Karen Matthews 'released from prison'

 

A mother jailed for eight years for what a judge described as a "truly despicable" plot to abduct her nine-year-old daughter is thought to have been released from prison.

Karen Matthews, then 33, was sent to Foston Hall prison near Derby after being jailed in January 2009 for the kidnap of her daughter Shannon.

But she is believed to have been released from prison after serving half her sentence, including almost 10 months on remand.

There was no official confirmation of her release today, but Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, said Matthews will be on licence for the remainder of her sentence.

She will also be banned from returning to the area of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where she lived, Mr Fletcher said.

He added that the conditions of Matthews's release also ban her from associating with Michael Donovan, in whose flat the youngster was found. Donovan was also jailed for eight years and has already been released.

Mr Fletcher added: "Because of her notoriety, special measures will be taken to protect her from threats and from getting involved in any further offending."

Matthews will also have to report to probation, live at an approved address, stay in the UK, and be of good behaviour, he said.

As the media gathered outside Foston Hall, inmates at the closed women's prison which can hold up to 310 offenders shouted from their cell windows that Matthews had been released.

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008.

After a massive police operation, she was discovered 24 days later at her stepfather's uncle's home, less than a mile away.

Dewsbury Moor vicar, the Rev Kathy Robertson, said today: "I think the people of Dewsbury Moor just want to move on and just continue with their own lives.

"There's still a lot of hurt among some people there but they are a strong, robust community.

"You just have to look at how everyone came together to look for Shannon. It showed what a strong community spirit there is."

But Matthews wants to take part in a lie detector test on ITV's Jeremy Kyle show as she continues to protest her innocence, her cousin Susan Howgate said.

"She wants to do this lie detector and go on Jeremy Kyle," Ms Howgate told ITV's Daybreak.

"Well, why doesn't she just do it?"

She added that Matthews had "ruined" the lives of the family.

"She's dyed her hair but her face is still going to be the same. People are going to recognise her wherever she goes," Ms Howgate said.

"If she gets in touch with me, I'll never speak to her again. I don't want anything to do with her.

"She's ruined our lives and for the rest of the family. If I ever see her in the street, I'll never speak to her."

Matthews's former friend Natalie Brown also told the programme: "Karen still believes she didn't do anything wrong. She wants to do a lie detector test to prove there were other people involved in this."

She went on: "At the time I felt angry, betrayed, a mix of emotions. I felt angry for what she had put everyone through on the estate. I felt betrayed that, being a friend, she didn't feel she could come and talk to me, even though I'd asked her numerous times if she needed to confess to anything.

"I've moved on with my own life. If she comes out, I couldn't care.

"She's going to be noticed wherever she goes. People are going to recognise her in the street. This new life people are saying she's going to have - she's not."

Shannon was found in Donovan's flat in Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, in the base of a divan bed.

The youngster had been drugged and forced to adhere to a strict list of rules while held captive.

Prosecutors said Donovan kept Shannon imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

The trial judge said it was doubtful Matthews and Donovan, who both have a low IQ, could have planned and carried out the kidnap without other people.

The court was told the ordeal has left Shannon "disturbed and traumatised" and suffering from nightmares.

The officer who led the inquiry, Det Supt Andy Brennan, said at the time of her conviction, Matthews had "totally betrayed" her daughter and condemned her as "pure evil".

Craig Meehan - Matthews's partner and Donovan's nephew - was later jailed for possessing child abuse images on his computer.

In 2010, a serious case review into Shannon's case concluded her abduction could not have been foreseen by social services and other agencies involved with her family.

PA