Prayers for safe return of Shannon

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Police in West Yorkshire searching for the missing nine-year-old Shannon Matthews said last night they were trying to "build up a clearer picture" of the schoolgirl.

Yesterday's police operation focused on areas near her home and involved house-to-house inquiries.

Shannon, from Dewsbury Moor, failed to return home after leaving West Moor Junior School at 3.10pm on Tuesday following a swimming lesson.

A spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said their inquiries formed an "important part of the investigation to build up a clearer picture of Shannon and her lifestyle". Chief Superintendent Barry South, who is leading the inquiry, said they remained "gravely concerned" about her welfare.

Earlier, the congregation at the local parish church of St James, Heckmondwike, began their Sunday service with prayers for Shannon's safe return. Worried relatives and neighbours, some wearing T-shirts with Shannon's picture, filled the local residents' association hall.

The police search has involved 250 officers and dozens of local people. Police have received more than 300 calls and have searched more than 200 homes within a half-mile radius of her home.