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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK


Town fears 50 dead as cars unclaimed

Unclaimed cars in a Reading car park tell a grim story

The commuter town of Reading is reeling from the devastating impact the Paddington rail crash has had on its community.

BBC's Nikki Mitchell: "The number of tributes is growing by the hour"
In car parks around the Berkshire town station clusters of unclaimed vehicles betray a grim truth.

Police say 22 cars have been left in the station car park since Tuesday and their details are being checked against a list of missing people who may have been on the ill-fated service to Paddington.

One of those missing, presumed dead, is the driver of the London to Bedwyn train, which reportedly went through a red signal shortly before the crash.

Michael Hodder, 31, lived in Tilehurst, on the outskirts of Reading, with his wife and two young sons.

Every morning hundreds of commuters leave the Reading area for the capital - 50 who usually boarded the Great Western train involved are now feared dead.

[ image: A town in mourning]
A town in mourning
A single poignant message left with a bunch of flowers brought home the full depth of the town's despair.

A bunch of flowers left at Reading station door bore the simple message: "Come home Daddy. I love you, Claire." It was one of many tributes to those who perished.

A schoolgirl on her way to classes said everybody seemed to know someone who had been affected by the disaster.

London Train Crash
Madeleine Cox-Smith said: "There are so many people at school who said they knew people who just missed the train or that someone's dad's friend was on the train and died.

"It is really sad that so many people who should not have been on the train caught it."

The Rt Rev Dominic Walker, Bishop of Reading told BBC Breakfast News: "It looks as if at least 50 people from the Reading area will have died.

[ image: Bishop of Reading:
Bishop of Reading: "Some have no bodies to bury"
"For some there will be no body to bury and no focus for their mourning which makes it all the more difficult."

Jane Griffiths, MP for Reading East described the crash as "one of the greatest tragedies Reading had ever seen".

She said: "There is nothing I can say to comfort the families who have lost loved ones or whose loved ones are still unaccounted for."

Rt Rev Dominic Walker: "Up to 50 people from Reading may have died"
A book of condolences was made available for people to sign and share in their grief, and St Mary's church conducted a memorial service on Thursday afternoon.

Similar books were opened in Swindon and other towns lining the express train's route.

Unclaimed cars

Thames Valley Police spokesman Richard Goodfellow said: "We are checking a large number of cars which have not yet been claimed.

[ image: Police are checking owners against the list of missing people]
Police are checking owners against the list of missing people
"Their owners are being matched against the missing persons listed by the Metropolitan Police."

In total there are 127 people unaccounted for. Emergency services have removed 30 bodies from the wreckage - just 14 have been identified.

A drop-in centre has been set up in Reading town hall to help relatives of those involved with the disaster.

Maurice Emberson, head of Reading social services said: "We will be offering an ongoing service to people who may require our help in the future. We will help them, listen to them and support them in whatever way we can at this difficult time."

Church ministers across the Thames Valley have also been asked to help counsel families of those killed in the disaster.

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