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- Shannon Matthews' mother jailed for eight years
- The Herald Sun
- Contributed by: The Rooster ( 258 articles in 2009 )
THE mother of Shannon Matthews has been jailed for eight years for plotting to kidnap her daughter to claim a large newspaper reward for the girl's recovery.
Karen Matthews, 33, who was branded "pure evil" by police, was convicted at Leeds Crown Court in December of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.
Prosecutors had said the West Yorkshire schoolgirl was drugged and probably kept captive on a leash during her incarceration as Matthews and Michael Donovan, the uncle of her then boyfriend, plotted to collect a £50,000 reward.
Donovan, 40, was also jailed for eight years.
"The offences that you committed were truly despicable," said the judge, Justice McCombe.
"It is impossible to conceive how you could have found it in you to put this young girl through the ordeal that you inflicted upon her.
"It is incomprehensible that you could have permitted your friends, neighbours and in your case, Matthews, even your children to sacrifice time and energy in extensive searches for the supposedly missing child."
Shannon was nine when she disappeared on February 19 as she walked home from school in freezing weather.
Matthews made a series of tearful TV appeals for help in finding her daughter as West Yorkshire Police launched one of the force's largest ever searches, at a cost of £3.2 million.
The girl was eventually found by detectives in Donovan's flat, around a mile from her home in Dewsbury, 24 days after she disappeared.
Matthews's lawyer Frances Oldham told the court that although her client had committed "serious offences", the media was guilty of hysteria following her conviction.
She said Matthews, who had an IQ of 74, had been ostracised in prison because of how she had been portrayed.
"What sort of mother is Karen Matthews? She may be an inadequate mother but she's a mother who has shown care, consideration and love for her children," Oldham said.
"The one thing she is not is 'pure evil'. She is not Myra Hindley, she is not Rose West."
Oldham also said that Shannon had been interviewed by police for seven hours and she had told detectives that she had contact with other family members while she was at Donovan's flat.
"She spoke of contact during the time she was with Michael Donovan at his flat with other family members," the lawyer said.
"My lord may come to the conclusion that others are involved and did not face the jury," she told the judge.
The judge agreed it was doubtful that Matthews and Donovan could have come up with the plot on their own.
"It is argued for both that they were not of sufficient intelligence to conceive and implement this plan without the involvement of others," he said.
During their trial, Matthews and Donovan blamed each other for the plot. Donovan said the schoolgirl's mother had offered him money and had threatened him into looking after the youngster.
Matthews told the jury she did not know her daughter was at Donovan's flat and that she was shocked when Shannon was found there.