Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Shannon accused 'shocked at plot'

Michael Donovan
Michael Donovan was in the witness box for the first time on Tuesday

A man accused of kidnapping Shannon Matthews said he was "scared" of her mother who he claims was behind a plot to claim 50,000 in reward money.

Michael Donovan gave evidence at Leeds Crown Court, where he and Shannon's mother Karen Matthews, 33, deny several charges over the girl's disappearance.

Mr Donovan, 40, of Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, said he was "shocked" Ms Matthews had gone ahead with the plan.

He also told the jury that Shannon's mother had "kept threatening him".

Mr Donovan was giving evidence after receiving treatment for a broken jaw he sustained in a jail attack.

He told the court: "I'm scared of (Karen). She kept threatening me."

She told me that she was going to get a bigger reward out of this if [Shannon] went missing

Michael Donovan

Mr Donovan said they were in a cafe in Dewsbury when Ms Matthews put a plan to him to claim 50,000 in reward money.

He said Ms Matthews first asked him to look after her elder son, but he refused.

Mr Donovan said: "She paused. Then she came out and said: 'Can you look after Shannon instead?'

"She told me that she was going to get a bigger reward out of this if she went missing."

Mr Donovan told the court that on 19 February he waited about 10 or 15 minutes before Shannon approached his car.

He told the jury he was surprised the youngster had nothing with her except the clothes she was wearing.

Karen Matthews
Ms Matthews did not want to speak to Shannon, Mr Donovan told the court

Mr Donovan said he asked Ms Matthews why Shannon had no clothes or toys.

"She told me: 'You've got money - go and buy them.'"

Mr Donovan went on: "I asked if she wanted to speak to Shannon and she said: 'No, I've got to keep it short - stick to the plan, Mike.'"

He said he later saw on the news that Shannon had been reported missing.

"I was really shocked and thought: 'She's really gone through with it.'"

Mr Donovan denied claims made by Ms Matthews' barrister, Frances Oldham QC, that he never took Shannon out in his car to visit parks and local supermarkets.

'Dragged away'

"I took her out to the park," Mr Donovan told the jury.

Mr Donovan said he was giving Shannon a drink when he saw police officers approach his property on 14 March.

He said: "I told Shannon: 'The police are here'. She said: 'Oh no, I don't want the police.'"

Two or three police officers piled on top of him as he was pinned to the floor, Mr Donovan told the court.

He said as he was "dragged" away he heard someone say: "Stop being cruel to him."

He and Ms Matthews deny kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

The court has been adjourned until Wednesday.

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