Nine-year-old Shannon Matthews disappeared after a swimming trip with her school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, on 19 February 2008. Her mother, Karen Matthews, reported her missing after she failed to return home as expected. Police announced that they have started a massive search involving more than 200 officers as concern grew for the missing girl. Her mother made a plea for her return and posters featuring Shannon's picture were put up around the neighbourhood. A day later nearly 200 volunteers joined police in their hunt for Shannon. Over the course of the next few days Karen Matthews issued an emotional public appeal for Shannon's return on the eve of Mother's Day.
The operation, involved 250 police officers costing over £3.2m became one of the most high profile missing person's inquiries ever seen in Britain and received intense media coverage by the British and international press.
Twenty-four days after her disappearance Shannon was found alive under a bed in a house owned by Michael Donovan, the uncle of Karen Matthews's partner, less than a mile from her home. She had been drugged and tethered in the flat where she was found. It eventually emerged she had been kidnapped by her own mother and that the pair plotted to claim the £50,000 reward money put up by the press for the youngster's return. Shannon is one of Karen’s seven children by five different fathers. Shannon was chosen because she was a girl and she was more photogenic, maximising the financial reward. Karen Matthews and Michael Donocan were later convicted for their involvement in the kidnapping, false imprisonment, and perverting the course of justice.
Following from that, Shannon was given a court-appointed new identity and welcomed into a new family. Now, that little girl, whose face was seen in newspapers and TV, due to her mother's lies, is an 18-year-old woman.
In February 2017, The BBC released, without Shannon’s consent, a drama called ‘The Moorside’ based on this case. The programme focuses on Matthews’ friend Julie Bushby, who orchestrated the hunt for Shannon. The BBC, defending the programme stated that “This drama is not focused on Shannon Matthews herself. Her abduction is not portrayed, nor are her experiences during the time she was missing. The drama tells the story of the women who led the campaign to find her.”
Shannon’s grandparents who have not seen her since she was placed with a new family made a public statement saying: “What happened to her was a trauma, a tragedy. It is sick and disgusting that it is being turned into a TV show. It isn’t entertainment. It’s real life and it hasn’t even been 10 years since it happened”.
“If she sees it, Shannon is old enough now to understand that it is about her. She will know it is about the terrible things that happened to her. How is that fair? “It will upset her. They shouldn’t be dragging up the past and what happened. It should be left in the past”.