NEWS

Who Played Karen Matthews? Gemma Whelan Portrays Shannon Matthews' Mum In The Moorside

Natalie Brown, Karen Matthews' neighbour, is played by Sian Brooke

14/02/2017 20:55 | Updated 14 February 2017

A new BBC drama series which aired for the first time last week is examining the tragic real-life tale of the hoax abduction of Shannon Matthews.

The Moorside, named after the estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where nine-year-old Shannon lived, features a host of big names portraying Shannon’s mother Karen, her boyfriend Craig Meehan, friend Julie Bushby and accomplice Michael Donovan.

Karen Matthews is played by Gemma Whelan, who is best known for her role as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, while Bushby is played by Sheridan Smith. Neighbour Natalie Brown is played by Sian Brooke.

It focuses on the search for missing schoolgirl and the friendship between Karen Matthews and Bushby, who continued to stand by her throughout her trial.

BBC
Karen Matthews is played by Gemma Whelan (right), supported by her neighbours Natalie Brown (Sian Brooke, left) and Julie Bushby (Sheridan Smith)

Karen Matthews

Shannon’s mother Karen Matthews was 32 at the time of the kidnapping in February 2008. She conspired with her boyfriend’s uncle, Michael Donovan, in staging the abduction of her daughter.

The pair hoped to claim the £50,000 reward money being offered for her safe return. Matthews was sentenced to eight years in prison for her part in the bogus abduction in January 2008.

John Giles/PA Archive
Karen Matthews the mother of missing 9-year-old Shannon Matthews makes an emotional appeal for her safe return in 2008

She was released in April 2012 after serving half her sentence and now lives in the south of England under a new identity.

The 41-year-old mother-of-seven has complained she has been bombarded with death threats in the wake of the The Moorside and continues to maintain her innocence.

Shannon Matthews was found 24 days after she went missing on 19 February 2008.

Handout via Getty Images
A West Yorkshire Police handout photograph shows Karen Matthews after she was found guilty of the kidnap of her daughter Shannon on December 4, 2008
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
A handcuffed Karen Matthews, the mother of Shannon Matthews, leaves Dewsbury Police Station today to appear at court charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect on April 9, 2008

Karen Matthews faced a huge public backlash:

Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror front page after the guilty verdict against Karen Matthews in 2009
The Sun
The Sun's reporting of the revelations after the verdict

Matthews is played by Gemma Whelan, who is best known for her role as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

HBO
Gemma Whelan also plays Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones 

Whelan, 35, who appeared “unrecognisable” in her role as Matthews, tweeted: “Gosh thanks all so much for your amazing response to The Moorside. I’ve read and I appreciate every word. Such an amazing team to work with.” 

Shannon was found drugged and tethered in the base of a divan bed at the nearby home of Meehan’s uncle, Michael Donovan.

Like Matthews, Donovan was sentenced to eight years in prison after being found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
Shannon Matthews now lives under a new identity 

After the trial, Shannon was taken into care. She was given a new identity and now lives with a new family.

She is 18 years old and under strict guidelines put in place after her mother’s conviction, she is not free to talk to the media until she is 21.

Part 2 of The Moorside will air on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS