Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

'I'm ashamed Karen is my sister'

By Heidi Tomlinson and Sallie George
BBC News, Leeds

Karen Matthews
Karen Matthews made tearful appeals for her missing daughter

For 24 days, Karen Matthews was known across the country as the distraught mother from Dewsbury, desperate for her missing nine-year-old daughter to be returned home safe.

Now, she is among the country's infamous characters - a mother who kidnapped her own daughter and allowed her to be locked away, while hundreds of people searched for Shannon in vain.

For members of her family, her crime is unforgivable.

"She's a bad mother," said Julie Poskitt, Matthews' sister.

"She's not normal, is she? You have kids and you love them.

"I'm ashamed of my family, and thinking what people out there might think of me, knowing that it's my sister."

Det Con Christine Freeman on Karen Matthews' behaviour

Matthews' older brother Martin echoed similar feelings.

He said: "She's just degraded my family to be honest... and made a mockery of everybody."

Brought up in Batley, Matthews was one of seven siblings.

Her mother, June, struggled to cope with her children.

Karen and her siblings were taken into care or sent to live with relatives until their mother was strong enough to cope.

'Still my friend'

In nearby Dewsbury Moor, where Matthews' friends rallied round to give support during Shannon's disappearance, the motive behind her lies still remains a mystery.

Petra Jamieson
Petra Jamieson said she would remain loyal to Karen Matthews

Petra Jamieson, one of Matthews' closest friends, said despite everything, she was a "brilliant mum".

But, she said: "I feel sick and shocked that we were all fooled.

"No-one can grasp why she's done it to start with. No-one knows. Maybe it was a cry for help.

"But it's still a crime."

Since her arrest, Petra has been to visit Matthews in prison, and said she remained her friend despite what she had done.

"I can't understand why it all happened... she's one of my closest friends and no-one ever believes that their friends could do something like this to anybody, any child.

"I'll probably be more wary of making friends in future. But I'm not any less loyal to her than I was before all this happened.

"I'll still go and see her [in prison].

"I don't know if we'll get the truth, but that's one thing I want to know - why it all happened in the first place?"

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