Shannon's mother 'said plan went wrong'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Shannon Matthews's mother told shocked friends that she reported her daughter missing when a plan to leave her partner to go and live with her co-accused went wrong, a court heard today.

Her neighbour Natalie Brown told Leeds Crown Court that Matthews, 33, made the admission in a car with a police officer present on 6 April - three weeks after her daughter was found following a huge police hunt.

Mrs Brown said Matthews was in tears and shaking when she said she had been planning to leave her partner Craig Meehan but everything went wrong.

She said the police officer - Detective Constable Christine Freeman - immediately stopped the car and told Matthews she would be arrested on suspicion of abduction.

Matthews and her co-accused Michael Donovan, 40, both deny kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Mrs Brown told the court: "She said that she was planning to leave Craig, that she's planned to take the children with her but, because Shannon had not turned up on the end of the road, she had to back-track and go home where Craig was waiting."

She went on: "She was in floods of tears, shaking, really scared."

Mrs Brown said Matthews stated she "couldn't go in a cell" and "started babbling".

Julian Goose QC, prosecuting, said Matthews told her friends that she had arranged with Donovan to have Shannon for a couple of days to "keep her safe" while she and Mr Meehan sorted out their problems.

Mrs Brown told the court Matthews then told her and their friend, Julie Bushby, that she did not abduct her own daughter.

In cross-examination, Alan Conrad QC, for Donovan, said Mrs Brown was annoyed with Matthews because she was "constantly changing her story" and was "contradicting herself".

Mr Conrad said Mrs Brown told Matthews in the car: "I don't believe you, you're hiding something from me."

The barrister said: "Did she say this, 'I've never had an affair with Mick' but she claimed Mick had offered her a place to stay if she was considering leaving Craig?"

Mrs Brown agreed Matthews had said this.

The witness then agreed that Matthews began to back-track about her story and claimed that Mr Meehan and his mother, Alice Meehan, had made the arrangement for Donovan to look after Shannon.

Mrs Brown told the court that Ms Freeman arrested Matthews at this point and took her to the police station.

She said Matthews told them: "People will hate me for what I've done and I've disgraced the kids."

The other neighbour in the car, Julie Bushby, also told the court about Matthews' admissions and arrest.

She told the jury: "Natalie put to her that she had packed her bags, wanted to leave Craig and then she's lost her bottle. She'd asked Donovan to help her move.

"She just said 'yes, that's what happened'.

"She just sort of panicked. Then she said 'what's going to happen to me now, I can't stand being in a cell."

Pressed on what, exactly, Matthews' response was to Mrs Brown's questions in the car, Mrs Bushby said: "She said she'd packed her bags ready to leave him and couldn't go through with it."

She told the court how Matthews started "babbling".

"She was crying, sobbing really," she told the court.

"She was just saying 'it wasn't me, it was Craig'.

"She was blaming everybody else but herself."

Mrs Bushby went on: "The FLO (family liaison officer) felt she had to arrest her with her going on. It was down at the traffic lights."

She added: "She was just babbling on."

Mrs Bushby said: "She claimed she wasn't involved in the abduction. She said I asked Mike to have Shannon for a couple of days 'til she'd got the strength to leave Craig."