Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Saturday, 15 March 2008

Police begin to question Shannon

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

Police have begun questioning Shannon Matthews, the nine-year-old girl found alive three weeks after going missing.

They want to fill in the gaps between her disappearance on 19 February and being found hidden under a bed at a flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.

Police said they expected it be a "long process". Meanwhile, Shannon is under an emergency protection order and is in the care of social services.

Her stepfather's uncle was arrested on suspicion of abduction.

The 39-year-old, said locally to use two names, Paul Drake and Mick Donovan, was found near Shannon, concealed in another compartment in the divan bed.

Police said she had spent a "comfortable and settled night" in care.

Those in the community celebrating the girl's reappearance were hopeful that her parents would return home on Saturday after the pair spent the night in a hotel.

Her 32-year-old mother and stepfather Craig Meehan, 22, looked tired and drawn as they left Dewsbury Police Station on Friday night.

Neighbours said they had been briefly reunited with Shannon.

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

Family friend Petra Jamieson, who lives a few doors down from their home on Moorside Road, said Mrs Matthews had told her they had stayed in a hotel.

"I'm looking after their three children as well as my own while they are away," she said.

"I hope that they'll be back today but we just don't know."

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

Neighbours and friends in Dewsbury have campaigned to keep Shannon's disappearance in the spotlight.

On Friday night they celebrated her survival, apparently unhurt.

Banners reading "Welcome back Shannon" and disco lights were set up outside the Matthews family home.

The schoolgirl had last been seen leaving Westmoor Junior School in Dewsbury on 19 February.

She was found concealed in the bed in a flat in Lidgate Gardens, just a mile from her home in Dewsbury Moor.

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.


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The flat where Shannon was found

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