Missing girl was found drugged and hidden under divan bed after mother faked her abduction to claim the reward

Missing girl was found drugged and hidden under divan bed after mother faked her abduction to claim the reward

The girl would be tied up with a strap around her waist when left alone in the apartment so she wouldn't be able to escape.

Shannon Matthews, who was once the subject of numerous headlines that reported the abduction of a 9-year-old girl, no longer goes by that name. Years have passed since she started a new life after her abduction, but a recent documentary, The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews, have shown viewers shocking details about how she was kept a prisoner because of her own mother's plotting.

When Shannon went missing in 2008, her mother Karen was seen sobbing on TV and begging for her daughter's return. Over 250 officers and 60 detectives were part of the search, about 1,500 drivers were asked if they had seen the girl, around 3,000 different spots were searched, and hundreds of friends and neighbors joined Karen in the efforts to find her daughter, according to The Sun. Nearly $4.5million (£3.2million) was poured into the widespread search in west Yorkshire, UK to find the young schoolgirl.


All the while, Shannon was kept hidden in an apartment after Karen and her accomplice, Michael Donovan hatched a plan to make over $69,500 (£50,000) by claiming the reward money. According to Metro, Michael is the uncle of the boyfriend, Craig Meehan, whom Karen was dating at the time.

Karen Matthews and her partner Craig Meehan pose for photographers outside their home on March 15, 2008, Dewsbury, England. (Source: Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong)

After Shannon's kidnapping was staged, the 9-year-old girl was kept imprisoned in Michael's apartment and would have an elastic strap tied around her waist to keep her restrained. When Michael left the apartment, Shannon would be able to use the bathroom and some of the rooms in his loft with the strap tied around her waist, but it would stop her from escaping.

There was also a list of rules that Shannon was expected to follow at all times.

As the search went on, the police wound up speaking to Michael's neighbors who said they heard the "tiny footsteps of a toddler," which Detective Constables Nick Townsend and Paul Kettlewell found suspcisious because they knew Shannon walked with tiny steps.


"I couldn’t believe what I had heard," Nick told Mirror.

Soon, the police broke into the apartment and Paul recalled, "There was a deathly silence, then I heard a little girl’s voice. She said, 'Stop it, you’re frightening me.' I think Donovan had his hand over her mouth. I knew the voice had come from within the room. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from."

From the base of the double bed, Paul could hear noises and couldn't believe his eyes when Shannon appeared from inside. Michael was also dragged out from the base of the divan bed and bit one of the officers. "Get Karen down here. We’re sharing the money – £50,000," Michael told them.

A West Yorkshire Police handout photograph shows Michael Donovan, who was found guilty of the kidnap of Shannon Matthews in Leeds, England. (Source: Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong)

After 24 days of the widespread search, the little girl was found drugged and tethered, and it was clear that Karen had been giving a convincing performance of a heartbroken mother all this while. Karen was called "a proven, consummate, skillful and convincing liar" by Julian Goose QC, prosecuting, as reported by The Guardian.

Karen and Michael were each given sentences of eight years for the fake kidnapping, and the former became one of the most despised mothers in the country.

A handcuffed Karen Matthews leaves Dewsbury Police Station to appear at court on April 9, 2008, Dewsbury, England. (Source: Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong)

About halfway through her sentence, Karen was released and claimed she's innocent. "I’m not Britain’s worst mum. I didn’t kill anybody," she told Mirror years after being found guilty for the vile plot. "None of it’s true. I’m on the edge. It makes me want to kill myself but I’d never do that. I’m scared I’ll die lonely and alone."

Today, Shannon lives in an undisclosed location with a new identity and a new family.

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