Shannon's mother quizzed in abduction probe

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The Independent Online

The mother of Shannon Matthews is being questioned today in connection with the alleged kidnap of her daughter, sources confirmed.

Karen Matthews, 32, was arrested in Dewsbury last night on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and was being questioned at a West Yorkshire police station.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Police investigating the alleged abduction of a nine-year-old girl have arrested a 32-year-old woman in Dewsbury on suspicion of perverting the course of justice."

The spokesman said no further details concerning the woman's arrest were expected to be released until later today.

The arrest comes as it was reported that Michael Donovan, who has been charged with Shannon's kidnap and imprisonment, cut his wrists while on remand at Leeds Prison.

Donovan, formerly known as Paul Drake, of Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, was arrested on 14 March after Shannon was found at his flat. The 39-year-old is the uncle of Shannon's stepfather, Craig Meehan, 22.

He was in custody at the time awaiting trial, provisionally set for November at Leeds Crown Court. The incident reportedly happened on Saturday night and he was taken to hospital before being returned to prison.

A Prison Service spokesman would not confirm the details of the incident last night but said: "A prisoner from Leeds was taken to outside hospital overnight following a case of serious self-harm.

"Staff responded to the incident promptly and with great professionalism and the prisoner has now been returned to HMP Leeds."

Shannon was reported missing in Dewsbury on 19 February and was discovered in the base of a bed at an address just one mile from her home, after a dramatic 24-day police search.

West Yorkshire Police mounted a huge investigation involving hundreds of officers and a team of 60 detectives in an attempt to find her.

Karen Matthews is the latest person to be questioned in relation to the alleged abduction.

Meehan has appeared at Dewsbury Magistrates' Court charged with 11 counts of possessing indecent images of children.

He was remanded in custody to appear again before the same court on Friday.

Meehan's sister, Amanda Hyett, 25, who lives next door to Shannon's mother in Moorside Road, and his mother, Alice Meehan, 49, were both arrested in connection with the alleged abduction.

The women were arrested on Thursday, the 25-year-old on suspicion of assisting an offender, and the 49-year-old on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The pair were granted bail the following day pending further inquiries.

This morning, two uniformed police officers stood on guard at the gate of Mrs Matthews' home on Moorside Road.

Plain-clothes detectives visited the house next door - belonging to Craig Meehan's sister and brother-in-law Amanda and Neil Hyett - and emerged a short time later carrying a computer in a clear plastic bag.

A few doors away, Mrs Matthews' cousin, Vicky Saunders, said the latest arrest had shocked the community.

Care-home worker Ms Saunders said she heard the news at 4am after she had finished working a night shift. It is understood that Mrs Matthews was arrested last night.

Ms Saunders said: "I was just shocked. I can't believe it myself."

"I was with Karen when Shannon first went missing, I went and helped, she was in a state."

Ms Saunders described Mrs Matthews as a good mother.

"She loves all her kids no matter what. It's just upsetting," she said.

She added that the community spirit on the estate was still as strong as ever.

"We're all sticking together like we did when she went missing. Everybody is just all shocked and can't believe it. I'm still there for all the family and the kids," she said.

"She knows I'm always here for her, being a cousin of hers."

She continued: "Unless anyone's been charged or proven I'm still sticking by everybody. We're still all friends on this street."

Speaking outside her home, Petra Jamieson, 30, a friend and neighbour of Mrs Matthews, said she would support her "100%".

She said: "She's my friend and all the support we have given her, I'll continue that support."

She added: "She's my best friend, I'm not going to let her down now when she needs a friend the most.

"I've been there from the start and I'll be there until the end."

Ms Jamieson said Mrs Matthews' arrest had left the community feeling confused.

"Everyone's feeling probably exactly the same, crushed, all the news that's come out since Wednesday, everyone's had mixed emotions," she said.

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster, not just for me, but for everyone, especially the kids."

She continued: "We're all parents on this estate so we feel exactly the same. It just keeps getting worse and worse and worse, a nightmare, it just doesn't seem to be ending."