(WM) A small group of gay men living in the United Kingdom were killed in a park stabbing on June 20.
David Wails, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and James Furlong were at the Reading park Forbury Gardens when 25-year-old Khairi Saadallah, a refugee from Libya, began attacking people with a knife. In total six individuals were stabbed, with Wails, Ritchie-Bennett and Furlong’s injuries being fatal.
Saadallah was arrested at the scene of the crime and is currently “being detained under terrorism powers,” according to Jamie Grierson, Steven Morris and Matthew Weaver from The Guardian. While the incident has been labeled an act of terrorism by police, detectives have yet to settle on a motive for the attack.
Wails worked as a scientist at a chemical firm, Ritchie-Bennett was an American resident who worked at a pharmaceutical company and had lost his husband to cancer six years prior and Furlong worked as a secondary-school history teacher.
Members of the U.K. LGBT community have shown solidarity since learning of the three men’s deaths.
Martin Cooper, who serves as the CEO of Reading Pride – an LGBT organization whose mission is to “celebrate diversity in the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Reading” – spoke fondly of Wails, Ritchie-Bennett and Furlong.
“James, Joe and David were true gentlemen, each with their own unique personality,” he said.
Paul Britt, the chair of Reading Pride, said that the proximity of the stabbing heightens its overall impact on the community and called for clearer answers from the investigation.
“Because it’s so close to home, everyone’s feeling anxious,” he said. “The community is feeling grief, shock and sadness … There’s a sense of incomprehension. People are trying to understand what happened and why. People won’t get closure until there’s understanding. I don’t want to prejudice the investigation, but some clarity would be helpful.”
Jamie Wake, a founding member of Reading Pride, spoke to the emotional resonance the incident will have with the local LGBT community and emphasized unity as a source of healing moving forward.
“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,” he said. “To them I say you are a member of this family too and together we will work through this grief, together as one.”
LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall UK took to Twitter to remember the victims, express their condolences and encourage a collective sense of harmony in the wake of “such a violent act.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in on the murder of these three men, calling the attack “appalling and sickening.”
Detectives investigating the case have been “granted a warrant of further detention” for Saadallah until June 27.
“Love unites, and we must rally together as a community,” Cooper said. “We must be there for each other.”