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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Town comes to term with arrests
by Martin Edwards
BBC News, High Wycombe

(l-r) Michael Edwards, Raheel Bashir and Jamal Hussain
Suspect Don Stewart-Whyte is innocent, say his friends.

The arrests in High Wycombe over the alleged terror plot have sent shockwaves throughout the town, throwing its residents into the media's gaze.

Situated in a deep valley in the heart of the Chilterns, High Wycombe is the largest town in Buckinghamshire.

It grew up during the 18th and 19th Centuries around the furniture industry, and was once known as the furniture capital of England.

It is hard to reconcile this past with the latest developments over the alleged plot to blow up US-bound planes.

Four men from the area suspected of being involved in the plot, were arrested during night-time raids.

Taxi driver

Except for the helicopter flying above High Wycombe station, there are few tell-tale signs of what has happened.

Police guard a house on Walton Drive, High Wycombe
Residents have been thrown into the media spotlight

Two miles away is the Walton Drive area - scene of the one of the raids. Nine homes were evacuated in what police called a "precautionary measure".

"I can't believe it, I just can't believe it," says a taxi driver listening to the radio.

His disbelief is reinforced by the fact that he knows one of the men arrested by police.

"He used to be a taxi driver, he did private hire work," he says. "His family background was quite good but then I suppose you never know about some people.

"It's very scary and upsetting. Local people aren't very happy about what's happening."

On the surface you could say this is a nice area but inside I think people do hate us more now."
Muhammad Salim

The stillness is the first thing you notice about Walton Drive.

Rows of semi-detached houses with wide front gardens and hanging baskets offer a typical picture of suburban life.

Except of course for the several police officers standing guard next to one of the houses.

Maisey Cooper, 80, has lived here for 50 years.

"At my age nothing shocks anymore," she says. "They were fine, didn't speak much. In my mind the family were no bother."

Community hatred

Across the street Muhammad Salim is more concerned.

He sweeps his front garden, back bent and eyes focused as the dust rises with every stroke of his broom.

A Muslim man, he has lived in the area for 20 years and has always got on well with his neighbours.

But he predicts the latest arrests will fuel community divisions.

"I feel this might increase tensions yes," he said. "On the surface you could say this is a nice area but inside I think people do hate us more now."

A short walk away in Hepplewhite Close, neighbours are gathering.

Local people aren't very happy about what's happening
Taxi driver

This is where anti-terror police arrested 21-year-old Don Stewart-Whyte, aka Abdul Waheed.

He changed his name after converting to Islam six months ago - much to the surprise of his neighbours.

"He started wearing the whole thing on his head and had the goatee beard," said one neighbour. "That was the most noticeable change in the guy."

But school friends vehemently protest his innocence and say he is being labelled guilty by association.

"He is innocent," said his school friend Jamal Hussain, aged 18. "He couldn't hurt a fly let alone blow up a plane."

Another old school friend echoes the same sentiments.

"He's being victimised for being a convert to Islam," said 18-year-old Raheel Bashir. "He used to read a lot of books, he was just searching for truth."

As this town wakes up to what has happened, its residents will be desperately trying to separate the truth from the lies.

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