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Last Updated: Friday January 23 2009 13:50 GMT

Timeline: Missing Shannon

Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews was found 24 days after going missing, a mile from her home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

The disappearance of the nine-year-old led to one of the largest police search operations ever seen.

Here's how the events happened:


19 February: Shannon is last seen at 3.10pm outside West Moor Junior School, after she returns from a swimming lesson. Shannon is reported missing hours after failing to come home from school. Police launch a search of the local area, working throughout the night.

20 February: Shannon's mother, Karen Matthews, makes a plea for her daughter to return home. Posters with Shannon's picture on are given out.

21 February: Police say they are treating a possible new sighting of Shannon, near her home on 20 February, as important. Det Supt Andy Brennan said that friends of the missing girl have told police she was talking about running away from home.

Shannon entering the swimming pool
CCTV shows Shannon at the swimming pool
22 February: Police release CCTV footage showing Shannon shortly before she disappeared, at the Dewsbury Sports Centre swimming pool. Detectives say they remain "gravely concerned" about her.

23 February: Some of Shannon's neighbours gather together to support the search. Police have received more than 300 calls from members of the public and the operation has included searches of over 200 homes within a half-mile area of her home at Moorside Road. Police divers search a pond.

Candles and a picture of Shannon
Candles and a picture of Shannon
24 February: Church members at St James Church, Heckmondwike, close to Shannon's home, began their Sunday service with prayers for her safe return. The police operation focuses on areas close to her family home.

25 February: Fifty specialist police officers are drafted in to check wheelie bins on the route Shannon would have taken home from West Moor Junior School.

26 February: Friends and neighbours of Shannon hold a vigil - exactly one week after she disappeared.

Karen Matthews, Shannon's mum
Karen Matthews, Shannon's mum
1 March: Shannon's mother makes an emotional plea for her daughter's return home on the eve of Mother's Day.

4 March: As the search enters its third week, Shannon's parents and her headteacher Krystyna Piatkowski ask the public for information.

5 March: Police release a recording of the 999 call made by Shannon's mother in the hope that it will make witnesses to come forward.

11 March: T
Map of the area
Map of the area
Three weeks to the day since the disappearance, police teams stress there will be no let-up in the search for missing Shannon. Almost half of the UK specialist search dogs are involved in the operation.

14 March: Shannon is found alive in Batley Carr, 24 days after going missing. A 39-year-old man is arrested.

4 December: Shannon's mum Karen is found guilty of kidnapping her. She was also found guilty of false imprisonment and perverting the cause of justice. Shannon's uncle Michael Donovan was found guilty of the same three offences at the same court case.

Perverting the cause of justice means trying to make it difficult for the police and authorities to do their job properly.

23 January 2009: Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan are both sentenced to eight years in prison for what they've done.