Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Simple motive of 'filthy lucre'

Yorkshire police officers searching for missing girl Shannon Matthews (file photo)
The 24-day search for Shannon involved more than 300 police officers
Lack of "personal responsibility" was at the heart of the Shannon Matthews case, a senior police officer has said.

West Yorkshire Chief Constable Norman Bettison told BBC One's Panorama programme that the nine-year-old's mother, Karen Matthews, had lived her life "without the sense of having to answer for the consequences of her actions".

He said that in his experience Shannon's family were "people who actually don't socialise beyond a small group of people... no holidays, no going to town, no going to the cinema - if it doesn't go on in their house, or a house nearby it doesn't happen as far as they're concerned.

"They aren't socialised in the way that society is generally socialised in terms of norms of behaviour."

He said their normal standard of behaviour was "whatever they could get away with".

Mr Bettison added: "You see flotsam and jetsam drifting in, people who are sort of feckless and sort of ambitionless coming in and plonking themselves down on the sofa, having a can of beer."

Benefits dependence

But he said that the behaviour of Shannon's family members was not reflective of the community as a whole where they lived in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire.

The community had "moral strength and community spirit - within hours of young Shannon going missing, they were out on the streets, knocking on doors, out with the cops searching, printing off leaflets, having T-shirts printed," he told Panorama.

Karen Matthews
The trial heard that Matthews had "lied and lied and lied again" to police

Although parts of Dewsbury are affluent, the sprawling Moorside estate is classed among the most deprived areas in the UK, with a high rate of unemployment among residents.

"There are good people trying to get work, there are good people working in the grey economy, there are good people bringing up kids as you and I would recognise is a right way to bring up kids," Mr Bettison said.

He added: "Being poor, does not make people bad. I've been in many poor households where children are brought up wonderfully well and given, right from birth, the idea of right and wrong. And given the hope and ambition to strive."

But he said that a dependence on benefits was partly to blame for Matthews' behaviour.

"The more kids you have, the more welfare you get, the less opportunity there is to contribute to society and to the economy and the less you need to," he said.

Inconsistent behaviour

Shannon was held at the flat of Michael Donovan in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, for 24 days earlier this year.

Matthews and Donovan kept Shannon drugged, subdued and hidden from the public in an attempt to claim 50,000 in reward money when she was "found". However, the police found Shannon first while she was still captive.

Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews went missing on her way from school in February

Matthews, 33, and Donovan, 40, have been found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Mr Bettison said the kidnap plot had at its heart a simple motive - "filthy lucre, get your hands on some money and it doesn't matter how you go about it".

He said Matthews was identified as a suspect within two or three days of Shannon's disappearance as police began to pick up on inconsistencies in her version of events.

"She wasn't reacting in a way a mother would - she seemed concerned for the cameras but not concerned in the background," he said.

Family responsibility

Financial and educational poverty were not too blame for Matthews' extraordinary behaviour but rather "poverty of social experience", Mr Bettison said.

Brought up in Batley, Matthews was one of seven siblings. Her mother, June, struggled to cope with her children.

These are people who will get away with whatever they can get away with and nobody says it's wrong
Norman Bettison
West Yorkshire Chief Constable

Matthews and her siblings were taken into care or sent to live with relatives until their mother was able to cope.

"From a very young age, [Matthews] has drifted into multiple, sometimes co-terminus relationships," Mr Bettison said.

"She's had children to different men - some of those children live with her, some of the children live with fathers."

Mr Bettison believes that responsibility for the Matthews family lies with individual family and community members rather than society as a whole.

"There's nobody in the family that is telling her that her behaviour is wrong. She has no peer group in a working environment," he said.

"These are people who will get away with whatever they can get away with and nobody says it's wrong."

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific