Karen Matthews, the woman who staged the abduction of her own daughter in a bid to claim reward money, has lashed out at Kate and Gerry McCann.

In a bizarre rant, she told friend Julie Bushby: “I’ve been judged and I’m paying for it but Maddie’s mother was bad too. At least my daughter was never left alone!

“She left one, two, three babies alone while she was out eating and drinking with her mates. My Shannon was kept away from her family but she was never left alone.”

Madeleine McCann disappeared when she was three from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia de Luz, Portugal, while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas bar.

This was in May 2007, only a year before Karen Matthews faked her daughter’s kidnapping, keeping her drugged and hidden in the base of a divan bed. The huge public response to the McCann case is thought to have been the inspiration for the staged abduction of Shannon Matthews.

Detective Supt. Andy Brennan of the West Yorkshire Police said, “Madeleine McCann gave them the idea – the fund money. Clearly the McCann case was still in everybody’s mind.

“She was a dreadful mum”

Karen said to Bushby: “Don’t get me onto the McCanns, we’ve all got something to say about them.”

She criticised Kate McCann’s parenting and claimed that she was the victim of a double standard:

“We’re too lower class for them but we can still have an opinion. There seems to be one rule for them and another for us but she was a dreadful mum.

Bushby told Mail Online: “Karen talked about Maddie and her family, the difference and unfairness of their social situations.

“She’s never understood why British and Portuguese police haven’t taken it any further and asks in her simple almost child-like state if it’s because “they’re rich and posh and she’s poor and common.”


Viewers were completely captivated by last month’s BBC drama, The Moorside, which dramatised the 2008 hoax kidnapping of 9-year-old Shannon Matthews. The show brought the now infamous case, back into the public mind and questioned whether it had really been resolved.

Last night’s Channel 5 documentary, Shannon Matthews: What Happened Next, examined whether or not the case should be reopened. Many questions still appear to have been left unanswered, and it is believed that other people could have been involved in the plot.

What ever happened to Shannon Matthews?

Shannon Matthews was just 9 years old at the time of the staged abduction. Her mother, Karen Matthews, conspired with her then boyfriend’s uncle, Michael Donovan, to stage the kidnapping. Allegedly the hoax was an effort to claim the reward money from the search for Shannon.

Karen reported that Shannon was missing on the 19 February 2008. Within 24 hours a full-scale search operation, with over 200 West Yorkshire Police officers and hundreds of local volunteers, was in action.

24 days later, Shannon Matthews was found. She was discovered alive, hidden in the base of a divan bed. She had been kept in a house occupied by Michael Donovan in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire.

The initial celebrations that Shannon had been found alive quickly died down after her mother, Karen was placed under arrest for her part in the abduction.

Julie Bushby and Natalie Brown, friends of Karen, both of whom feature as characters in The Moorside, describe how they felt that something was off with Karen’s changing story.

Bushby said: “Her story changed. I kept a diary when I went to visit, and I were comparing what she’d told me that last visit, to this visit.’

‘There was just nothing that I could connect.”

Natalie describes how, “when the truth came out I was angry, frustrated and confused.”


In January 2009, Matthews and Donovan were sentenced to eight years in prison. Both parties were charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice, and found guilty in December 2008.

Judge, Mr Justice McCombe told the pair:

“The offences you committed were truly despicable. It is impossible to conceive how you could have put this young girl through the ordeal that you inflicted upon her.”

It is thought that Shannon was tied up to restrict her movements during the abduction. And the court heard evidence from a forensic toxicologist that Shannon had been ingesting temazepam and travel sickness medication for a prolonged period. This suggests she was kept drugged.

Detective Supt. Andy Brennan labelled Matthews as “pure evil” for the suffering she conspired to inflict upon her own child:

“Karen Matthews is pure evil. It’s difficult to understand what type of mother would subject her own daughter to such a wicked and evil crime,” he said in December 2008.

‘I wish I could get to see her’ – Shannon Matthews best friend breaks silence with heartfelt plea


Karen, dubbed “The Worst Mum in Britain” only served half of her eight-year sentence. She is now living in a new home and has reportedly become a Christian. Michael Donovan was also released after serving just half of his sentence. Little is currently known about him and his whereabouts.

Her then boyfriend, Craig Meehan, although apparently not complicit in the kidnap hoax, was later found to be in possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison. Although the child pornography was not thought to be related to the Shannon Matthews case, Meehan went into hiding following the charges.

Despite speculation whether Donovan and Matthews had the intelligence to organise the staged abduction, no other suspects have been found.

Bushby made the comment: “I think there were others involved. Others have got to be involved, because like I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, Karen didn’t have the intelligence, and Donovan, from what the cops have said, he didn’t have the intelligence.”

She also doubts whether the reward money was the motivation behind the crime.

Some call for the case to be reopened in response to these speculations.


Following the trauma of this experience, Shannon Matthews was taken into care and given a new identity and family.

A special order prevents anyone from contacting Shannon, but we do know that she is now 18 years old.

Her grandparents June and Gordon Matthews are not in contact with Shannon but have been shown pictures of their granddaughter by social workers and described her as “beautiful.”

“My one wish is that, when she is old enough to understand what happened properly, she will come and knock on that door,” Gordon recently told The Mail. “But I fear it will be too late and I won’t be here to see her. I will be up there in heaven, looking down on her.”

Words: Annie Simon

See inside the Matthews’ home here….

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