BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March 2008, 03:48 GMT
What next for Shannon investigation?
By Mark Simpson
BBC North of England correspondent

Police interviewing Shannon Matthews let her have a good night's sleep before asking her some of the key questions they need her to try to answer.

Lidgate Gardens where Shannon was found
Shannon was found in the base of a bed in the property

Crucially, detectives want to know who she was with for the past 24 days? And was it more than one person?

The nine-year-old girl was said to be extremely tired when she was found hidden in the compartment of a large, divan bed in Lidgate Gardens, in the Batley Carr area of Dewsbury.

A man was found near her, concealed in a separate compartment.

Missing days and nights

Neighbours said she appeared scared but physically uninjured when she was brought out of the house.

Police later arranged a full medical check to gain a better assessment of how her three-and-a-half week ordeal had affected her.

As carefully and gently as they can, the police's priority now is to try to extract from Shannon as much information as possible about the 24 days and nights she was missing.

  • Was she in Lidgate Gardens all the time?
  • Who was in the house while she was there?
  • How was she treated while she was there?

And detectives will also want to know what happened to Shannon on the day she went missing on the way home from school in Dewsbury, and how exactly she ended up a mile away in Lidgate Gardens.

There are questions too for the police: Had they searched that address before? Should they have searched it sooner?

What is clear is that the two West Yorkshire detectives who knocked on the door at midday on Friday reacted swiftly as soon as they discovered something suspicious.

Although it appeared no-one was inside the house, the officers were not convinced and immediately radioed for extra help.

Defied the odds

A search team was quickly on the scene and the decision was taken to break down the door. Shannon was found in an upstairs bedroom.

The officers could scarcely believe what they had found - and they were not alone.

Many friends, neighbours and relatives of Shannon believed she was dead, as did some experienced police officers.

The blunt reality is that statistics show that when children disappear for more than three weeks, they are unlikely to be found alive.

No-one will be more pleased than her two-year-old sister, Courtney. Her mum had been telling her that Shannon was away on holiday, but every day Courtney - who looks very like her big sister - had been asking when that holiday would be over.

For the moment, Shannon will not be returning to the family home in Dewsbury Moor.

Those close to the investigation say it is incredibly complex and difficult

She has been made the subject of an Emergency Police Protection Order, which means she is in care.

Her mum, Karen, did get to see her late on Friday afternoon. The protection order lasts 72 hours but it can be extended.

Shannon's mum has seven children by five different fathers. The 39-year-old man who has been arrested on suspicion of attempted abduction is believed to be related to Karen's current partner, Craig Meehan.

The discovery of Shannon brings to an end the largest police search in Yorkshire since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. More than 300 police officers were involved.

Now comes the next phase, trying to piece together what actually happened to Shannon.

Those close to the investigation say it is incredibly complex and difficult.

At the centre of it all is a fragile, timid nine-year-old schoolgirl who must be feeling increasingly upset and bewildered by everything that is happening.

But at least she's alive.



RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific