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'Let Shannon go', mother pleads

3 March 08 17:41 GMT

The mother of missing Shannon Matthews has urged those who might be holding her daughter to let her go.

Karen Matthews told a press conference she believed someone was holding her nine-year-old daughter.

Shannon was last seen on her way home from Westmoor Junior School in Dewsbury, West Yorks, on 19 February.

Her head teacher, Krystyna Piatkowski, also appealed for Shannon's return and said she felt "total puzzlement" by the girl's disappearance.

At a news conference, Ms Matthews said Shannon's disappearance had broken her family apart and told how she cried herself to sleep at night and could not go into her daughter's bedroom.

In a direct plea, she said: "If you have Shannon will you please let her go."

Shannon was in the habit of not coming straight home from school, as she often went to her cousin's house, Ms Matthews said.

She said she accepted police had to carry out criminal checks on members of her family and her daughter's disappearance had made her question her trust for friends and wider family.

"The family don't feel safe any more - it has broken the family apart," said Ms Matthews.

"It makes me think I can't trust the people who are really close to me any more."

Speaking about Shannon for the first time publicly, Mrs Piatkowski asked how does a child "just disappear?".

"I find that very difficult to come to terms with," she said.

"It is difficult for us all because she had a place in school, there is obviously an empty chair.

"We would love to see Shannon walk through the gates and be part of the school again."

Mrs Piatkowski said staff at Shannon's school did not know about her apparent wishes to live with her father, who is separated from her mother Karen and lives in nearby Huddersfield.

Mr Rose said not knowing Shannon's whereabouts was "killing" him.

He said he goes out looking for his daughter every day, and finds it hard to tell her brother that she has not yet been found.

"Every time I come home, and obviously he sees the look on my face, that I've been unsuccessful because I haven't found her," he said.

"But I've reassured him, you know, that one thing's for sure that we will find her. I don't know how, but we will."

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