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Town's efforts for missing girl

25 February 08 16:26 GMT

A normally lively community has become fearful and cautious as it waits in hope for the safe return of missing Shannon Matthews.

Parents are afraid to let their children walk to school alone and there is a reluctance to let youngsters play out on the estate in Dewsbury Moor, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Nine-year-old Shannon has been missing since she failed to return from school to her home on Moorside Road last Tuesday.

Councillor Mumtaz Hussain said: "The estate is usually lively but since this has happened it has scared people.

"You can see children playing out on the streets with adults watching close by. As a father myself, you can't help but have concerns for your own children.

"Shannon's disappearance is being felt by everyone. It is being talked about everywhere. The whole community is united in trying to bring about a happy ending to this."

Map of key locations

Police have searched more than 200 homes and received more than 300 calls from the public, but with no sign of a breakthrough.

But the community could not be more galvanised in its efforts to do it all it can to bring Shannon home.

The estate tenants' and residents' office has become a focal point from which people work, gathering and distributing leaflets.

Picture posters of the girl with her hair in a pony tail stare out from lampposts, small shops and supermarkets.

Some 25,000 posters have now been printed and local taxi firms are on stand-by to ferry people around to deliver the latest batch and drop off leaflets.

Mother of four Farrah Johnson said: "We've had T-shirts printed up and we're doing everything we can to try and help.

"We are desperate for some sign of Shannon, just something to give us a glimmer of hope.

"I won't let my children out of my sight now. As a mum I can imagine how Shannon's mum must be feeling. It doesn't bear thinking about."

So strong was the community's enthusiasm to carry out night-time searches, it has led to calls from the police for caution.

While praising their efforts, officers have asked residents to refrain from searching areas for fear they could find themselves at risk.

Councillor Naz Hussain says the response is indicative of how close knit the community is.

"No matter what colour or race, everyone has pulled together to try and find this little girl.

"We are a very close community and we just want to do our level best to bring her home."

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