| 11.1°C Belfast

Second Reading terror victim named as US citizen Joe Ritchie-Bennett

Mr Ritchie-Bennett reportedly moved to the UK 15 years ago and had been living and working in Reading.

Close

Flowers near the entrance to Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre after the multiple stabbing (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Flowers near the entrance to Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre after the multiple stabbing (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Flowers near the entrance to Forbury Gardens in Reading town centre after the multiple stabbing (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A second victim of the Reading terror attack has been named locally as 39-year-old Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a US citizen who reportedly moved to the UK 15 years ago.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett was friends with 36-year-old teacher James Furlong, the only other victim to have been named so far.

His Facebook page states he is originally from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson has confirmed an American citizen was killed in the attack in Forbury Gardens.

Martin Cooper said he had known Mr Ritchie-Bennett for four years and Mr Furlong for at least two, having met them at the Blagrave Arms in Reading – a pub where they were regulars.

Mr Cooper, who is chief executive of LGBT+ charity Reading Pride, added that Mr Ritchie-Bennett and Mr Furlong were “great supporters” and members of the community.

“Their loss is a tragedy to so many people,” the 36-year-old from Reading told the PA news agency.

“It was always a pleasure drinking and socialising and just being in their company.

“They should be remembered as extremely friendly gentleman who were always fun, engaging and a pleasure to be around.

“They were their own little support network for anybody to offload their troubles and concerns and gave great advice.

“They will be sorely missed by myself personally and many in the community. Their loss is a tragedy to so many people.”

On Saturday’s attack, Mr Cooper added: “It was a horrific attack, an absolute atrocity to take unsuspecting people like that – it’s such a tragic loss of life.

“We need to ensure a thorough investigation is done to understand why and how this happened and to ensure it never happens to anyone else again.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper spoke with Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father and said he initially worked for a law firm in London after moving to the UK a decade-and-a-half ago.

He later joined a Dutch pharmaceutical company which has its headquarters in Reading about 10 years ago.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s brother, Robert Ritchie, is a captain in the Philadelphia police force and told the local newspaper: “I love him. I always have. I always will. He was a great guy.

“We used to play together every day. We rode bikes together every day. Our family is heartbroken and beside ourselves. He did not deserve to go out like this.”

Mr Ritchie-Bennett’s father, also called Robert, said: “I absolutely love my son with all of my heart and all of my soul.

“We’re mourning, and we’re trying to decide what we’re going to do. It’s 3,500 miles away. They are still in lockdown over there with the coronavirus, and I don’t know what else to say.”

Mr Johnson tweeted: “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20.

“To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected.

“We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement.”

A US State Department spokesman said: “We are aware of the alleged act of terrorism in Reading, United Kingdom, on June 20, resulting in the death of a US citizen.

“Our staff in the United Kingdom and here in the United States are working to provide consular assistance to the victim’s family.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of all of those affected. Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we have nothing further to add at this time.”

PA