Forbury Gardens: This is what it was like to cover a terror attack in my hometown

‘TRAGIC and eerie’: That’s how hometown reporter Ollie Sirrell described the scenes of terror on the streets of Reading last year.

As one of the first reporters on the scene, he describes what he witnessed on that tragic night as our vibrant community turned silent:

One year ago, I took to the streets of Reading on what was a chilling night for the town. 

With news breaking of a serious incident in Forbury Gardens, I was dispatched to try and find out more about what was happening on what would turn out to be a tragic and eerie evening. 

READ MORE: What happened to the Forbury Gardens murderer?

I’ve lived in Reading my entire life and never before had I seen the town so stunned. 

The mood in the town was very eerie and sombre even before police confirmed three fatalities.

I arrived at Forbury Gardens at around 9pm, around two hours after police first received reports of stabbings.

Slough Observer:

Yet in this short amount of time, the entire perimeter of Forbury Gardens had been cordoned off by police, with an officer stationed every few hundred yards to keep onlookers away.

Some people had clearly been in the area at the time of the attack and looked shocked, distressed and in disbelief that such a horrific incident could happen in their town.

READ MORE: Dramatic moments armed officers raided apartment blocks

Others were not aware of what had happened and were anxious to get some clarity.

The security guard at Tesco Express on Market Place told me he saw people running from the area at around 7pm followed by a few police cars speeding towards Forbury Gardens.

Slough Observer:

Most people interested in what was happening had gathered around the town hall and by the roundabout leading to Forbury Road and Reading Station — this is where I saw the largest police presence, with several officers and police cars blocking off the north-western side of Forbury Gardens.

Even Abbey Gate and the Abbey Ruins were closed off.

While this was, of course, to be expected, it was still very eerie and upsetting to see a place full of history shut down by police tape.

READ MORE: Prime Minister speaks out about appalling incident in Reading

Police did not stop me from walking up Forbury Road towards the former Reading Prison, but by the time I reached Forbury Retail Park I was told to go no further.

Slough Observer:

I walked back to Market Place at around 10.45pm where I spoke to a staff member at Honest Burger, which is just a few hundred metres from Forbury Gardens.

He told me he first heard about what had happened when several customers alerted staff to the incident before several police cars flew by towards the scene. 

As I headed away from Market Place police started to cordon off half of Friar Street and the square by the town hall as it was ‘part of the scene.’

By this time, there were few people still around the area with many heading home as darkness fell on a chilling night for the town.

READ MORE: Community comes together to pay respect to Forbury Gardens victims

One year on, I am still reporting for Reading Chronicle covering the courts. 

On my way to Reading Crown Court I walk through Market Place and I am always reminded of bundles and bundles of flowers placed on the corner in tribute to the three victims James Furlong, David Wails, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett.

As I glance at the Town Hall I am reminded of the dozen people sitting on the benches just off Friar Street who were completely shocked and distressed by last June’s events. 

And as I walk onto Forbury Road I can only think of the tragic loss of the three men who were taken from our town far too soon. 

Slough Observer | News