16 Jun 2010

Shannon Matthews kidnap: how events unfolded

18 months have elapsed between Karen Matthews’s guilty verdict for kidnapping her daughter Shannon, and today’s publication of a serious case review.

Shannon Matthews, kidnapped by her mother in February 2008

19 February 2008

The last confirmed sighting of Shannon, from Dewsbury Moor, is at 3.10pm outside West Moor Junior School, after she returns from a swimming lesson.

Shannon is reported missing hours after failing to return home from school. West Yorkshire Police launches a search of the local area, making inquiries throughout the night.

20 February

Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, makes a plea for her daughter to return home.

Posters featuring Shannon’s picture are distributed to passers-by and posted around the neighbourhood. West Yorkshire Police says 200 officers are helping in the search and scores of local people spend a second night scouring gardens, parks and buildings.

21 February

Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan confirms to Channel 4 News that friends of the missing girl have told police she was talking about “running away from home”. He describes her as vulnerable and certainly not “streetwise”.

22 February

Police release CCTV footage showing the “timid” youngster shortly before she disappeared, entering and leaving the Dewsbury Sports Centre Swimming Pool, surrounded by a group of friends.

Detectives say they remain “gravely concerned” about the schoolgirl.

23 February

Neighbours of missing Shannon, some wearing T-shirts showing pictures of the nine-year-old, gather together at the residents’ association hall near her home to support the search.

Police say so far they 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 radius of Moorside Road.

Officers with underwater breathing apparatus search a pond behind Dewsbury Hospital as part of the investigation.

24 February

The congregation at St James Church, Heckmondwike, close to the youngster’s home, began their Sunday service with prayers for her safe return.

The police operation focuses on areas close to her family home and groups of officers are seen conducting house-to-house inquiries in the vicinity.

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.

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 head teacher, Krystyna Piatkowski, hold a joint press conference to reissue their call for information.

5 March

Police release a recording of the 999 call made by Shannon’s mother in the hope that it will prompt witnesses to come forward.

11 March

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, they announce.

12 March

Shannon’s mother says in a radio interview that she believes someone she knows snatched her daughter to hurt her.

Shannon’s stepfather, Craig Meehan, dismisses rumours that he had something to do with the schoolgirl’s disappearance and also claims made by Mrs Matthews’ own parents that he had hit her.

14 March

Shannon is found alive in Batley Carr, 24 days after going missing. A 39-year-old man is arrested in relation to her disappearance.

Shannon is ordered to stay with police and does not return home to her family.

15 March

Police name the man arrested on suspicion of Shannon’s abduction as Michael Donovan, 39, formerly known as Paul Drake, of Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr. He is the uncle of Shannon’s stepfather, Craig Meehan.

Shannon’s mother and Mr Meehan kiss and hold hands as they talk about their joy at finding Shannon is alive.

17 March

Police charge Michael Donovan with the kidnap and false imprisonment of Shannon. West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison says Shannon is being questioned slowly, for only 10 or 15 minutes a day.

21 March

Shannon’s mother talks about the agony of not having her daughter home for Easter.

2 April

Police investigating Shannon’s disappearance arrest her stepfather, Craig Meehan. They later charge the 22-year-old with possessing indecent images of children.

4 April

Police arrest the mother and sister of Shannon’s stepfather in connection with the disappearance of the nine-year-old, according to official sources. Amanda Hyett, 25, is arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and Alice Meehan, 49, is arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

6 April

Police arrest Shannon’s mother Karen Matthews on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

8 April

Karen Matthews is charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect.

9 April

Karen Matthews appears at Dewsbury magistrates court charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect. After a 13-minute hearing she is remanded in custody.

Hours after appearing in court, workmen board up her council house in Moorside Road. Police also distribute leaflets urging local residents not to take the law into their own hands.

4 December

Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice at Leeds crown court.

16 June 2010

A serious case review concludes that Kirklees social services could not have anticipated Shannon Matthews’s abduction in February 2008.