Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Friday, 14 March 2008

Missing girl Shannon found alive

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

Missing nine-year-old Shannon Matthews has been found alive, more than three weeks after going missing.

Police found her hidden in the base of a divan bed in a house in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, a mile from her home.

Her stepfather's uncle, 39, said locally to use two names - Paul Drake and Mick Donovan - has been arrested on suspicion of abduction.

Shannon is under an emergency protection order and in police care while what happened is established.

Neighbours in Batley Carr said police smashed their way into the house and emerged carrying Shannon, who was last seen leaving Westmoor Junior School in Dewsbury on 19 February.

'Over the moon'

She was reunited briefly with her mother and medical checks were carried out on her.

West Yorkshire Police said officers would now begin to interview her.

A spokesman said: "This may be a long process but throughout this enquiry our main focus has been and continues to be Shannon's welfare."

Neighbours said Shannon looked "quite calm" as she was taken from the house and officers confirmed that she was OK.

Shannon's father Leon Rose said he was "over the moon".

During a search of the house, officers located Shannon Matthews who was found concealed in the base of a divan bed
West Yorkshire Police

"Believe it or not, where she's been found, I'd actually been in that area a number of times and probably just walked straight past the house that she was in," he said.

Earlier, a West Yorkshire Police statement said: "As part of ongoing investigations, detectives and specialist search officers attended a house at Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, Dewsbury, at 1230 GMT this afternoon.

"During a search of the house, officers located Shannon Matthews who was found concealed in the base of a divan bed.

"A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of abduction at the address and is currently in custody at a West Yorkshire police station.

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

"Shannon is currently in the care of West Yorkshire Police. Investigations are ongoing."

Neighbour Christopher Heaps witnessed Shannon being brought out of the house by police.

He said he heard police breaking the door down then saw officers carrying Shannon in their arms.

"She was very calm and didn't look upset," he said.

Children returning from school to houses in Shannon's road were crying and hugging each other after hearing she had been found.

Mayor of Kirklees, Jean Calvert, said she was delighted Shannon had been found.

"It's an immense relief for the family, relatives and friends of Shannon and those who've supported the efforts to find her and have shown so much concern over what's been a very traumatic few weeks for them and the local community," she 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.

Officers have searched nearly 3,000 residential and commercial premises in the hunt for the schoolgirl.

The police hunt for Shannon had always focused on the local community.


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