Sheffield community in shock at violent crimes in '˜quiet and friendly' Gleadless Valley
You could forgive the residents of Gleadless Valley for gathering outside sandwich shops and pubs to gossip after a murder and a violent attack on a police officer on their doorsteps.
But these gatherings are not unusual. In fact, they are more a reflection of the strong sense of community in the area than an excitable reaction to a week of horrors.
Undoubtedly the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Leigh-Anne Mahachi on Spotswood Close on Tuesday, followed by an attack on police in Plowright Close on Wednesday night that left a female officer needing surgery, left people in shock.
There was still a large police and media presence in Gleadless Valley yesterday morning.
But most people enjoying a cup of tea and a sandwich or battered sausage outside the shops on Gleadless Road said such crimes were rare.
Linda Bates, who runs Hammonds sandwich shop and has lived in the area for 52 years, said: “It was a bit of a shock.
“I wouldn’t say it’s quiet here – you get your ups and downs – but it wouldn’t be Gleadless without that.
“But when a copper gets done in, it’s a shock.”
Linda said it was pure coincidence that this week’s incidents had happened in such a short space of time.
“Neither of them were connected,” she said. “The area is getting slagged off for something that could happen anywhere.”
Speaking while serving bacon and egg butties to customers she clearly knows by name, Linda said: “Everyone knows each other.
“If we were worried about what happened then we wouldn’t be at work today.”
One young woman talking to friends outside the shops, who asked not to be named, had a similar message.
“Everyone knows everyone here,” she said. “Everyone is shocked by what happened.
“It’s usually quiet around here. People are friendly.”
Most shops in the precinct had a small crowd gathered outside yesterday, and with a pub, the Blackstock, and a library nearby, the area appeared to be the centre of a community.
Only the rain was keeping children and young parents away from the playground.
Keith Rawson, 68, runs Newfield Fish Bar and has lived in the area for most of his life.
He said: “There are a lot of decent people on this estate. It’s the minority that’s causing the bad name, and that’s typical of everywhere.
“Something like this seems to blow everything out of proportion. There are some rough people but the majority are a really nice, lovely sort of people.”
But not everyone echoed the message of community harmony.
Cassie Smith, 27, said it was a ‘horrible’ place to live.
“It’s not nice,” she said. “There’s trouble all the time. There are a lot of sirens.
“It’s not unusual around here, what happened. It does worry you, living round here. I’ve got a little girl as well.
“The community is rubbish. I’ve lived here all my life and it’s getting worse. When I was younger my mum would let me play out as normal, but now you can’t do anything like that.
“This area seems to be particularly bad.”
One woman, who lives in the flats opposite Co-op which was cordoned off, but did not want to be named, said: “We’ve lived here for 30 years and it’s only recently that all the bad things have started happening.
“Now, you don’t know what you’re waking up to in a morning. I just keep my door closed. I was out last night and came home at around 10.30pm to see all the police, I just thought ‘oh my God, what’s happening?’. I couldn’t believe it, especially as it was only the other day that girl got stabbed.”
One man, who did not want to be named but lives at the flats where the attacker came from, said: “I’ve lived here for 25 years and we’ve never had anything like this before, just general rowdiness but nothing much. This is a good block.
“It’s shocking, especially because it’s the second thing to happen in the Gleadless Valley in the past few days. It used to be a beautiful area when we first moved in, but it has gone downhill. It does make you feel uncomfortable.”
In 2015 Gleadless Valley was the eighth worst area of Sheffield for robbery, with 79 reported incidents. However, this was down by 47 per cent on 2011 figures. South Yorkshire Police carried out an operation to reduce burglaries in the area between July and September last year, claiming a 75 per cent decrease.
The last serious violent incident happened over a year ago, when a man and woman were knocked unconscious after an attack outside the Blackstock pub in March.
The murder of Leigh-Anne Mahachi is the first in the area since Dimitrina Borisova was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Erhan Mehmedov in Blackstock Road in February 2013. He was jailed for life in June that year.