Shannon Matthews’ best friend has broken her silence today as her feckless mother’s most loyal ally said Karen has ‘lost everything’ and should now be allowed to ‘get on with her life’ despite her heinous plot to abduct her own child for a £50,000 reward.
Megan Aldridge has spoken for the first time to Channel 5 and was visibly emotional as she described her grief at never seeing Shannon again since she was snatched in 2008 and later put into care.
She said: ‘I genuinely hope she is living the life that she wanted now, after everything she’s been through she deserves to be happy’. With tears in her eyes, she told a new two-part documentary on the case: ‘I literally lost my best friend. The only person I wanted to talk to and be around’.
Julie Bushby, who led the community search to find nine-year-old Shannon after she vanished in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, believes that 12 years since the harrowing case it should be ‘put to bed’ for the sake of Karen and her daughter.
She said: ‘Karen made a big mistake. She’s lost everything because of this. She’s now living a lonely life. 12 years after I think everybody should put it to bed now and let Karen get on with her life, let the kids get on with their lives and the estate get on with their lives. And just let it die’.
Matthews repulsed the world after it was revealed that she and her ex-boyfriend’s uncle Michael Donovan plotted to stage Sharon’s kidnapping and claim the £50,000 reward for ‘finding’ her.
Shannon was found 24 days later hidden inside the base of a divan in Donovan’s flat, a mile from Karen’s home, where the little girl had been drugged to keep her quiet and put on an elastic leash to prevent her getting to the front door.
Shannon Matthews’ best friend Megan Aldridge speaks exclusively in the Channel 5 Documentary
Nine-year-old Megan Aldridge, then Shannon Matthews’ best friend, crying at press conference in February 2008 after Shannon disappeared
Mother-of-seven Matthews, 41, left in 2008 and right last year, knew where her daughter was. Today she is living a new life, under a new name and has turned to God
The bed that Shannon was hidden in inside Donovan’s squalid flat. A policeman had tears in his eyes for a new documentary where he described finding her
Missing: Police launched a desperate search in February 2008, after nine-year-old Shannon did not return to her home on the Moorside Estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. She never returned after being put into care after being rescued
The tragic case has been reexamined for a new two-part Channel 5 documentary, The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews, being broadcast on Wednesday night and Thursday night at 9pm.
Megan Aldridge, Shannon’s best friend from school, has spoken for the first time about the case.
She was asked by police to think of places where she could be hiding – but has never seen her again since because Shannon was taken in by social services.
She said: ‘It was upsetting, and it still is, that I’m not ever gonna see her’.
Julie Bushby, who led searches on the Dewsbury estate where Karen lived, felt ‘hurt and conned’ by her friend Karen, who she later visited in jail for answers.
She said: ‘The whole community were let down. We were foolish enough to believe what came out of her mouth and her family’s mouths. As a community I think we should still be proud of ourselves. You’d have to live through it to believe it’.
The tragic case of Shannon Matthews and her feckless mother Karen
19 February 2008 Shannon Matthews is last seen outside her school in Dewsbury
20 February Police announce a massive search for the missing girl
21 February 200 volunteers join the local police search party
1 March Shannon’s mother Karen issues an emotional public appeal for the safe return on her daughter
12 March Reward offered for information leading to Shannon’s whereabouts is increased to £50,000
14 March Shannon is found inside the base of a divan base at the home of Michael Donovan in Batley Carr. Over the next few weeks Donovan, along with Shannon’s mother and stepfather, are all charged for separate offences
23 January 2009 Matthews and Donovan are sentenced to eight years each of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice
April 2012: Matthews is released from prison after serving half her sentence. She was given a new taxpayer-funded identity and home. She is banned from seeing Shannon and her other children, who were put in care.
2020: Mother-of-seven Matthews is revealed to be living a new life, under a new name and has turned to God in southern England
The new two-part documentary begins with Karen’s phone call to police reporting Shannon missing.
It then covers her appeals for information with her then boyfriend Craig Meehan, who would later be arrested and convicted for having child porn on his computer.
And finally as the case unravelled and police found Shannon at Donovan’s home, how detectives realised that her own mother had helped mastermind the plot.
In the documentary Detective Constable Paul Kettlewell went back to Michael Donovan’s flat to retrace the moment he found Shannon hiding under a bed, tied up with a rope and drugged.
DC Kettlewell has tears in his eyes as he describes hearing her voice from the divan base and his relief that she was alive.
He said: ‘I couldn’t believe that I’d found her. We had Shannon and she was alive, I just couldn’t believe it’.
The policeman carried the little girl to his police car, and wrapped her in a jacket because she was shivering, before making another extraordinary discovery.
He said: “I asked her where Mike was”. She said: “He was where I was.” I said: “In the house?” And she said: “Yes. Under the bed”.’
Matthews and her ex-boyfriend’s uncle Michael Donovan were jailed in 2008 for the plot to stage Sharon’s kidnapping and claim the £50,000 reward for ‘finding’ her.
She made a series of tearful TV appeals for help in finding her daughter as West Yorkshire Police launched one of the force’s largest ever searches.
Shannon was eventually found by detectives in Donovan’s flat, around a mile from her home in Dewsbury, 24 days after she disappeared.
Prosecutors said the schoolgirl was drugged and probably kept captive on a leash during her incarceration.
Julie Bushby, who led the community search to find nine-year-old Shannon after she vanished in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, speaks out in the documentary saying the incident should be ‘put to bed’
Matthews (left) and co-conspirator Michael Donovan (right) were both sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2009 and released in 2012 after serving half their sentences
Matthews was pictured looking elated with her former partner Craig Meehan after Shannon was found alive. Meehan was not involved in the kidnapping plot but was later convicted for possessing child pornography
Shannon Matthews was forced to adhere to a strict list of rules, which were signed off with ‘IPU’, which the jury was told stood for ‘I promise you’, a threat Karen used against Shannon
Matthews led from Dewsbury police station before a court appearance over Shannon’s kidnap
Police described Matthews as ‘pure evil’ after she was found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.
Her then-boyfriend, Craig Meehan, was not involved in the kidnapping plot.
However, he was separately convicted of possessing 49 indecent images of children on a home computer.
She and Donovan were both sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2009 and released in 2012 after serving half their sentences.
Shannon was raised by a new family under a new identity and is now an adult.
Matthews no longer has any contact with Shannon or her other children.
Shannon Matthews was drugged and kept on a leash as her greedy mother tried to get her hands on the £50,000 reward money
Shannon Matthews was freed by police and allowed to start a new life away from her dysfunctional home.
The schoolgirl was not physically harmed during her time in Donovan’s flat, although she was fed sleeping pills to sedate her.
When police smashed their way into Lidgate Gardens after a tip-off, they discovered a long strap knotted to a roof beam at one end of the flat with a large loop dangling at the other.
The strap which was knotted to a roof beam and used to restrain Shannon
This was used to restrain Shannon during more than three weeks of captivity.
Jurors in her mother’s trial were told that, at full stretch, the elasticated strap would have allowed the then nine-year-old limited movement around some of the rooms, but was not long enough for her to reach the front door.
Life for Shannon in her makeshift prison was also governed by a set of rules scribbled on a sheet of paper, which police found on top of a television set.
The note banned her from going near windows, making any noise or banging her feet.
Several words were underlined to stress their importance. She was, however, allowed to play her Super Mario computer games and her music CDs.