Karen Matthews’ mistakes and capture – from teddy bear to Shannon reaction

When Shannon Matthews went missing, the nation’s hearts broke for her devastated mother Karen.

The community where they lived in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, banded together as a mammoth search began for the missing nine-year-old schoolgirl in February 2008.

It was West Yorkshire Police’s biggest operation since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, abandoning murder inquiries to join the team while stricken friends and neighbours feared the worst.

Matthews played the role of the tearful mother, pleading for the return of her daughter in front of television cameras.

But one of Matthews’ closest friends realised something was amiss from the day that Shannon was reported missing.

Natalie Murray, then known as Brown, played a huge role in unravelling the horrifying truth and sending her former best pal to prison.

Cleaning the house

Karen Matthews spoke in front of TV cameras after reporting Shannon missing
Karen Matthews spoke in front of TV cameras after reporting Shannon missing


“The first day Shannon was reported missing, I saw it in her eyes,” Natalie told the BBC in February 2018.

“She had this look did Karen, where she wanted to tell you something, but what came out of her mouth was different.”

Natalie was the only person among Matthews’ friends and neighbours known to suggest Shannon’s mother may have been involved in her kidnap before the sickening plot was exposed.

“Straight away my gut was telling me something wasn’t right. Karen was carrying on with normal stuff, tidying up the house. It was as if Shannon had just gone to her friend’s.”

There were other indications that Matthews knew where Shannon was, as she was adamant her daughter was coming back.

While watching the news on one occasion, Shannon’s picture came on the TV and Natalie’s daughter said she couldn’t wait for her return.

“I said, being the honest mum I am, ‘well, it’s not guaranteed she’s going to come home so we need to prepare ourselves if that happens.’,” Natalie told The Mirror in 2017.

“Karen turned around and said: ‘Look she’s famous now, she’s on TV. Don’t worry, she’s coming home.’

“I told Karen she couldn’t give the kids false hope, and she looked straight at my daughter and said: ‘I know she’s coming home.’

“It was that comment, it was that moment, I just thought: ‘Hang on’.”

Behaviour away from cameras

Karen Matthews pictured on 6 March 2008 during the period when her daughter Shannon was missing
Karen Matthews pictured on 6 March 2008 during the period when her daughter Shannon was missing

Outside there were fears that Shannon might be dead, but inside the house it was a very different feeling.

Natalie described it as being a “normal day”, with Matthews and Craig laughing and joking while playing computer games.

“Karen came to stay at my house and when the TV cameras weren’t around I realised that it was as if she didn’t care, she was back to her normal, happy self,” Natalie said in 2017.

“I noticed she was smiling around the cameras and, as a mother myself, I just thought: ‘I wouldn’t want to be in front of the cameras, I would be doing exactly what the police told me to do. I would want to be at home with my remaining children.’”

Lots of thing were building up but when Natalie raised her suspicions with anyone abotu Karen’s behaviour she was told she was being paranoid.

Months later in court, film clips of Matthews’ tearful TV appeals were contrasted with evidence from neighbours and police liaison officers of her nonchalance when the media were not watching.

The prosecuting counsel, Julian Goose QC, read details of how she laughed and joked with Craig Meehan immediately afterwards.

Disobeying police and teddy bear

Karen held a teddy bear but didn't even know if it belonged to her daughter
Karen held a teddy bear but didn’t even know if it belonged to her daughter

Despite being told not to speak to the media by the police, Matthews made a televised appeal the day after Shannon was reported missing.

“She was told in no uncertain terms to let the police deal with the press side of things, that doing anything without their agreement could put Shannon’s life at risk,” said Natalie.

“Then 10 minutes later I’m standing in the kitchen making the kids’ tea and Karen is on the telly doing a live interview.

“I went storming round and said, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ And she just said ‘Please Natalie, don’t shout at me’.”

Venting her frustrations at home, Natalie proclaimed “something isn’t right”, but was dismissed by her then-husband who said people deal with grief differently.

Other red flags were Matthews’ plea for the return of her “beautiful princess daughter” and clutching a soft toy that may not have even belonged to Shannon.

“She’d never called Shannon a princess. Someone must have told her to say that,” said Natalie.

“The teddy wasn’t Shannon’s.. She came down the stairs with it before the press conference and I asked if it was Shannon’s. She said ‘I don’t know’.”

Reaction to finding Shannon

Shannon Matthews was kidnapped and tied up under a bed
Shannon Matthews was kidnapped and tied up under a bed


After a desperate 24-day long search, Shannon was found tied up and drugged inside the base of a bed in the flat of Michael Donovan, the uncle of her mum’s partner Craig Meehan. Craig was not involved in the kidnap plot.

While the community rejoiced, Matthews’ reaction to her daughter being found alive raised eyebrows.

“When we were told a girl had been found, we were all so relieved we were shouting and screaming,” remembers Natalie. “But Karen was just so blase about it.”

As Matthews heard the news, she walked away from her suspicious friend, who believes she had already been distancing herself because she knew Natalie feared something was amiss.

Matthews went into the kitchen where she started insisting everything must be tidied up and started emptying bins.

Natalie said: “I said: ‘What are you doing? They have just told you they might have found Shannon!’ She had to be told by the family liaison officer to leave to go and see her at the station.

“The last thing on my mind if someone told they had found my child would be to clean my house.”

Natalie was also baffled by Matthews’ behaviour at the police station when she saw her daughter through one-way glass.

“If that had been my child behind that glass I would have been doing everything I could to get to her and give her a hug,” said Natalie.

“But the family liaison office told me Karen just did nothing.”

The truth comes out

Matthews on her way to Dewsbury Magistrates Court in 2008
Matthews on her way to Dewsbury Magistrates Court in 2008

Eventually, Matthews was confronted during a car trip with a police support officer and a Natalie.

Breaking down, Matthews claimed she had asked Donovan to look after Shannon as part of a plot to get away from Meehan but “everything went wrong”.

Matthews and Donovan were found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of ­kidnapping, false imprisonment, and perverting justice in December 2018 and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Meehan had nothing to do with the abduction, but was sent to prison for 20 weeks after unrelated child sex abuse material was discovered on his computer.

Dubbed Britain’s worst mum, Matthews showed little remorse and to this day refuses to accept she took any part in the plot to cash in on the £50,000 reward money for Shannon’s return.

After serving half of her sentence, she was released after four years.

Karen Matthews handcuffed to policewoman at Wakefield Police Station in 2018
Karen Matthews handcuffed to policewoman at Wakefield Police Station in 2018

Speaking in a bid to change opinions in 2018, Matthews pointed to other vile criminals to justify her claim that she should not be branded evil.

“I’m not Britain’s worst mum. I didn’t kill anybody,” she told The Mirror.

“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.”

Matthews is at the centre of a new two-part documentary into the disappearance of Shannon which airs this week.

Featuring exclusive interviews with Shannon’s best friend, members of the local community, and the police officers who eventually found her, the programme reveals the remarkable truth of what really happened.

*The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews airs Wednesday on Channel 5 at 9pm

Originally from https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/karen-matthews-mistakes-how-exposed-23471408

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