Community deserves credit in helping crack Shannon Matthews case

Richard Edwards.
Richard Edwards.
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A journalist who spent a year covering the Shannon Matthews case hopes the Dewsbury Moor community will finally get the recognition they deserve when a new TV drama airs next week.

The BBC two-parter will tell the incredible story of the hoax kidnapping of the nine-year-old in 2008 which eventually led to her mother, Karen Matthews, being jailed.

Called The Moorside, it stars Gavin & Stacey actress Sheridan Smith as Julie Bushby - the leader of the community search team which set out to find Shannon.

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The world was left shocked when it was revealed Shannon’s mother had staged the kidnapping in order to generate money from the publicity.

But for former Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Richard Edwards, who was the first journalist on the scene and was given unique access to both Shannon’s family and the community, he hopes it will focus on the efforts of the community.

He said: “I’ve seen the trailer and it looks very good, and looks incredibly accurate.

“The mannerisms of the people playing those on the estate are absolutely spot on, it’s uncanny.

“The important thing for me is that is tells the story of the people on the estate, people like Julie Bushby, and the incredible effort they put in to find Shannon.

“It’s never really been told before but it was them, essentially, who cracked the case, they saw the real Karen Matthews.

“Julie is a good friend of mine and I’m pleased her great story will be told.”

Shannon was reported missing in February 2008 and the campaign for her safe return became national news.

Her mother Karen even went on national news with a tearful appeal as a reward for £50,000 was even put up by a national newspaper.

A sedated Shannon was found 24 days later less than a mile away at the house of the Matthews family friend, Michael Donovan.

But by that time suspicions behind the kidnapping had been raised and both Donovan and Karen Matthews were arrested.

They each eventually received eight years in jail.

The shocking twist generated world-wide publicity, and even led to Richard publishing a book about experiences covering the case - ‘Finding Shannon’.

Richard, who now works for BBC Radio Leeds, said: “It’s hard to believe it happened, even now.

“Because I was caught up in the middle of it, sometimes I just need reminding.

“It was just bewildering and an absolutely extraordinary event. I’m really looking to watching it.”

The first part of The Moorside will air next Tuesday, February 7 at 9pm, on BBC 1 with the conclusion screened the following week.

BAFTA-winner Sheridan Smith takes the lead role of Julie Bushby, supported by Sian Brooke from BBC’s drama Sherlock.

Karen Matthews is played by Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan.

It will be told from the perspective of the friends of Karen Matthews.

It is written by Neil McKay, who has also penned gritty dramas about killer Fred West, and the Moors Murders, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

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