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Last Updated: Monday, 17 March 2008, 16:01 GMT
Police chief backs Shannon probe
Mike Donovan courtesy of Ross Parry/Halifax Courier
Mike Donovan leaving court (credit Ross Parry/Halifax Courier)
The chief constable of West Yorkshire has said he is "immensely proud" of the police's handling of the search for Shannon Matthews.

The nine-year-old was found in a flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, three weeks after going missing.

Sir Norman Bettison said he was surprised that the professionalism of the inquiry had been questioned.

He said: "It has been phenomenal, it has been unprecedented and from where I am standing it's been professional."

Mr Bettison made a statement to the media after his officers were forced over the weekend to defend the length of time it took to rescue the missing schoolgirl.

She was found hidden in a drawer under a divan bed in Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, just one mile from her home in Dewsbury, on Friday afternoon - 24 days after disappearing.

They are extraordinary people doing an extraordinary job
Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire

Her stepfather's uncle, Michael Donovan, 39, formerly known as Paul Drake, was arrested on suspicion of abduction.

Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott said on Saturday that if police had used a missing child alert like those used in other countries, Shannon would have been found sooner.

Mr Bettison said 6,000 people had been interviewed and 3,000 properties had been searched, most of them within a one-mile radius of Dewsbury Moor.

His officers had been working on the case round the clock since 1930 GMT on 19 February.

"These are people who are as excited and thrilled at the news she was found alive and well on Friday morning as the rest of the people of Dewsbury Moor," he said.

"They are extraordinary people doing an extraordinary job, I am proud of every single one of them."

School photograph of Shannon Matthews
Shannon is being interviewed in 10 or 15-minute slots

He singled out detectives Paul Kettlewell and Nick Townsend, who called round to Donovan's flat on Thursday night, for particular praise.

He said after the officers knocked on the door on Thursday night and got no response, they started making inquiries of the neighbours.

It was then for the first time that they learned of "the pitter patter of young girl's footsteps" having been heard.

The officers then kept the property under surveillance before carrying out the raid.

A series of small pieces of the jigsaw came together in the hours before Donovan's home was raided, said Mr Bettison.

People who claimed to have given police the whole jigsaw were "fantasists".

Mr Bettison said Shannon, who remains in the care of the social services, was in "safe and caring hands".

Because of her age, she was being interviewed for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.



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