Page last updated at 01:38 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 02:38 UK

'We are not the Shameless estate'

By Sallie George
BBC News

Shannon Matthews' former home in Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor
The house where Shannon once lived has been boarded up

The headlines were uncompromising.

"Estate is like a nastier Beirut" and "A real-life version of TV's Shameless" the tabloids screamed.

With the media camped out on Moorside Road, much was said about life on the West Yorkshire council estate which nine-year-old Shannon Matthews once called home.

The sprawling Moorside estate lies in Dewsbury Moor, a suburb of the former mill town of Dewsbury, which has a population of more than 50,000.

Though parts of the town are affluent, Dewsbury Moor is classed among the most deprived areas in the UK.

Piles of rubbish in gardens and unemployed residents walking the streets in their pyjamas fuelled condemnation of an area said to represent the dark underbelly of England's working class.

So how did people who live there feel about being branded the "Shameless" estate?

'Must be awful'

Speaking just after Shannon was found, Mel Nelson, 43, of Moorside Road, said: "Everybody in the country now knows Dewsbury.

"It's not Dewsbury near Leeds any more, it's Dewsbury where Shannon Matthews lived.

"That's how people know us now. But not everybody lives like that."

Miss Nelson, who has lived in the street for five years with her seven-year-old daughter, said she did not deny there were problems in the area.

Linsey Ransden [l] and Sam Guest
Residents said the entire estate had been "tarred with the same brush"
"Personally, I wouldn't like to live further up the street," she said.

But there was also much which was positive on the estate, such as the trips and activities organised for children by the Moorside Tenants' Association.

"My daughter goes to one of the local schools, it's quite a nice school, very active in the community," she said.

"The parents there have been saying 'oh, it must be awful living there' but it's no worse than any other estate.

"You could be in any estate and something bad happens."

Shannon Matthews' former home - now boarded up - is visible, but the quiet cul-de-sac of bungalows cuts a contrasting picture to its now infamous neighbouring street.

Speaking just after the schoolgirl was found, one resident, who asked not to be named, said: "It isn't the Shameless estate... There are some lovely folk up here.

It's embarrassing... people say 'God, you live on that road'
Sam Guest

"It doesn't matter what estate you go on, you get good and bad places. When I moved here, the tenants association came round with a Christmas hamper for us, they look after all the pensioners.

"And folks have to realise - those who gave money to the search are people who have got nowt, so a little bit of money is a lot to them.

"I've been all over the world and I would always come back to Dewsbury."

Talking about the hunt for Shannon, a group of men said their main complaint was about the media, which had descended en masse, drank the cups of tea which they offered and then passed judgement on their lives.

"It was so bad we couldn't even come out of our front door," said one.

"There were cameramen taking your picture without asking permission.

"Moorside Road has always been a bad road, but the only problem we have had here was all the cameramen."

Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor
The Dewsbury Moor estate was thrust into the limelight

Linsey Guest, 28, who lives on Moorside Road, said: "It's embarrassing - I had to give someone my address the other day and I had to say I lived on Dewsbury Moor.

"People say - God, you live on that road. It is so embarrassing.

"But there are more nice people than there is nasty. They should do a documentary about the likes of us, and go to our local pub on a Saturday night and see how friendly people are."

Miss Ramsden, 26, has lived in Moorside Road for four years with her son, now seven.

She said: "This area has always had a bad name, and when I came here four years ago I didn't want to stay.

"But after two weeks I made friends and didn't want to leave. I've been here four years now and never had any problems.

"That family was like something off Shameless, but it doesn't mean you should tar everyone with the same brush.

"Look what it was like when Shannon first went missing - everybody was out in the freezing cold looking for her.

"That just proves this estate is not what they say it is."



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