Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Saturday, 15 March 2008

Shannon 'starts road to recovery'

School photograph of Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews had been missing for 24 days

Nine-year-old Shannon Matthews, who was rescued after going missing for three weeks, is "starting on the road to recovery", police have said.

She spent "a comfortable and settled night" watching films and playing with a kitten after being rescued from a flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.

Specially-trained officers have been interviewing Shannon, who is in social services care.

Her stepfather's uncle has been arrested on suspicion of abduction.

The 39-year-old, Michael Donovan, formerly known as Paul Drake, was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up before being taken into police custody.

He and Shannon were found by police in two concealed compartments under a divan bed at a flat in Lidgate Gardens on Friday afternoon.

Shannon's 32-year-old mother Karen Matthews and stepfather Craig Meehan, 22, returned home late on Saturday afternoon after spending Friday night in a hotel.

Neighbours said Shannon's mother had been briefly reunited with her daughter.

Shannon's natural father, Leon Rose, is also understood to have spent time with her following her rescue.

West Yorkshire Police said it would be a long process to carefully establish what had happened since the schoolgirl went missing on 19 February.

A force spokesman said: "Shannon remains under care of the police protection order.

"Her well-being and welfare continues to be the priority of West Yorkshire Police."

Dewsbury Moor residents tearing up Shannon's 'missing' posters
Dewsbury Moor residents celebrated Shannon's discovery

Police sources have defended the amount of time taken to find Shannon just one mile from her home.

There were "literally hundreds of people" in a "huge family network" that required a large amount of resources, a police source said.

More than 200 officers and 60 detectives have been involved in the search, which police said amounted to 10% of West Yorkshire Police's operational strength.

The force said the operation was its biggest since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Yorkshire MEP Edward Macmillan-Scott said police should have checked all family members thoroughly.

He said: "In more than three out of four cases like this a family member is involved so a thorough search would have included the suspect in this case."

He called for a review of Britain's procedures for dealing with missing children, insisting that a system such as the "Amber Alert", which is used in the US, France and Belgium, would have meant Shannon being found within hours.

Mr McMillan-Scott said he would not criticise police without knowing the full facts about the case but had requested a meeting with officers in West Yorkshire.

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The flat where Shannon was found



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