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Shannon case was no Maddie - it was Shameless, without the humour

Original Source: TIMES: THURSDAY 04 DECEMBER 2008

Karen Matthews and her boyfriend Craig Meehan, who was later convicted on child pornography charges

Shannon's kidnap case had been going for weeks before it attracted blanket coverage that matched the scale of the police search

The Madeleine McCann case had been going for nine months - but was still receiving widespread coverage

We all cared a lot in the days after she was found, when the blame for the disappearance of Shannon Matthews moved ever closer to her own family's front door.

It was a rather different story during most of the 24 days she was missing.

In February, when Shannon was snatched on her way home from school, the search for Madeleine McCann had been under way for more than nine months.

If a butterfly fluttered its wings in the Portuguese holiday complex from which Madeleine was taken, the incident was still being reported with breathless urgency.

She was a photogenic little girl, approaching her 4th birthday, who vanished on holiday with her articulate, middle-class parents.

Shannon, also quite cute on camera, was from a sink estate in a troubled northern mill town that had seen far happier days. There was no eloquent spokesman to appear on her behalf.

West Yorkshire Police threw unprecedented resources into finding the missing child. The residents of Dewsbury Moor did their limited best to assist the search.

Yet the nation's concern appeared short-lived. The story ran for a couple of days, then interest dwindled. With the exception of the regional media and a few tabloids, attention moved elsewhere.

We wanted a Miss Marple mystery. We got Shameless without the humour. After a fortnight, the hunt for Shannon was already deemed less newsworthy than the most tenuous development in Praia da Luz.

Madeleine joined a list of missing girls whose fate gripped the country and whose names resound sadly to this day. It includes Sarah Payne, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Not so Shannon. It was not her fault, but the nine-year-old came from the wrong sort of family. She also broke the rules of such narratives by being found alive.

And here the tale did become interesting. If what was lacking before then was the sympathy born of a sense of identification with the main characters, now came a gleeful injection of condemnation.

Those same players who proved incapable of tugging sufficient heart-strings turned out to be the very ones responsible for Shannon's disappearance.

As grief-stricken parents, they had been a let-down. Recast as monstrous villains, they fitted the bill perfectly. There is no small irony in the police's belief that it was probably saturation coverage of the McCann story which first gave Karen Matthews the idea to plan her own daughter's abduction.

The Find Madeleine Fund raised more than '1 million in public donations. Reward money offered for her safe return totalled '2.5 million

If Shannon's mother thought her daughter might be worth a similar amount, she was mistaken. But a newspaper did eventually offer a '50,000 reward. For someone who placed such a small price on her daughter's welfare and security, that must have seemed like a prince's ransom


Video: the moment Karen Matthews admits to police she lied  TIMES VIDEO

Video footage was released today showing the moment Karen Matthews admitted she was part of a brazen plot to pretend her daughter had been kidnapped.

Shannon Matthews' mother was convicted this afternoon, along with her boyfriend's uncle, of abducting and imprisoning the nine-year-old in a scheme to collect a '50,000 reward.

In the weeks after police found Shannon in a flat belonging to Michael Donovan, the two kidnappers continued lying, inventing stories and blaming each other for the crime.

Eventually, Matthews admitted in a police interview on April 7 that she knew all along that her daughter had not been abducted.

During the interview, an officer can be heard asking: 'Why did you telephone the police when you knew where she was''

Matthews replied: 'So nobody suspected anything.'

The officer continued: 'So this again was part of your act to make it look like she was genuinely missing' When you knew that she wasn't genuinely missing. Is that right''

'Yeah,' Matthews mumbled, as her

Karen Matthews guilty of her daughter's kidnap


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