Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:55 UK

Shannon hunt led to child porn find

By Danny Savage
BBC News, Dewsbury

Craig Meehan and Karen Matthews
Shannon's mother Karen was with Craig Meehan for around five years
Craig Meehan, who has been found guilty of downloading images of child abuse from the internet, was only caught because of the disappearance of his former partner's daughter, nine-year-old Shannon Matthews.

The semi-detached council house they shared in Dewsbury quickly became the focus of police attention when Shannon disappeared after school on 19 February this year.

The day after Shannon was last seen, detectives went to the house and seized two computers which were kept in the living room.

They were sent away for examination with the aim of trying to find any information which would lead them to the missing girl.

But when an expert looked at them they found more than 130 indecent images of under-18s on one of the PCs.

Craig Meehan denied the charges but Dewsbury Magistrates' Court heard overwhelming evidence that he had viewed indecent images.

Text messages

Meehan admitted the computer was his and that it was password protected with his nickname, "Reggy". But he claimed he hadn't downloaded the images and pointed the finger at other users.

Friends and neighbours testified that the house he shared with Karen Matthews was always full of other people.

One cousin was "there from dawn 'til dusk" and would often use the computer, said his sister, Amanda Hyett.

But Meehan could not explain 653 references to the word "Lolita" found on his PC.

Detective Constable Andrew James told the court it was a common search term for people searching for child pornography.

The prosecution even produced fishmonger Meehan's work records to prove the downloads occurred during times when he was not behind the counter at a local supermarket.

They said if someone else had downloaded the images they would have needed to know not only when Meehan wasn't working but also when he wasn't at home.

Images of child pornography are graded by investigators. The grading is from 1 to 5 with grade 5 images regarded as the most serious and offensive.

No doubt

Meehan had not viewed any grade 5 images. The majority - 83 pictures - were level one images but police did find 14 level four pictures, nine at level 3, and 17 at level two.

Meehan also had an indecent picture of a 15-year-old girl stored on his mobile phone.

Shannon Matthews
Meehan was never implicated in the disappearance of Shannon Matthews

The court heard he had gone looking for material involving under-age girls. The words he had used in internet search engines were read out in court. Anybody listening will have been left in no doubt that he was looking for youngsters.

When interviewed by detectives, Meehan at first maintained he had never looked at such websites. But in later interviews he said he had looked at adult porn sites.

Police also recovered a number of pornographic videos from his home.

There was never any suggestion that the children being abused in the photos were known to Meehan. He appears to have clicked on links from video trailers to get to some of the illegal material.

There is also no suggestion that Craig Meehan had anything to do with the disappearance of Shannon Matthews.

His uncle, Michael Donovan, is awaiting trial charged with kidnapping and falsely imprisoning the little girl. Her own mother, Karen Matthews, 32, also faces the same charges.

They will stand trial together in November after recently pleading not guilty. Both of them also deny perverting the course of justice by reporting Shannon as missing while knowing where she was.

Meehan is jailed over child porn
16 Sep 08 |  West Yorkshire
Meehan porn case acquittal urged
12 Sep 08 |  Bradford
Child porn 'risk to relationship'
11 Sep 08 |  Bradford
Meehan 'unaware of child images'
09 Sep 08 |  Bradford
Meehan denies child porn charges
08 Sep 08 |  Bradford

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