Mother went shopping on night Shannon disappeared

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The Independent Online

The mother of Shannon Matthews told a jury today she went shopping at a supermarket on the night her daughter went missing.

Karen Matthews, 33, was giving evidence for a second day at Leeds Crown Court, where she is accused of kidnapping her daughter with her co-defendant Michael Donovan.

The court heard that Matthews has told five different versions of what happened to Shannon since the girl went missing from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February.

In cross-examination by Alan Conrad QC, for Donovan, Matthews confirmed she went to help buy a satellite navigation system and to a local supermarket on the evening of February 19.

She said it was her partner's sister Amanda Hyett's idea to go shopping for the satnav for her husband Neil.

Mr Conrad said to Matthews: "What were you doing going to find a satnav for Neil that night Shannon was missing?"

She said: "At the time Amanda told me it might be a good idea to go there and see if I could see anything of Shannon."

When asked about going to the supermarket to buy beer and other goods, Matthews said she did not buy beer but bought "things that I needed".

Mr Conrad said to her: "While your little girl's missing?"

She answered: "I needed to buy some food for the other kids as well."

Matthews and Donovan, 40, both deny charges of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

The court has heard that Shannon, who was nine at the time, was found in Donovan's flat 24 days after she went missing from her home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

The prosecution allege that Donovan kept her drugged and imprisoned in his flat as part of a plan he and Matthews had to claim £50,000 in reward money.

Prosecutor Julian Goose QC told the jury that Matthews had repeatedly changed her story since the night Shannon went missing.

Mr Goose repeatedly asked Matthews why she was crying as she sobbed throughout giving her evidence.

At one point, she replied: "Because I'm getting blamed for something I haven't done."

Mr Justice McCombe frequently had to prompt Matthews to answer the questions being put to her during long, tearful pauses during her cross-examination.

Mr Goose put it to her that when she was in a car with two friends and Detective Constable Christine Freeman on April 6, she agreed with a theory put forward by her friend Natalie Brown that she had asked Donovan to take Shannon.

But Matthews told the jury she did not admit to anything.

The prosecutor also told the court that Matthews changed her story during one police interview, from saying she didn't know where Shannon was to saying: "I did ask him to take Shannon for a while."

The prosecutor said: "They can't both be true."

He continued: "One of these things is obviously a lie."

Matthews told the court she was "confused" about what she was saying during her police interviews.

The court has heard that Matthews also told police Amanda Hyett was "the person involved" and later told custody officers at Dewsbury Magistrates' Court that Mr Meehan and members of his family had arranged the plan and she was told to take the blame because she did not have a criminal record.

Mr Goose said: "I suggest to you, Miss Matthews, that if you were the truthful victim of your daughter being taken away without your knowledge there's only one version, isn't there?"

He continued: "And you come back now to saying 'I didn't know what was going on, it was everyone else'."

Mr Goose said: "You reported her missing, you gave every impression of being a concerned and honest mother who was beside herself at the missing daughter she loved so much. That was you, wasn't it?"

Matthews replied: "Yes."

Mr Goose continued: "And that's the account you're trying to come back to now, isn't it?"

Referring to television footage taken of Matthews and Mr Meehan together during the time Shannon was missing, Mr Goose said Matthews had described Mr Meehan as her "rock" and told how they "cried each other to sleep and held each other at night".

Mr Goose said: "Is that the man you are saying has made you do all these things?"

Matthews replied: "Yes."

Matthews said she did not know why traces of the drugs Temazepam and Melcozine had been found in Shannon's system.

She said it was a "coincidence" that Shannon was shown to have taken the drugs while living with Matthews and during the time she was at Donovan's flat.

The jury was also told that a delivery driver overheard Alice Meehan, Mr Meehan's mother, talking on the phone on the day Shannon was found.

Mark Goode said he was delivering a bed to Moorside Place on March 14 and heard Mrs Meehan say: "Don't say nowt, just keep your mouth shut, they'll never, ever find out."

He said: "Who she was speaking to, I don't know."

Mr Goode said Mrs Meehan appeared to be "panicking".

The trial was adjourned until Monday afternoon.