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.
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.
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.
Karen Matthews faced a huge public backlash:
Matthews is played by Gemma Whelan, who is best known for her role as 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.
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.