21 June 2020 20:33
The parents of teacher James Furlong have paid tribute to him after he was named as one of the three victims of the Reading terror attack. Mr Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, and died during the incident, which took place at 7pm on Saturday in Forbury Gardens, in the town centre. His parents Gary and Janet, released a statement through Thames Valley Police which said: "James was a wonderful man. They asked for their privacy to be respected and said they will not comment further at this time. Co-headteachers Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce also paid tribute to Mr Furlong, and described him as a "kind and gentle man" who had a "real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students".
In a statement, they said: "He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication. "As a Holt community, we all now need to absorb this sad news. Counsellors will be available for students and staff. Our thoughts are with his mum, dad, brother and family, and his friends and colleagues. "He was a cherished colleague and he will be sadly missed." Lessons for Monday have been cancelled for all year groups, and counsellors will be onsite for students wishing to come to school and talk.
Jade Sirmon, a pupil at The Holt from 2012-2017, told the PA news agency: "He really was an incredible teacher. "He was funny and kind and always made history fun and entertaining. History was always one of my favourite subjects and Mr Furlong always encouraged it." Keith Power, whose daughter attends the school, said: "He was a wonderful man. He had a real passion for history and teaching and was so caring of his pupils. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Reading. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson paid tribute to Mr Furlong. He tweeted: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in Reading. Very sad to hear that a teacher, James Furlong, was among the victims. Tributes paid by his colleagues reflect how much he will be missed." Responding to the news, Wokingham Labour tweeted: "Devastated to discover that James Furlong, one of the victims of the Reading stabbings, was a teacher at the Holt. "His loss is a devastating blow to his family, colleagues, students, the wider Holt family and our whole community. This is the first picture of the Reading terror attack suspect who was reportedly known to MI5. The 25-year-old man arrested in connection with last night's attack that left three people dead has been named as Khairi Saadallah. Saadallah, a refuge from Libya, is being held by police after three others were also seriously injured in the knife attack at a park in Forbury Gardens at roughly 7pm on Saturday. Sources have told the BBC the suspect was brought to the attention of MI5 in 2019 after they received information he had aspirations to travel abroad potentially for terrorism. A security source earlier told PA news agency the suspect is a Libyan asylum seeker and mental health is being considered a major factor in the incident. The suspect has been pictured as the first victim of the attack is named as "inspirational" secondary school teacher James Furlong. Mr Furlong was a teacher at The Holt School in Wokingham, the Reading Chronicle reports. In a letter sent to parents, the school said: "We are so very sad to have to inform you that last night, James Furlong, our wonderfully talented and inspirational Head of History and Government and Politics was tragically murdered in the terrorist incident in Forbury Gardens in Reading. "James was a very kind and gentle man; he had a real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students. "He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication. The school is planning on making a memorial book for Mr Furlong's family. The statement said words can't describe the shock and sadness felt by the school community and their thoughts are with the victim's friends and colleagues. Lessons will be cancelled tomorrow and counsellors will be available for students and staff. (Image: Vagner Vidal/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd) Wokingham Labour tweeted: "Devastated to discover that James Furlong, one of the victims of the Reading stabbings, was a teacher at the Holt. "His loss is a devastating blow to his family, colleagues, students, the wider Holt family and our whole community. The Prime Minister has said he was "appalled and sickened" after police declared the murder of three people to be a terrorist attack. Thames Valley Police said on Sunday morning the attack is now being treated as terrorism, as counter-terrorism investigators take over the investigation. The force asked the public to avoid the area and not to speculate about the attack, as police appeal for any video footage of the incident to be shared with police only. Head of counter terrorism policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the motivation for the killings are "far from certain". Speaking in London this morning, he said: "Although the motivation for this horrific act is far from certain, counter-terrorism policing have taken responsibility for leading the investigation." Mr Basu said there was no evidence to suggest anyone attending crowded places is at risk, but asked people to "be alert, not alarmed, when you are in public".