Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Shannon mother 'lied to police'

Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews disappeared in February

The mother of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews was a liar who gave police conflicting accounts of what had happened, a court was told.

Shannon had been drugged and tethered in the flat where she was found in March, Leeds Crown Court has heard.

Her mother, Karen Matthews, 33, and Michael Donovan 39, are on trial over the nine-year-old's disappearance in West Yorkshire in February this year.

They deny kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Prosecutor Julian Goose, QC, said Mr Donovan claimed that he and Karen Matthews planned the abduction, but said he had acted "under duress" with Ms Matthews telling him what to do.

Mr Goose added: "The purpose of the agreement between them was to earn money - Donovan to take Shannon and keep her at his flat whilst Karen Matthews reported her as missing."

'Willing participant'

In interview, Mr Donovan claimed Ms Matthews told him to take care of Shannon while she reported her missing. Ms Matthews claimed "there was money in it", Mr Donovan told police.

Michael Donovan went on to tell officers that he feared being beaten up by people known to Karen Matthews if he did not comply.

Karen Matthews
The prosecution said Karen Matthews had lied for her own convenience
Mr Goose said the prosecution did not accept Mr Donovan acted under duress.

"He was a willing participant in a plan agreed with Karen Matthews, his co-accused, to kidnap and falsely imprison Shannon whilst a dishonest complaint was made to the police.

"His case is that the plan was in order to obtain the reward money."

Mr Goose said Mr Donovan never made any attempt to go to the police, raise the alarm or get help.

"His claim to have acted under duress is a lie," he added.

In police interview before her arrest, Ms Matthews said: "I know this is because of what he (Mr Donovan) has said about me, we are getting blamed for this and we have done nothing wrong.

"I'll tell you what, when me and Craig (Craig Meehan was her partner) had a tiff I went down to his mum's, he (Mr Donovan) were there and wanted me to go to his flat with my kids ... that's why he's chosen Shannon."

Prior to her arrest Ms Matthews said she was not considering leaving Meehan.

But during police interviews after her arrest, Ms Matthews said she asked Mr Donovan to take Shannon for a short time as she needed help to leave Meehan.

Changed account

She said she reported Shannon missing to cover her tracks when she had second thoughts about leaving Meehan.

She said she did not know where Mr Donovan lived and she had not visited the flat.

In further interviews she sought to blame other members of Meehan's family, including his sister Amanda Hyett.

On another occasion she produced a statement in which she changed her account.

She claimed not to have known where Shannon was, nor that Mr Donovan had taken her.

Mr Goose told the jury: "She now blamed Donovan, Craig Meehan and Amanda Hyett, claiming that she was innocent of any offence," Mr Goose said.

"The prosecution say that Karen Matthews tells us lies to suit her purpose and can't be believed in this trial."

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