Neighbours recruited to help in hunt for Danielle

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The Independent Online

Neighbours of the missing Essex schoolgirl Danielle Jones have been encouraged to check their gardens and garages for clues to her disappearance as hopes dimmed of finding her alive.

Detectives appealed to residents of Danielle's home village of East Tilbury for help, five weeks after the 15-year-old was last seen when she left home to catch a school bus.

Despite a search and television appeals, there have been few reported sightings of the girl. The only positive identification was by two school friends who saw her make a sudden about turn in the street, minutes after she left home in East Tilbury on 18 June.

Another witness saw a girl arguing with a man on the morning she disappeared and another person reported seeing a girl, who looked like Danielle, getting into a blue van.

Officers are checking on known sex offenders in the area and will set up a mobile incident room in the village to encourage villagers to come forward with information. Searches were continuing yesterday of land close to her home.

The extent of public unease over the failure to find the schoolgirl became clear yesterday when approximately 300 people turned up for a public meeting in East Tilbury.

The meeting was organised to respond to concerns that the community was not receiving enough feedback on the progress of the investigation. The meeting was said to have the support of Danielle's parents.

Inspector Alan Cook told the meeting: "We still need more information, we still need something that will lead to that big break that will lead us to Danielle." He said the villagers were best placed to tell the police if there was "something out of place or strange" that could have some connection to the disappearance. Officers also warned the villagers to be wary of strangers and to keep a lookout for their children.

The co-ordinator of the meeting, Jackie Stephens, said: "We are here today to show a bit of support for the family, we are not here on a police-bashing exercise. We are genuinely concerned residents of East Tilbury, both for the family and for the safety of our children as we are coming up to the six weeks summer holiday.

"I know that, living in East Tilbury for 27 years, we have got quite a reputation for being nosy – let's use that reputation because someone here holds the key to the investigation."