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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 15:37 GMT
Airport villages fear terror threats
Checkpoint near Heathrow
Police have set up checkpoints around Heathrow

The pretty commuter village of Datchet in Berkshire is usually the kind of place where so little happens that residents can go for days without seeing the police.

But since a terror alert was declared for nearby Heathrow Airport they have seen scores of roadside checkpoints set up and officers seemingly on every corner.

Most are happy to see so much being done to stop a terrorist attack on the planes which pass overhead, but many have also been left feeling deeply anxious.

Sharon Hoscik with Serena, 19 months
Sharon Hoscik is worried about her children's safety

Karen Brench, who runs a store on the village green, said: "It has killed business - people are staying at home. I don't know whether they're frightened to come out or if they don't like the police presence."

Sharon Hoscik said she had been scared to take her children - 19-month-old Serena and four-year-old Emily - out of the house.

"I have family in Yorkshire and I said (to my husband) 'maybe we should just go away for a while', but when do you come back?" she said.

Devastating effects

Officers from Surrey and the Metropolitan Police are mounting the 24-hour-a-day security operation for as long as it is needed.

Inspector Kevin Jones
Terrorists will use anybody and anything

Inspector Kevin Jones
Most drivers being stopped were happy to answer police questions and have their vehicles searched - even though some had been pulled over several times.

Nazih Chbat, who runs a food and drink import business, had witnessed the devastating effects of terror attacks in Lebanon, his home country.

He said: "I have seen how the suffering caused by terrorism can affect people.

"It's necessary to have a major operation to stop these people - nobody should complain and we should thank the police men and women for going out and doing this for us."

'Very frightening

Mr Chbat's support for police was echoed by 77-year-old Gladys Lewin, who has lived in the Datchet area for most of her life.

God forbid if they down an airliner over a large town

Michael Thomas
She said: "I was in America on 11 September and it was very frightening - I kept getting asked for my passport whenever I went out.

"This reminds me of it when I see all the police stopping the cars.

"It could happen here, I suppose, but I just try to get on with things. You just don't know these days."

Michael Thomas, who also lives in the Heathrow villages area, dismissed claims the government was simply trying to win backing for a war with Iraq.

He said: "If anyone is stupid enough to think this is a publicity stunt, think again.

"God forbid if they down an airliner over a large town. It will be our own version of 9/11."

Fears

On Tuesday police were also out in force in nearby Windsor and the towns of Wraysbury and Egham have also seen a heavy police presence.

Alasdair Dewar
If you are one of the extremely unfortunate people it happens to it's tough

Alasdair Dewar
Inspector Kevin Jones, who has been taken off duty in north west London to lead two checkpoints, said the operation would continue for as long as there were fears of a terror attack.

He said: "Terrorists will use anybody and anything - we're prepared to look at anything that they can."

It means that people living and working in the Heathrow villages could have to get used to the idea of seeing the patrols for some time yet.

Most were determined that they would simply adjust and get on with their lives as before.

Businessman Alasdair Dewar said he would continue to work in the area and would even be taking a flight from Heathrow to Hong Kong in two weeks' time.

He said: "If you are one of the extremely unfortunate people it happens to it's tough - you can't spend your life worrying."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"Roadblocks have been set up under flight paths"
The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"There is a real threat to Heathrow"

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12 Feb 03 | England
07 Feb 03 | Americas
29 Nov 02 | Africa
08 Nov 02 | Politics
12 Feb 03 | UK
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