THE family of one of the men murdered in the Forbury Gardens terror attack have told how they are ‘stuck in time’ after losing their relative in such tragic circumstances. 

Penning an emotional letter for The Reading Chronicle, the family of Joe Ritchie-Bennett paid tribute to their ‘son, brother, and uncle’ two years on from his death. 

Joe, originally from Philadelphia in the United States, was fatally stabbed at Forbury Gardens alongside his friends James Furlong and David Wails on June 20, 2020. 

Reading Chronicle: Joe, James and DavidJoe, James and David

READ MORE: Victim's father's pain two years on from Forbury Gardens attack

In January 2021, terrorist Khairi Saadallah was sentenced to a life prison sentence after he admitted to three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. 

A second annual memorial service to remember the three victims was held at the Gardens on Monday, June 20, 2022. 

Following the service, the family of Joe Ritchie-Bennett reflected on their loss in an emotional letter. 

They said: “It has been two years since we lost our son, brother, and uncle Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, to the atrocity committed by a coward terrorist who was granted early release from prison by a Judge. This terrorist had an additional seven months left to serve on the prison sentence he was convicted of, however, his sentence was cut short. Sixteen days after the Judge freed him, he murdered Joe, James, and David and attempted to murder three other gentlemen.

“Joe died alongside two of his best friends – James Furlong and David Wails. He was stabbed alongside another very good friend of his – Stephen Young. The terrorist then stabbed two other gentlemen, who were in an adjacent group to Joe and his friends – Nishit Nisudan and Patrick Edwards. Six outstanding men were stabbed by this terrorist – three died, three survived. Had the terrorist simply been kept in prison for the duration of the sentence he was given, the Ritchie family, the Furlong family, and the Wails family would not have to live this nightmare that we have been living for the past two years.

Reading Chronicle:

“Time may have moved on for others, however, it has not moved on for us. We are stuck in time, going back to June 20, 2020, when Joe, James, and David, were brutally murdered. We (the Ritchie family) did not find out about Joe’s murder until June 21, 2020, which happened to be Father’s Day.

READ MORE: Family, friends and town comes together to remember Forbury Gardens victims

“Joe was full of life. He loved everyone and was equally loved back. Joe was only 39 years of age when he was murdered. Joe was looking forward to turning 40 years old. Joe had been training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and had plans to do so on his 40th birthday. The last time we spoke, which was on Sunday, June 14, 2020, Joe was the happiest we ever heard him. We were in the initial stages of planning a family vacation, which was supposed to occur in the summer of 2023, where we were going to spend two days in Reading with Joe, then fly together to Greece, where we would vacation for a week together. Joe could not hold back his enthusiasm and excitement at the thought of looking forward to vacationing together.

Reading Chronicle: Flowers are laid for the Forbury Gardens victimsFlowers are laid for the Forbury Gardens victims

“Joe was taken from us wrongfully, and in an unnatural way. He was young, he was healthy, and he had his entire life ahead of him. Like the rest of us, Joe had hopes, dreams, goals he set for himself that he still wanted to accomplish, and things he still wanted to do. Joe loved life. Joe loved his friends. Joe loved his family. Joe respected everyone. Joe was inclusive. Joe was equally loved by and respected by everyone that knew him. Joe’s life was cut short for no reason whatsoever. Joe was the youngest member of our family, and we should have predeceased him, not him predeceasing us.

READ MORE: What has happened in the two years since the Forbury Gardens attack 

“We are never going to get over losing Joe in such a violent and horrific way. Time has not healed our wounds. The more and more we learn about all the failures with the way the terrorist was treated, based on his arrest and conviction record, is appalling. We only wish such care and concern was given to ensure the protection and safety of Joe, James, David, Stephen, Nishit, and Patrick. We will never know what could have been, but we know one thing – if the terrorist was handled properly, deported as he was ordered to do so on two separate occasions, or kept in prison for the length of the sentence he was convicted of, you would not be reading this tribute to Joe right now.

Reading Chronicle: Flowers laid for the Forbury Gardens victimsFlowers laid for the Forbury Gardens victims

“Joe, James, and David would have gone on to live the happy and productive lives that they had lived. Joe, James, and David would have continued to be the productive members of society that they were, and continued to help people, as all three of them had chosen professions where they made a difference in the world and helped people.

“Joe, we love you and miss you terribly. We visit you in your final resting place every day. We will not rest until justice is fully served for you, James, and David. You have our solemn promise. Rest in peace our son, brother, and uncle. We love you – Mom, Dad, Rob, Lisa, Robert, Allison, Brendan and Tyler.”