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TIA SHARP: New Addington braced for murder trial

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AS STUART Hazell stands trial accused of the murder of Tia Sharp, a community braces itself. For the next fortnight the nation's media will focus on an estate which has its share of unwanted headlines. Tensions are already high a week on from the Crimewatch appeal into the brutal attempted murder of father-of-three Gary Hayward in October 2011. The seemingly lenient sentences handed on the same day to seven men who admitted attacking three Afghans at King Henry's Drive tram stop has done little to help. The impression given of New Addington and its residents could not be further from the incredible reaction to Tia's disappearance and the outpouring of grief after her tragic death. Thousands of posters were printed and handed out as the community pulled together to conduct late-night searches in hope of finding the schoolgirl. Fieldway councillor Simon Hall fears this side of the estate could be lost amid the coverage of the court case. "If the media choose to characterise our community in a negative way then it's going to cause tension," he said. "A lot of people fear the trial will be used as an excuse to totally misrepresent the area and those who live here. "This is a deprived area, which has its difficulties, but that doesn't mean there's not a strong community, which is full, overwhelmingly, of good people trying to do their best in their lives and for their families. If that is lost in all this, people will be very upset." The police have recognised the need to act. Its base on Central Parade will be open to the public over next to weeks and extra officers have been drafted to provide reassurance during what one senior officer has described as a period of "intense scrutiny". It is also hoped the extra resources will alleviate any potential for trouble. During the search for Tia, tension on the estate led an armed garage owner to confront a group of men who were searching his property for the schoolgirl, prompting Cllr Hall to call for calm. Following the discovery of Tia's body, an article in national magazine The Week branded New Addington "an impoverished ghetto" filled with "vigilante-minded local people". Written by former Observer journalist Robert Chesshyre, described some residents as "uneducated", "illiterate", and said the estate was a reflection of "broken Britain". "We're desperately hoping that responsible media will look beyond the easy stereotypes of New Addington," said Cllr Hall. "People are genuinely concerned what that might do to set back the work that has been done over quite some time to change the perception of New Addington." New Addington councillor Tony Pearson said: "The next few weeks are going to be very difficult. "From a councillor's point of view I'm concerned about New Addington's reputation and how it's perceived by the outside world, but I'm also a resident. "These are my friends and my neighbours. They came together during a period of absolute tragedy and showed their true colours. "What I hope is that over the next few weeks will demonstrate that kind of spirit again and show people what New Addington is really like."

TIA SHARP: New Addington braced for murder trial


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