Bradford

Neighbours' neglect fears over Shannon Matthews

When nine-year-old Shannon Matthews vanished after a swimming trip with her school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, her mother pleaded hysterically for her "beautiful, princess" daughter's safe return.

A huge police operation was mounted and three weeks after her disappearance in February 2008, the youngster was found hidden in the base of a divan bed in a flat in Batley Carr.

She was being held by her stepfather's uncle, Michael Donovan.

The subsequent arrest of Donovan and the child's mother Karen Matthews led to one of the most notorious cases of child abuse.

In court it emerged the pair had planned the kidnap in order to claim a £50,000 reward being offered by a national newspaper.

The schoolgirl had been "drugged, subdued and hidden from public view".

Matthews, then 33, was convicted in December 2008 and jailed for eight years for her part in the kidnapping.

At-risk register

Donovan, who was aged 40 at the time, was given the same prison sentence.

After the trial it emerged the abuse and neglect of Shannon started long before she went missing.

Image caption Shannon was found in Donovan's flat hidden in the base of a bed

The BBC's Panorama programme learnt the youngster was well known to Kirklees social services and had been put on the "at-risk" register years before she disappeared.

The programme claimed she was later removed from the register because she was not considered to be at risk of significant harm.

Former neighbours said they had raised concerns about the family with social services but nothing appeared to be done.

Matthews' cousin Vicky Saunders, who contacted the authority on two separate occasions, said: "To me I feel let down with it."

She added: "They could have done more to help Karen but they weren't there for her."

Claire Wilson, a former neighbour when Matthews lived at Batley Carr, said: "We just kept reporting it but nothing seemed to be getting done.

"We were saying that something's going to happen to those children. How can you leave them in those conditions because the house was filthy, it stank."

Now 17 months after the investigation was first launched, Kirklees Council has published a long-awaited report looking at whether the kidnap could have been prevented.

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