Sheffield Big Issue seller back thank to shoppers

Big Issue seller John Harman  outside Tesco at the Berkeley Centre, Ecclesall Road
Big Issue seller John Harman outside Tesco at the Berkeley Centre, Ecclesall Road
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A popular Big Issue seller has been allowed back to the supermarket pitch from which he was forced to move – thanks to intervention from readers of The Star.

Single dad John Harman has sold the magazine outside Tesco in Berkeley Precinct, Ecclesall Road, for six years after his family’s home was burnt down by arsonists in a shocking case of mistaken identity.

But he was asked to move away from the entrance by a new store manager after a customer complaint.

The request sparked an outcry from customers – and today John thanked shoppers for fighting his corner after the store’s management said he could return.

He said: “I get a lot of support from people and everyone says hello – I can’t walk anywhere without people knowing me, they seem to love me.

“The new store manager asked me to move on.

“They said there had been a complaint and they needed to act on it, but that was a load of nonsense.

“After it was featured in The Star they didn’t like the negative publicity and asked me to move back.

“All of my customers stood up for me – it’s great to know I am well thought of. I want to say a really big thank you to everyone who helped.”

Former driver John and his family were left homeless in 2007 when Sarah Viney and Dean Baker, fuelled by drink and drugs, torched their house in Shiregreen after hearing completely unfounded rumours a paedophile lived there.

The family were forced to jump from a bedroom window to escape, their cat was killed and the house was gutted. Viney was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment for public protection and Baker for five years and three months.

John, aged 44, said: “We lost everything in the fire and that’s why I had to start selling the Big Issue.

“It really wrecked my life. My last penny had been put into the property.

“We were homeless for two-and-a-half years, we had to start from scratch, and we lived in a tent in Weston Park for a time.

“It’s been a long time coming and a very hard road.”

Broomhill Coun Brian Webster, who wrote to Tesco asking for John’s reinstatement, said: “John’s return is good news for Tesco because he adds something to what might be a routine visit to a supermarket.

“I’m pleased that Tesco have made a quick U-turn on this because a lot of customer goodwill was at stake as well as John’s ability to support himself and his family.”

Tesco said John was asked to move from outside the entrance in ‘response to specific customer complaints’ and he still worked in the vicinity.

A spokesman said: “He has been selling the Big Issue outside our store for many years, and we know how popular he is with customers.

“We’ve chatted with John and we’re really pleased he has returned.”