Karen Matthews, who hit the headlines in 2008 when her then 9-year-old daughter Shannon disappeared, has spoken out for the first time since the scandal.

The 43-year-old was found guilty of kidnapping and imprisoning her own daughter, alongside co-conspirator Michael Donovan.

But after having served four years in jail, she maintains in her first interview, with The Mirror, since Shannon’s ordeal, that she is completely innocent.

She also defended herself against her critics, stating she doesn’t deserve the ‘abuse’ she gets. Karen said, “I’m not Britain’s worst mum. I didn’t kill anybody. Baby P’s mum and Maxine Carr don’t get the abuse that I do.”

She continued, claiming that she didn’t set up the kidnap plot in order to claim the £50,000 reward money for finding Shannon. Karen said, “None of it’s true. I’m on the edge. It makes me want to kill myself but I’d never do that. I’m scared I’ll die lonely and alone.”

“From the start I didn’t know where she was. Others were involved. I didn’t have a clue.

“You can’t kidnap your own child. I know the truth and I wasn’t involved in it. I still have nightmares thinking that it’s all going to happen again.”

At the time, Karen and her boyfriend Craig Meehan appeared to be as shocked as the rest of the world, when Shannon was kidnapped from her home in Dewsbury, Yorkshire.

The pair joined the local community and the police in searching for Shannon. But she was found 24 days later on 14th March, drugged and hidden in the base of a bed in Michael Donovans flat, nearby in Batley Carr.

(A 3D computer image showing how Michael Donovan hid with Shannon in the base of a bed when police turned up at his house)

During the interview, Karen also claimed that she had been assaulted in prison, after her fellow inmates found out she was there.

Since her release from prison, rumours had flown that Karen Matthews was involved with various different man. She maintains that the speculation is now true.

“I’ve sworn off men. I will never get married. I don’t trust them at all. I’m trying to get my life back on track and everything that is being said is not true.”

Karen has since relocated from Yorkshire to a town in the South of England, where she currently hold a volunteer role in a Christian charity shop.

She revealed, “I am really proud of getting a job. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved ­something for myself. I feel I’m not being judged when I’m there. I love my job and I love going in every time.”