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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Town 'hit hard' by race killing
By Stuart Richards
BBC News

James Ledesconte
He'd never hurt anyone, he was friendly and kind
James Ledesconte, aged 16
As investigations continue into the fatal stabbing of black teenager Christopher Alaneme, people in the town of Sheerness in Kent are trying to come to terms with what police believe was a racially-motivated attack.

One of his friends told BBC News that the 18-year-old had been subjected to "a few racist comments" in the past.

James Ledesconte, 16, who has lived in Sheerness for most of his life, said the town was "not too bad" but that he had "been with him [Mr Alaneme] sometimes when people shouted out names".

"Sometimes he just let it pass, but I don't know what happened here," he said.

"I used to mingle with him sometimes and my sister knew him well.

Police van in Sheerness
There has been a visible police presence in Sheerness

"He'd never hurt anyone, he was friendly and kind.

"I've never known something like this before, I didn't think someone would ever do that."

Mr Alaneme, who was also known as Christian Roberts, was stabbed to death in Sheerness High Street on Friday.

The small coastal town is tucked away in the top left-hand corner of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent.

The attack happened in the area around The Goat public house and Bar One.

Friends and mourners have been laying flowers on a grassed area outside the nearby McDonald's restaurant.

'Isolated event'

Reverend David Baxter has been minister at the town's Strode Crescent Baptist Church since 2002.

He said Sheerness had its share of social issues, with unemployment and "disaffected teenagers" affecting some areas.

"But I also know this as a close-knit and caring community," he added.

"I've found the people of Sheerness to be very open and welcoming [and] this will hit them hard."

Young people looking at flowers left for Christopher Alaneme
A steady stream of people have been paying their respects
Mr Baxter said the town was primarily populated by white, working-class people, but that he had never thought of it "as a racist area".

"It wasn't like people were saying, 'we were expecting it, sooner or later this was going to happen'.

"I think it would be more of an isolated event than the outcome of racial tension bubbling over."

Bill Mitchell, 69, who has been a taxi driver in Sheerness for 15 years, said he had never heard of racially-motivated attacks happening in the town before.

"I think it was just a fight. It doesn't matter what colour they were, it just broke out and it went wrong.

"That's how it sounded to me when I've heard people talking," he said.


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