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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 20:50 GMT
Mother backs police over Shannon
Karen Matthews and Craig Meehan
Karen Matthews says Shannon is being well-looked after
The mother of rescued schoolgirl Shannon Matthews says she understands why her daughter has not returned home.

Karen Matthews said she understood police needed more time to speak to her daughter who was found on Friday three weeks after she disappeared.

Police have rejected criticism of the length of time it took to find her in a flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.

Ch Supt Barry South said if police knew where the nine-year-old was, they "would have been there in seconds".

Shannon's stepfather's uncle, Michael Donovan, 39, was arrested on Friday. Shannon is in social services care.

Police have been given more time to question Mr Donovan, formerly known as Paul Drake, who is being held on suspicion of abduction.

Had we known at any time the whereabouts of Shannon we would have been there in seconds
Ch Supt Barry South

Some local people have claimed they had raised suspicions about the address days before she was found.

Ch Supt South of West Yorkshire Police made a statement outside a community meeting in Dewsbury.

He said: "Let me put on notice... had we known at any time the whereabouts of Shannon we would have been there in seconds."

He said Shannon's welfare was their "main priority" and she was "in safe hands".

"The big thing now is to get Shannon and her family back to normality," he said.

"It's highly unlikely that she is coming home today."

School photograph of Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews was found in a flat on Friday afternoon

Specially-trained officers interviewed Shannon on Saturday and Sunday.

Karen Matthews said: "I fully understand that the police need to keep speaking to Shannon to establish exactly what has happened during the time that she has been missing.

"I appreciate that could take some time and is not something that is going to happen overnight.

"The most important thing is that Shannon is safe.

"I have seen Shannon and I am completely happy that she is being very well looked after and is being given all the care she needs.

"The police have been brilliant and I'm really grateful for all they have done for us."

She said a big party was planned for her return, to thank the community for all their support.

'Amber alert'

Mr Donovan and Shannon were found by police in two concealed compartments under a divan bed at the flat in Lidgate Gardens, just one mile from Shannon's parents' home in Dewsbury, on Friday afternoon.

The nine-year-old had been missing for 24 days, after she disappeared on the way home from school.

Police have rejected claims by an MEP that she could have been found faster.

Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has said police should have carried out more checks on Shannon's family.

He also said if police had used a missing child alert like those used in other countries, known as an amber alert, Shannon would have been found sooner.

West Yorkshire Police said it was "inaccurate" to suggest using the amber alert scheme would have resulted in Shannon being found any quicker.

West Yorkshire Police on Shannon's welfare

Shannon police given extra time
16 Mar 08 |  West Yorkshire

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