THE bereaved families of Reading's terror attack victims stood arm in arm for an emotional union tonight as they took part in a community vigil.

A candlelit vigil was held in the town centre to honour the victims who lost their lives in the attack at Forbury Gardens on Saturday (June 20).

Reading Chronicle:

James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails were killed after a knifeman rampaged through the park just before 7pm.

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Family members of the victims, as well as community figures and political leaders, gathered in Market Place at 7pm tonight (June 27) to mark exactly one week since the tragic incident.

Mayor of Reading, Cllr David Stevens, opened the vigil.

He said: “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.”

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The vigil was also attended by Home Secretary Priti Patel, Reading MPs Alok Sharma and Matt Rodda, Bishop of Reading Olivia Graham, and many more.

Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley, paid tribute to the “outstanding” character of the three victims.

He said: “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 would have achieved many good things that the community is now deprived of benefitting from.

Thames Valley Police Chief Constable John Campbell praised the emergency services’ response to the attack, and pledged to stand by Reading in its darkest hour.

He added: “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.”

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After he and Olivia Graham spoke, the family members and friends of the victims were the first to be invited to light candles for the three tragic men.

Following this, the group came together in a huddle to join as one in highly emotional scenes.

Reading Chronicle:

In his speech, Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock said the events of the past week had brought out the town’s “spirit and pride”.

He added: “Reading is a big, bustling, successful town, but what really sets it apart is that we are this while also maintaining that sense of togetherness that is more typical of a small village.

“It is a town like no other and I’m sure many of you would have it no other way.

Reading Chronicle:

“Over the past week that spirit and pride has shone through like never before.

“The response has been dignified and magnificent.

“Reading has never been more together.”