James Furlong, killed in UK terror attack, was 'incredible' teacher

Furlong was attacked by knifeman on stabbing spree as families and groups relaxed in park

epa08500209 A police van outside the home of the man, who attacked people with a knife in Reading, Britain, 21 June 2020.  British Police have now declared the stabbing incident where three people were killed and other three seriously injured in a park in Reading, a terrorist attack. The 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene in Forbury Gardens.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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Friends and family of the first identified victim in the Reading terrorist attack in England have described him as a “beautiful, intelligent” man and “incredible” teacher.

History teacher James Furlong, 36, was one of three people killed in the park on Saturday. Three others were wounded.

Furlong was attacked on Saturday by a knifeman on a stabbing spree about 7pm local time as families and groups relaxed in Forbury Gardens in Reading, a town of 200,000 residents, 65 kilometres west of London.

Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, co-principals at The Holt School in Wokingham, said classes would be cancelled on Monday and counsellors would be available for grieving staff and pupils.

"As a Holt community, we all now need to absorb this sad news," they said.

"He was determined that our students would develop a critical awareness of global issues and in doing so, become active citizens and have a voice.

"Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at this time.

"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."

Jade Simon, a former pupil at The Holt, told AP that Furlong was "an incredible teacher".

"He was funny and kind and always made history fun and entertaining," Ms Simon said.

Furlong’s parents, Gary and Janet, also issued a statement honouring their son.

"James was a wonderful man," they said. "He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun.

"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."

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort was in the park, where groups socialised on the lawns, when the attack began.

“One lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10 trying to stab them," Mr Wort said.

“He stabbed three of them in the neck and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running."

The arrested man was a Libyan citizen identified by British media as Khairi Saadallah, 25.

A western security source told Reuters that Saadallah had come on to the radar of Britain's domestic security agency MI5 last year.

There was intelligence that he had aspirations to travel for extremist purposes, although his plans back then came to nothing.