Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Mother fears daughter was 'taken'

Karen Matthews
Karen Matthews said she has not given up hope

The mother of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews has said she fears her daughter has been abducted by someone known to the family.

Karen Matthews said the nine-year-old, who was last seen leaving her school in Dewsbury on 19 February, was not the kind of girl to run away.

Stepfather Craig Meehan also denied accusations that he hit the youngster.

Mrs Matthews said Shannon was not unhappy at home and added: "She's got abducted. That's all I can say."

Asked if she thought it was someone she knew, the mother-of-seven said: "It seems that way because there's no trace of her at all.

"There's no trace of her swimming costume, her towel or anything like that that she's taken with her."

Mrs Matthews told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme that she believed the reason someone had taken her daughter was to get at her.

Asked why someone would do it, she said: "Just to hurt me, really."

Shannon's stepfather also denied accusations made by other family members that Shannon was unhappy at home. He said he had a "good" relationship with the youngster.

School photograph of Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews has been missing for three weeks

Mr Meehan said: "To me I know it's not true. All I'm focusing on is finding Shannon. I want her home.

"Even her real dad believes me. He says Shannon has always looked up to me."

The pair said they thought comparisons made between them and the case of missing Madeline McCann were "unfair".

Mr Meehan said: "It's two families from two different backgrounds and they shouldn't be compared."

Mrs Matthews said she had not given up hope of finding her daughter alive.

"Police have said prepare for the worst, but we are not going to be doing that. At the moment we know she's out there."

West Yorkshire Police said the operation was the biggest missing person's case it had undertaken since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Det Supt Andy Brennan, who is leading the overall search for Shannon, has said he is "gravely concerned" for Shannon.

He said officers were about two-thirds of the way through a list of 3,000 residential and commercial premises which were being thoroughly searched.

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