists in our 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 would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all those affected by the dreadful attack, including the families of the victims, (some of whom are here today).
In just a moment I will be inviting individuals to take a step forward and light a candle, as we pay our respects to those who so needlessly died and think of everyone affected by this tragedy.
Due to ongoing Covid-19 distancing restrictions, we are inviting households across Reading, the country and the world to join us in this act of solidarity at home.
Further memorial events will be taking place in the coming weeks which will allow us all to come together.
I will now invite The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley to say a few words before we begin the candle lighting.
In my five and a half years as Lord Lieutenant I have never been to an occasion that I did not want to be at. Of course, I am glad to be here tonight but in one major sense I don’t want to be. I would have far rather that last Saturday night in Reading had been a normal one. I wish so much that the circumstances that have led me to be here had not occurred. Of course, we all wish this. We cannot alter what has happened and so tonight, as the representative here in Berkshire of Her Majesty The Queen, I pay tribute firstly to James, Joe and David. Sadly, I never met them, but I know that a lot of you here knew at least one, if not all of them, well and from what I hear they were honest lovely outstanding people and good law-abiding citizens. They did not deserve what happened to them. They had so many years ahead of them. Who knows what they would have achieved in life had they lived to an old age; doubtless they a would have achieved many good things that the community is now deprived of benefiting from. So many of you will be asking why them? Those of you that were in Forbury Gardens on Saturday will be thinking It could have been me. Life is a lottery, we never know what is round the corner and this is scary but we have to live knowing this. This is no comfort for the families and friends and colleagues of those left behind. So many more people than just the victims are affected in some way by this tragedy. I send my heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathy to the loved ones left behind.
Next, I pay tribute to those injured in the attack and to those who are traumatised by witnessing the ghastly attack. They will never recover completely after something like this but I wish them as speedy and as full a recovery as possible.
Next, I pay tribute to those who helped the victims. Some people I know tore off their shirts to make bandages. I pay tribute to the inherent goodness in humans that enabled these people to act instinctively with the only motive to come to the aid of a fellow human being who was suffering.
Finally, I pay tribute too to the emergency services and to the Police who arrived on the scene within minutes. The actions of the Police in preventing further deaths and ghastly injury deserves the highest praise.
This incident was a crime against humanity and I pray that none of us will ever see anything like this again and I pray that nothing like this will ever occur again in Reading.
My name is John Campbell and I am the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.
I am joined in person and online by many members of my force and beyond, from those involved in the response, to those involved in the investigation.
On behalf of the Force and the wider police family, I send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of David, James and Joseph. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
How we wish we weren’t here, reflecting upon the tragic events of last week and remembering those who lost their lives and also those that were injured in body or in mind.
As police officers we pledge our lives to protect people and prevent them from coming to harm.
When such harm does occur, despite our efforts, we too feel the grief of lives lost and the outrage at the unfairness of it all.
To the families and friends of David, James and Joseph, we know that we can’t take away the sorrow of your loss, but perhaps take some small comfort in that your loved ones were not alone. They were cared for and comforted by my officers and others who came to help them in in their final moments.
To the People of Reading, it somehow feels wrong to talk of pride and such things, when so much hurt has been caused, but you should feel a sense of pride in how this town has responded.
Pride in those that were in the park and rushed to help, pride in the words and actions of support for each other since and pride in the coming together of a diverse community, joined by the bond of humanity and a shared sense of injustice.
Such bonds will be important in the months ahead.
For policing to truly work a wise man once said that ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’.
Many of my officers who responded to the events last week are from Reading or live close by. They are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters and are part of this community. They are YOUR police.
So, I hope you are also proud of the efforts of the men and women of the emergency services who responded to the calls for help from the park that evening.
I know that I am.
We will do all that we can to seek justice for those who lost their lives and those that were harmed. And as everyone takes time to heal, we will stand alongside you.
The true test of Thames Valley Police is that when things are at their worst for the community, we need to be at our very best for you and we will be.
And we will never forget David, James and Joseph.
I was asked to choose a reading this evening and I wanted to find something which would speak not only to the families of James, and Joe and David but also to all of those who are listening on the radio or joining us online at this vigil. So I’m going to read a prayer poem by the Irish poet John O’Donohue and it’s In the form of a blessing.
(From Benedictus – A book of Blessings by John O’Donohue : On the death of the beloved)
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives,
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was alive, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of our breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from your mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
God of all care and compassion, hear our prayer
for each broken family and every broken heart.
Hold them through the pain of grief,
surround them with the gentle care they need
and give them strength for the future that is yet to be.
God of our health and strength,
hear our prayer for those who were injured and hurt and traumatised.
Give patience and skill to those who look after them
and heal the wounds of body, mind and spirit.
God of life and love, we pray with gratitude
for the bravery and endurance of the emergency services.
Keep in safety those who risk their own lives to rescue others in danger.
James, Joe and David - God bless you and keep you in His loving care now and for all eternity.
Those of us who know Reading, will know that one of our distinguishing features is our sense of civic pride, our sense of community.
Reading is a big, bustling and successful town. A major player in the South East and nationally. What really sets us apart, though, is we are all of this while maintaining that sense of togetherness more often found in a small village. A ‘little big town’, if you like. A town like no other. Like me, I'm sure you would not have it any other way.
Over the past week that spirit and pride has shone though like never before. The response has been dignified and magnificent. Reading has never been more together. I will be inviting just a few members of our Reading community to step forward and light a candle in memory of David, James and Joe. To them we must say: You will never be forgotten.