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Shannon Matthews Now Lives In Care With New Family After Hoax Abduction By Mum Karen, Dramatised In BBC’s The Moorside

Shannon Matthews continues to live with a new family in 2017.

14/02/2017 17:00 | Updated 15 February 2017

A new BBC drama series which aired for the second and final time tonight Tuesday had examined the 2008 real-life hoax abduction of Shannon Matthews by her mother Karen.

The Moorside, named after the estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where the nine-year-old lived, focusses on the friendship between Karen Matthews and Julie Bushby, who stood by the now-shamed woman throughout her trial.

Handout via Getty Images
This handout composite image from West Yorkshire Police showed Shannon's distinctive boots that she was wearing when she went missing and a video still of her arriving at a swimming baths, the last day she was seen before her kidnapping

Karen Matthews, then 32, was branded “the most hated mum in Britain” and “Mother Of Pure Evil” and after it was discovered that she had conspired with Michael Donovan, her then-boyfriend’s uncle, in order to pocket the £50,000 reward.

What happened to Shannon Matthews?

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
Shannon Matthews was just nine when she was subject to a hoax kidnapping by her mother Karen

Shannon was reported missing on the evening of 19 February 2008 after she failed to return from a school swimming trip.

PA
Police search teams near the home of Shannon Matthews on February 20, 2008
PA
Supporters and family members of Shannon Matthews walk around Dewsbury tonight to try and find her on Tuesday February 26 2008

Hundreds of local volunteers, coordinated by Bushby, also took part in the search.

Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive
Julie Bushby (front), friend of Karen Matthews, pictured outside Dewsbury Magistrates Court eight years ago
John Giles/PA Archive
Julie Bushby (centre) talks to the media outside Leeds Crown Court following Matthews' sentencing in 2009
BBC
Sheridan Smith as Karen Matthews' friend Julie Bushby in BBC One's The Moorside

Shannon’s mother, who is now in her early forties, made a number of emotional appeals for her daughter’s return.

Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive
Karen Matthews talks on the microphone after planting flowers in her garden with local children at Moorside Road, Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire in 2008

The story captivated  the national media - although some drew comparisons with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, saying it received more attention than the Matthews case. In his Guardian Media blog, Roy Greenslade suggested that class may have come into this.  

Gemma Whelan plays Shannon’s mother Karen Matthews 

John Giles/PA Archive
Karen Matthews holding her daughter's favourite teddy bear as she makes an emotional appeal for her safe return in March, 2008
Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive
Karen Matthews is led from Dewsbury police station, before her court appearance in connection with the abduction of her daughter in 2008
BBC
Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan plays Karen Matthews. Still from The Moorside

The Sun, however, offered a reward of £20,000 for information which would lead to Shannon’s safe return. The figure later went up to £50,000.

The Sun
The Sun offered a 20,000 reward for information leading to Shannon Matthews safe return in 2008 which it later upped to 50,000
Daily Star
The Daily Stars front page about the search for Shannon Matthews in March 2008

Where was Shannon Matthews found and how long was she missing?

PA
Residents of Dewsbury Moor hold a street party to celebrate the news that Shannon Matthews was reported to be found today. Picture date: Friday March 14, 2008

On 14 March - 24 days after she was reported missing - Shannon was found alive and hidden in the base of a divan bed at a house in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
The base of a divan bed shown as evidence by the prosecution in the kidnap and false imprisonment trial of Shannon Matthews at Leeds Crown Court

Michael Donovan, the uncle of Karen Matthews’ partner, Craig Meehan, was arrested at the scene.

Handout via Getty Images
Michael Donovan was found guilty of the kidnap of Shannon Matthews on December 4, 2008 in Leeds
West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
Inside of the flat of Michael Donovan shown as evidence by the prosecution in the kidnap and false imprisonment trial of Shannon Matthews at Leeds Crown Court

An elastic strap that knotted round a loft beam within Donovan’s flat had been tied round Shannon Matthews’ waist to restrict her movements.

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
Computer generated handout images images issued by West Yorkshire Police showing the layout of Michael Donovan's home

What happened to Karen and Shannon next?

