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Warm hearts on a bitter evening

26 February 08 20:10 GMT

A biting wind whipped across Dewsbury Moor on a bleak February night - but even that was not enough to keep hundreds of the town's residents from holding a march to support the parents of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.

The nine-year-old disappeared a week ago and there has not been a positive sighting of her in the intervening week.

And neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even perfect strangers braved the cold of a northern night to show their Yorkshire grit in the face of a fast-approaching fear the youngster may have been abducted or killed.

Hundreds of townsfolk, wrapped up against the elements, walked the quarter of a mile from a community centre to the Matthews' family home on Moorside Road.

A large banner featuring pictures of Shannon headed the procession.

Yet in the hours before this community's willingness to continue in their belief she would be found alive and well, West Yorkshire Police altered their public approach to the case with a warning Shannon may have "fallen into the wrong hands".

Dozens of officers mounted a series of roadblocks, quizzing drivers and their passengers about potential sightings of the girl.

Community campaigner Marie Askwith said: "You never give up hope when you've got children.

"The mood here is that everybody wants to get their point across that we're still out there looking for her."

She said that parents in the town had altered the way their children came home from school, with many now going to pick up their youngsters rather than letting them walk home in groups or alone.

Youngsters on the march wore tee shirts over their winter clothing with a logo asking 'Have you seen Shannon Matthews?'".

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