Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Mother jailed over Shannon kidnap

Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan
Matthews and Donovan kept Shannon "drugged and subdued"

The mother of Shannon Matthews has been jailed for kidnapping her own daughter in an attempt to claim reward money.

Karen Matthews, 33, and her co-accused Michael Donovan, 40, were earlier found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Both were jailed for eight years by a judge at Leeds Crown Court who said the offences were "truly despicable".

Shannon was held at Donovan's flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, for 24 days.

The judge, Mr Justice McCombe, said: "The offences that you committed were truly despicable.

"It is impossible to conceive how you could have found it in you to put this young girl through the ordeal that you inflicted upon her.

"It is incomprehensible that you could have permitted your friends, neighbours and in your case, Matthews, even your children to sacrifice time and energy in extensive searches for the supposedly missing child."

[Shannon] appeared to relive her experiences and she often complained of having nightmares where she is being tied up

Judge, Mr Justice McCombe

The judge said it was doubtful Matthews and Donovan could have planned and carried out the kidnap without other people.

He said: "Having regard to their low intellect... it must be doubtful whether they could have conceived or continued these offences without the assistance or connivance of others.

"The pre-sentence report in Matthews' case comments that neither defendant seems to have the cognitive ability to devise and orchestrate such an elaborate offence with any degree of likelihood of success."

Shannon, now 10, went missing on 19 February as she walked home from school.

During the trial, the jury heard pair Shannon was "drugged, subdued and hidden from the public" so the defendants could claim reward money.

She was found in Donovan's flat, hidden in in the base of a divan bed, less than a mile from her home, on 14 March, following a 3.2m police investigation.

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

The judge said that although Shannon was not physically harmed, her experience must have been "highly disturbing".

He said: "It is clear as a matter of common sense that it must have been highly disturbing to a nine-year-old child to be removed suddenly from her normal environment... without knowing when, if at all, she would be returned."

Reading from the report about Shannon's recovery, he said: "She appeared to relive her experiences and she often complained of having nightmares where she is being tied up."

He said she would need to undergo psychotherapy sessions.

Media 'hysteria'

In mitigation for Donovan, Alan Conrad QC, told Leeds Crown Court the barristers in the case had a combined legal experience of more than 100 years but none had come across a case like it.

Frances Oldham QC, for Matthews, said her client had committed "serious offences" but she criticised the media "hysteria" that followed her conviction.


Verdict on Shannon case

Making reference to a comment by Det Supt Andy Brennan, who condemned Matthews as "pure evil", Ms Oldham said: "[This] is the one thing she is not."

The barrister said Matthews had been isolated in prison because of how she had been portrayed and had received no visitors except for her lawyers.

Ms Oldham said: "She is not Myra Hindley, she is not Rose West."

Det Supt Andy Brennan, the officer who led the investigation, said the case was now closed.

He said: "If new evidence comes to light, it will of course be investigated.

"We considered all the evidence, including what Shannon said, with the CPS and concluded there was not sufficient evidence to charge anybody else."

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