ELEVEN days after the disappearance of Dewsbury schoolgirl Shannon Matthews, her friends and neighbours have vowed to keep on searching for her.
The nine-year-old failed to return to her home at Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor, after a school swimming lesson on February 19.
Her disappearance prompted a huge swell of support from her community. Hundreds of people have helped search for the youngster and staged a march of support through the streets after she had been missing for a week.
They have also been distributing leaflets and posters appealing for information about Shannon all over West Yorkshire, including football matches and supermarkets.
Julie Bushby, chairman of the Moorside Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, has been co-ordinating the efforts to help find Shannon.
She said: “We’ve got to keep the momentum going. Everyone is remaining positive and we’re not giving up hope that we will find Shannon.”
Police had been investigating the possibility that Shannon may have run away – she had spoken to friends about leaving home.
Shannon’s best friend has also appealed for her to return home.
Megan Aldridge, nine, became firm friends with Shannon when they started Westmoor Junior School, at Church Lane.
She was with Shannon moments before the little girl vanished, after they were dropped off at the school following a swimming trip.
Megan said: “Please come home Shannon, we all miss you. If anyone knows where Shannon is they should tell someone. We have all been really upset since she went away.”
Megan’s dad, Mark, 41, said his daughter had been left “devastated” by Shannon’s disappearance. He said: “Every day has been hard for Megan. She finds it hard to make friends, but she had two.
“One of them has gone to Australia and now Shannon has disappeared. It is unbelievable.
“Megan has been having trouble sleeping and she is finding it hard at school. We are all giving her all the support we can.
“You can’t help wonder what has happened to Shannon, but to be honest I am trying not to think about it. What we are concentrating on is the hope of Shannon coming home safely.”
Police said earlier this week that the case may no longer be that of a simple runaway. They are now concerned that Shannon may have fallen into the wrong hands and are excluding no possibilities regarding what has happened to her.
Det Supt Andy Brennan, who is leading the investigation, said: “What concerns me greatly at this point is that Shannon is a vulnerable nine-year-old who may have fallen into the wrong hands.”
Searches of her home estate and the surrounding area have failed to turn up any sign of her.
Police have received more than 500 calls during the hunt for Shannon and have visited 2,000 homes to make enquiries or searches.
Officers have spoken to 1,500 motorists and have employed specialist underwater search units, mountain rescue teams and sniffer dogs, trained to detect human remains, as part of the investigation.
Anyone who has seen Shannon or has any information should contact police on 01274 373737, text 07786 200806 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.