39-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Man Identified as UK Terror Attack Victim

John Ritchie-Bennett
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A 39-year-old American man has been identified as one of the victims of a vicious knife attack in Reading, which authorities are terming a “terrorist incident” that saw three people die and another three left injured.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a native of Philidelphia, was stabbed to death on Saturday evening in a park in Reading, England. Mr Ritchie-Bennet had lived in the UK for fifteen years before he was murdered in what is believed to have been a terrorist attack. A Libyan migrant is presently in police custody over the attack.

Robert Ritchie, the father of the victim, told local newspaper The Philadelphia Inquirer that his son initially moved to London to work in a law firm and that for the past ten years he had been working in a Dutch pharmaceutical company at its British headquarters in Reading — the site of the alleged terror attack.

Ritchie-Bennett’s brother, the captain of Philidelphia’s 7th District Police precinct, Capt. Robert Ritchie said: “Our family is heartbroken and beside ourselves,” he said, adding: “He did not deserve to go out like this.”

The family said that they are unsure as to how they will retrieve the body of Ritchie-Bennett during the Chinese coronavirus crisis, which has shut down most travel between the U.S. and the UK.

“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,” the father said.

“I absolutely love my son with all of my heart and all of my soul,” he said mournfully.

The naming of Mr Ritchie-Bennett came as another victim, James Furlong, was named as one of the deceased. A Reading teacher, Furlong was a head of department at a local school. Gay-interest publication Pink News reported that both men were members of the local “LGBT+ community”, with Furlong described as a “strident activist”. It is not clear if the two were known to one another.

On Monday, the U.S. Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, confirmed that one of the victims was indeed an American citizen, writing in a statement on social media: “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.”

On Monday, a minute’s silence was held in the town centre in Reading in honour of the victims and the family members of the dead.

The suspected perpetrator of the attack — which left three dead and another three wounded — has been identified as Khairi Saadallah, who was characterised by the BBC as a “25-year-old Libyan national from Reading”.

Saadallah reportedly came to the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker, who was later granted refugee status that allowed him to remain in the country.

The knife attack followed a Black Lives Matter protest that took place in the same park in Reading on Saturday, however, police say that there is not believed to be any connection between the stabbings and the protest.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as the attack “appalling and sickening”.

Joe Ritchie-Bennett’s brother struck a defiant note in the face of the tragic loss, saying: “No alleged act of terror will ever take away my brother, his memory, or the American spirit,” his brother said.

“That, no one can take away,” Ritchie declared.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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