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Tia Sharp: New Addington community helps in search

Missing person poster stuck to a tree
Image caption Over 75,000 leaflets have been handed out

Missing 12-year-old Tia Sharp's face is everywhere you look in New Addington.

As you enter the small town near Croydon in south London, it is hard to avoid the missing person leaflets plastered on shop windows, lampposts and trees.

The leaflets also stare out from the front windows of local estates.

Just outside the tram station stop - where Tia is believed to have been heading when she went missing last Friday - volunteers are stopping every car, bus and lorry to thrust leaflets into people's hands.

Jo Brown, a family support worker at the local Baptist church, said: "I've never known a community like it, everyone is pulling together.

"Even children with Asbos (anti-social behaviour orders) are helping out."

'Bad reputation'

Tia was last seen at her grandmother's home in the Lindens. Police officers are busy at work there searching for clues.

However, the main hub of activity is about two miles away at The Octogen Centre, near the tram stop.

Image caption Volunteers have been stopping every vehicle to give them leaflets

Paul Wellecombe, a volunteer who runs the Pathfinders centre, said within 15 minutes of them posting a message on their Facebook page asking for help on Saturday, some 20 people were knocking on the centre's doors offering help.

"We've had a brilliant response although I'm not surprised," he said.

"New Addington has had a bad reputation but this shows how close the community is - everyone pulls together when needed."

He said about 500 people - both local and from the wider community - have helped out.

'Working flat out'

Gemma Notridge, a local 31-year-old mother of two children aged five and eight, said: "It is sad that something like this happens for people to get together.

Image caption Volunteer Paul Wellecome said they have printed so many that their photocopier has broken

"I helped out on Sunday by handing out leaflets but I thought it was unfair to drag my two children around so I've done what I do best and that's bake."

She said the volunteers were "working flat out" and not eating because of it.

"I've baked some shortbread for them to snack on," she said.

"It sounds silly, but I don't know what else to do."

'So proud'

People stream in and out of the small building to pick up bundles of leaflets.

According to Mr Wellecombe, more than 75,000 have been handed out. They have printed so many that their photocopier has broken. People have also donated printers to them.

Karon March, who lives locally, was handing the leaflets out on her day off as a duty manager at Iceland.

Image caption Jo Brown and Ian Lorimer have helped in the search for Tia

She said: "I'm expecting my first grandchild. I hope that if something like this happened to one of mine, then the community would come together to search for them.

"I'm so proud to know this area comes together in crisis and in the good and bad."

In Central Parade, posters have been stuck prominently on the shop windows.

The Co-op store, where Tia was seen the day before she went missing, has helped with the search by photocopying thousands of leaflets. The photocopier there has also broken.

Ian Lorimer, a local self employed chauffeur, said: "I'd say 99.9% of the volunteers don't know the family at all and that's the magic of it."

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