Parents of Reading terror victim James Furlong recall moment they were told of son's murder

  • Gary and Jan Furlong speak exclusively to ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor

The parents of James Furlong have spoken of the heartbreaking moment they found out their son had been killed in a terrorist attack in Reading.

Gary and Jan Furlong say they spoke to their son, on the telephone, on the morning on June 20, 2020.

As it was a sunny day and lockdown restrictions had been lifted, James told his parents he might meet up with some friends in Forbury Gardens later in the day.

The couple then said their goodbyes to their son, not knowing that would be the last time they would speak to him.

James Furlong was killed alongside Joseph Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails in Forbury Gardens, Reading. Credit: ITV News Meridian

That evening, Gary and Jan were at their home in Liverpool when the news broke that an incident had occurred in Forbury Gardens, Reading.

They called their son on his mobile phone several times but could not get hold of him.

The couple also tried calling James' friend, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, who he was meeting up with in the park. He also did not answer his phone.

Jan said: "I rang the police twice, I rang the hospitals twice and nothing. I thought no news is good news.

  • Jan Furlong speaking exclusively to ITV News Meridian

"We went upstairs to go to bed and Gary went to close the blind and he said Jan, there's a police car outside.

"Our lives just turned upside down from that night."

Gary said: "I felt genuinely sorry for the policeman because he had to come in and tell us. He told me in the hallway and Jan collapsed in the back kitchen, it was mayhem.

"It took us another five days to go and see James.

Left to right: Gary Senior (father), Gary Junior (brother), Janet (mother), and James Furlong Credit: ITV News Meridian

"The hardest thing we done was to go back to his flat to find plates and different things where he'd just ate a sandwich before he'd gone out.

"That was heartbreaking."

James, who is described by his parents as a "kind and gentle man" was Head of History, Government and Politics at The Holt School, Wokingham.

Following his death, a mosaic memorial was unveiled at the school in James' memory.

The mosaic was designed to incorporate James' passions and interests. Credit: @TheHoltMusic

Gary and Jan received hundreds of letters and cards from pupils at The Holt in the days and weeks after the attack.

Jan said: "You never forget an amazing teacher do you? He was so kind and what the children said about him, that's his legacy for them children.

"I think of all them young girls, they've probably left school now, and I just think how he inspired them all going on in life and they'll never forget him."

Gary said: "He was the happiest he ever was at the school. When we go back and visit the school, that's James, we feel James there.

"We miss him so much. Mine and Jan's lives will never, ever be the same again. We're not the same people we were before 7pm on Saturday the 20th of June, 2020."

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