Tributes paid to American man, 39, named as second victim of Reading terror attack

22 June 2020, 08:09

Joe Ritchie-Bennet has been named as the second victim of the Reading terror attack
Joe Ritchie-Bennet has been named as the second victim of the Reading terror attack. Picture: Facebook

By Kate Buck

An American man living and working in England has been named as the second victim of the Reading terror attack.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, was from Philadelphia and moved to England 15 years ago. He was working at Dutch pharmaceutical company.

It is understood he was a friend of James Furlong, who also died in the attack.

His family have paid tributes to Mr Ritchie-Bennet, with his brother Robert Ritchie telling the Philadelphia Inquirer their family is "heartbroken and beside ourselves".

“I love him. I always have. I always will. He was a great guy. He was four years younger than me. I had a paper route at 12 and he helped me every day. I used to buy him something every two weeks to thank him," he added.

The family was also marred by tragedy in 2014, when Mr Ritchie-Bennett's husband of eight years passed away after a short battle with colon cancer.

Read more: Reading stabbing attack suspect Khairi Saadallah known to MI5

Joe's father Robert Ritchie-Bennett told reporters this had been some of the worst days of his life.

Mr Ritchie-Bennett said he planned to bring his son's body back to the USA so he could be buried close by.

James Furlong was named as another victim of the attack
James Furlong was named as another victim of the attack. Picture: PA

US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson confirmed that an American citizen was killed in the Reading atrocity.

He said: "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."

Three people died in Saturday evening's attack in Forbury Gardens, which is being investigated as a terror incident by police.

At least two other people have been hospitalised.

Mr Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, and died during the incident.

His parents, Gary and Janet, said in a statement: "He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for."We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever."

A one minute's silence will be held in Reading for the victims of the attack later at 10am this morning.

The suspect in the attack, named as Khairi Saadallah, 25, was detained by officers from Thames Valley Police a short distance from the site of the attack and arrested on suspicion of murder.

He was later re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act, which gives police the power to detain him without charge for up to 14 days.

He is understood to have come to the attention of MI5 last year, and the Sun reported that he left HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, 17 days ago after less than half of his sentence.

He was jailed in October for a complex series of non-terror offences before his sentence was reduced to one of 17 months and 20 days' imprisonment in the Court of Appeal.

Saadallah is believed to be a Libyan refugee who was granted asylum in the UK who briefly came to the attention of the Security Service last year but there was not enough concern to launch a full investigation.

As counter-terror officers investigate, mental health is understood to be considered a major factor in the latest incident.

Khairi Saadallah is believed to be the suspect
Khairi Saadallah is believed to be the suspect. Picture: LBC

Police have said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled and sickened" by the incident and said "we will not hesitate to take action" if there are lessons to be learned from the circumstances.

One of the appeal judges who gave the judgment in March, Mr Justice Goss, noted Saadallah's various mental health issues in reducing the sentence.

Saadallah was released from prison earlier this month, it is understood, and the Covid-19 pandemic played no part in the decision to free him.