HUNCHED over, his voice barely audible, Michael Donovan cut a sorry figure on the witness stand at Leeds Crown Court.
His own QC, Alan Conrad, had called him a “pathetic inadequate” who was “vulnerable, unsophisticated and weak in body and mind”.
He was also, said detectives, “an accomplished actor and liar”.
Donovan it was who, with Karen Matthews, kidnapped and imprisoned Matthews’ daughter, Shannon, in the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, nine years ago.
The callous mother-daughter betrayal, and the general can of worms opened up by the police investigation, cast Dewsbury as the very manifestation of what had gone wrong with working-class Britain at the turn of the 21st century.
The cruel confidence trick perpetrated on the nation, so soon after the all-too-real disappearance of Madeleine McCann, seized the popular consciousness, as it has all over again, with the unhappy conclusion of BBC1’s dramatised version of the Shannon Matthew case.
Here, in archive web stories and pages from The Yorkshire Post in 2009, is how the real drama unfolded...