LONDON (AP) – The English town of Reading mourned Monday for three people stabbed to death in what is being treated as a terror attack, gathering for a moment of silence as police questioned the suspected lone attacker.
More than 100 students lit candles and laid flowers in memory of history teacher James Furlong, who was named as one of the victims. A flag in the courtyard of the Holt School, where he taught in nearby Wokingham, had been lowered to half-staff.
“He was so passionate and enthusiastic about history and about learning, and anything that was boring, anything you didn’t find interesting, he would make it interesting,″ former student Molly Collins told the BBC. “He would spend time with you, he got to know people individually, and he just always went the extra mile for everyone.”
Furlong’s friend, Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, was named by his family in Philadelphia as the second victim. The identity of the third victim has not been released.
The stabbing rampage took place Saturday evening as groups of people relaxed in Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a town of 200,000 people 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London. A 25-year-old man who is believed to be the lone attacker is in custody but officials said the motive for the carnage was unclear.
Chief Constable John Campbell of Thames Valley Police said officers were called to reports of stabbings just before 7 p.m. and arrived to find a “horrific” scene. Unarmed officers detained a 25-year-old local man.
Police have not identified the suspect, but Britain’s national news agency, Press Association, and other media outlets named him as Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan asylum-seeker living in Reading.
The BBC reported that Saadallah was investigated by British security services last year over concerns he planned to travel abroad to join a jihadi group, but that he was not determined to be a major threat.
The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted the father of Ritchie-Bennett as saying his son had moved to England from the U.S. around 15 years ago. His father, Robert Ritchie, said his son worked for a law firm in London before taking a job about 10 years ago at a Dutch pharmaceutical company that had its British headquarters in Reading.
There was no immediate update on the conditions of the three people seriously wounded in the attack.
Britain’s official terrorism threat level remains at “substantial” after the attack.