On 19 February 2008, Shannon Matthews disappeared while making her way home from a school swimming trip. The 999 call made by her mother, Karen, alerted the police to the nine-year-old's disappearance and sparked a massive search across the north of England. The story dominated newspaper headlines and television news for the weeks that followed and there was even an offer of a GBP50,000 reward for the person who found Shannon. 24 days later, Shannon was found, concealed in the base of a divan bed in a flat about a mile away from her home in West Yorkshire. The truth that unfolded over the subsequent weeks horrified the public, who had sympathised with the seemingly striken mother and even helped in the search for Shannon. It transpired that the abduction of the innocent girl had been a wicked plan dreamed up by her own mother in league with an accomplice, her stepfather's uncle, Michael Donovan. Donovan lured Shannon into his car with the promise of a trip to the fair. For almost three weeks, she was kept hidden in his home and given temazepam and travel sickness tables to subdue her.
While Shannon suffered, her captors came up with a plan to release her in Dewsbury Market, and for Donovan to find her and claim the reward money. Shannon was finally discovered when neighbours told police that they had heard a child's footsteps coming from Donovan's flat.