‘People looked shocked and in disbelief that this could happen in their town’

‘Tragic and eerie’: That’s how Reading Chronicle’s hometown reporter Ollie Sirrell described the scenes of terror on the streets of Reading on Saturday night. As one of the first reporters on the scene, he describes what he witnessed as our vibrant community turned silent:

I’ve lived in Reading my entire life and never before have I seen such tragic events as Saturday night’s.

My thoughts are with the families of the three people who have sadly lost their lives on Saturday night and I, as well as everyone else at the Reading Chronicle, am greatly relieved the three others injured in the attack are now out of hospital.

As one of the first reporters on the scene that night, I later spoke to BBC News about what I saw unfold.

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.

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.

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

I asked the security guard at Tesco Express on Market Place if he had seen what had happened at the time and he told me he saw people running from the area at around 7pm followed by a few police cars speeding towards Forbury Gardens.

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 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.

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

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 the scene.

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.

The restaurant closed early for its own staff ’s protection.

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.

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Behind Local News

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