Getty Images
A police handout of Karen Matthews after her arrest She was found guilty of Shannon's kidnap on December 4 2008 in Leeds

Her mother denied any involvement but Shannon was taken straight into care after her discovery.

Three days later, Karen Matthews was charged with child neglect and perverting the course of justice over her daughter’s disappearance.

John Giles/PA Archive
A van leaves Dewsbury Magistrates Court in 2008 after Karen Matthews was remanded in custody for repeatedly concealing information about the whereabouts of her daughter

She and Donovan went on trial, starting in September, and at the conclusion, both were found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice in December.

The plan had been to take Shannon, then release her, drive around the corner then “discover” her before claiming the £50,000 reward.

Elizabeth Cook/PA Archive
Court artist impression of Karen Matthews, 33, (left) and Michael Donovan, 40, (right) during the first day of their trial at Leeds Crown Court in 2008

The court heard evidence from a forensic toxicologist that Shannon had been ingesting temazepam and travel sickness medication for a prolonged period. This suggested she was drugged.

In January 2009, both Matthews and Donovan were sentenced to eight years in prison.

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
CCTV image issued by police of Michael Donovan, entering ASDA in Dewsbury, shown as evidence by the prosecution in the kidnap and false imprisonment trial of Shannon Matthews

 Karen Matthews faced a huge public backlash:

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

Where is Karen Matthews today?

Karen Matthews was released in April 2012 after serving half her sentence.

News Pics
Karen Matthews seen on 27 May 2012. (Photo credit: News Pics)

She moved to a new home far away from Dewsbury and went on to claim she had become a Christian, according to the Daily Mirror.

It was reported that Matthews, whose diet of chocolate in prison left her with rotten teeth, struggled to find work and was living a frugal existence on benefits.

Owen Humphreys/PA Archive
Karen Matthews, 32, and Craig Meehan, 22, the mother and stepfather of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews outside their home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in 2008. Meehan was found guilty of possessing children porn

She was photographed by The Sun with a dramatically different look, having cut and dyed her hair, presumably to try to avoid attention.

Craig Meehan, Matthews’ boyfriend, was also found to be guilty of 11 offences of possessing indecent images of children. He was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison but was released because he had spent longer than that on remand.

PA
A general view showing the now boarded up former home of Shannon Matthews in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire. Picture date: Thursday April 10, 2008

What happened to Michael Donovan?

Donovan was released in March 2012.

Is Shannon Matthews in care now?

After the trial, Shannon was taken into care.

She is now 18 years of age.

Handout via Getty Images
This handout composite image from West Yorkshire Police showed Shannon's distinctive boots that she was wearing when she went missing and a video still of her arriving at a swimming baths, the last day she was seen before her kidnapping
Why has BBC drama The Moorside caused controversy?

Shannon’s grandparents have branded the show “sick and disgusting” and are concerned it will hurt the now-teenager, according to the Daily Mail.

The BBC has defended the show, insisting the drama is not told from Karen Matthews’ point of view, but instead about those involved in the search for her daughter.

A spokesperson for BBC said: “This drama is not focused on Shannon Matthews herself. Her abduction is not portrayed, nor are her experiences during the time she was missing.

“The drama tells the story of the women who led the campaign to find her.”

Despite this, Julie Bushby has praised Sheridan Smith for her portrayal of her, telling This Morning that they were “still mates”.

In the same interview, Natalie Murray, Karen Matthews’ neighbour at the time of Shannon’s disappearance, also praised the documentary.

She said: “They all did an amazing job. Sheridan - how she played Julie - it is scary how accurate it is.”

She also spoke of her suspicions at the time about Matthews, saying: “It started when she did the very first interview outside her house. I was there when the family liaison officer said not to do the interview. That it could put her child’s life at risk and Karen did the interview.

‘To me as a mum I thought ‘why would you do that, why would you put your child at risk?’

‘I went straight down and asked her and she said everybody told me to do it. I was angry that nobody would listen to me, that nobody was seeing her behaviour.”

The second edition of The Moorside airs on BBC One at 9pm Tuesday.

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