Over two years ago I wrote about the tragic case of Shannon Matthews, an adorable nine-year-old girl from England who disappeared in February 2008. After an extensive, hugely publicized search which cost 3.2 million pounds, she was found almost a month after her abduction, alive if not well. She’d been drugged with sleeping pills, tied up and hidden under a bed in her mother’s boyfriend’s uncle’s house. It’s a lot like the Shannon Dedrick case, actually. They even have the same first name!
It turned out that Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, and Karen’s boyfriend’s uncle, Michael Donovan, had staged the kidnapping with the plan to “find” Shannon and collect the anticipated huge reward for her recovery! It doesn’t look like Karen’s live-in boyfriend, Craig Meehan, was in on the plot, but the investigation revealed he had child porn on his computer. What a lovely family! Rose Martin, a journalist, wrote a book about the case called Shannon: Betrayed from Birth, which I haven’t read yet but intend to.
Michael Donovan and Karen Matthews were both convicted of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. They both got sentenced to eight years in prison. Not nearly enough, but the UK mostly gives out lighter sentences than the US. I think in the US they might have gotten life, or at least a couple of decades.
Anyway, according to The Daily Express, The Scottish Daily Record, The Mirror and The Daily Mail, Karen is getting early release, having served less than half her sentence. She’s supposed to get out of prison in April, or maybe even before then.
The newspapers (all of the tabloids, so I’m not sure how much they can be trusted) claim she has a pen pal boyfriend from Cyprus and she wants to move there, where people will be less likely to recognize her and throw rocks at her. Of course, she’ll be on parole or whatever and won’t be allowed to move abroad right away, but it could happen eventually. If Cyprus (or any other country) accepts her. I don’t know if any country would be willing to accept an immigrant with Karen’s notoriety and criminal history. A lot of places won’t even let you in as a tourist if you have a serious criminal record.
Shannon is now twelve years old. I hope she is living with kind caregivers who love her. I hope she’s being provided with the long-term psychological/psychiatric help she must need as a result of this horrific experience. (I hope also that maybe, due to the sleeping pills, she doesn’t remember much of it.) Not just being kidnapped and kept under a bed for almost a month, but the betrayal, the ultimate betrayal — the fact that this was instigated by her mother.
I really don’t see why any attempt should be made to reconcile mother and daughter, although child protective services usually tries. Karen has seven children in all; four of them were living with her at the time of her arrest. No word on what happened to any of them, or if she’s lost her parental rights or what. She does not deserve to be called “mother” (I have read somewhere where women like her were referred to as “egg hatcheries”) and she does not deserve to be free in Cyprus or England or anywhere else — she ought to be behind bars for a lot longer than this.
Oh, and she ought to be sterilized.