The former best friend of Shannon Matthews has spoken to This Morning about the harrowing aftermath of the nine-year-old’s disappearance – and how she longs to see her again.
Now 17, Callie Brown recalled the moment she and her school friends were told that nine-year-old Shannon had gone missing.
BBC drama The Moorside, named after the estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where Shannon lived, is focussing on the friendship between Karen Matthews and Julie Bushby, who stood by the now-shamed woman throughout her trial.
Speaking about the programme, Brown told This Morning: “We were in school and a policeman came in school assembly and said: ‘We’ve got some news…’
”We were all anxious and scared about what it was and [when he said] Shannon’s missing, we all burst into tears – literally everyone in the whole school was crying. We didn’t know what to do or how to feel… we just cried and cried and cried.”
She added: “I remember everyone was scared and worried. And everyone was just doing their own little part in different ways.”
Shannon was reported missing on the evening of 19 February 2008 after she failed to return from a school swimming trip.
A month-long search ensued, culminating in the eventual discovery of the nine-year-old in the base of a divan bed at a house in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.
Shannon’s mother Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan, the uncle of her partner Craig Meehan, were found guilty of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Upon learning what had happened to Shannon, Callie said: “I was angry. I wanted to really punch Karen – how can your own mother do something so cruel to your own daughter? It’s not natural, it’s unreal, it’s disgusting really… It was horrible. We took her [Karen] into our own home and took her in as one of us, and for her to do something like that and for the truth to come out… it was just horrible.”
Karen and Donovan were sentenced to eight years in prison.
After the trial, Shannon was taken into care. She was given a new identity and now lives with a new family. She is now 18 years of age.
Callie recalled: “Shannon was a quiet girl at the time, she was kind and caring, she was friends with everyone really. She was popular at the time in school, and really outgoing. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend when I was younger, she made my childhood.”
She has not been able to see or speak to Shannon since the incident.
She said: “It’s like there’s a hole in my heart. I wish I could see her, I wish I could meet her to see how she is and how she feels and see what she’s doing and how well she actually is, but until that day comes I won’t know. If there’s an opportunity there to see her then I would definitely take it.
“[If she is watching today] I’d like to say ‘Shannon, I really love ya and I wish I could get to see you.”