KAREN Matthews is expected to be released from prison today after serving half of an eight year jail term.
The former Dewsbury Moor woman is expected to leave Foston Hall Prison in Derbyshire after being behind bars for her role in the kidnap of her then nine-year-old daughter, Shannon.
Matthews was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2009 and was expected to serve half of that time. Taking into account time served since she charged with the crime on April 8, 2008, and the Easter bank holiday this weekend, Matthews could be eligible to leave prison today. ITV breakfast show Daybreak was reporting from the prison gates this morning and carried interviews from the Moorside Estate with Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell and Dewsbury Moor vicar the Rev Kathy Robertson.
Talking about rumours that Matthews had been given a makeover and was to receive a new identity, Mr Reevell said: “It would be wrong if ordinary decent people who suddenly just lost control because of the extent of this crime found themselves at the wrong end of the law and if we prevent that by moving her away, putting her somewhere else – she shouldn’t benefit from this in that it improves the life she had – but she should be away from here.”
National papers have previously reported that some in Dewsbury Moor had threatened to kill Matthews if she tried to return.
The community rallied round when nine-year-old Shannnon went missing in February 2008, helping with searches in freezing conditions and holding vigils for the schoolgirl.
When Shannon was found almost a month later in the home of a close family friend, many felt betrayed.
This morning Matthews’ friend Vicky Saunders said: “A lot of people would want to hurt her that much because of what she’s done and what she made this estate. What she’s done is wrong, but she doesn’t deserve that.”
Speaking in the Daybreak studio, cousin Susan Howgate said she would refuse to speak to Matthews if she tried to get in touch.
“I’ll never speak to her again,” she said. “I don’t want anything to do with her anymore. She’s ruined our lives.
“We moved away and then we had problems where we moved too. I had some threats because they found out I was related to her.”
Friend Natalie Brown told Daybreak that Matthews confessed to having played a part in the kidnapping in the days after Shannon was found.
She said the confession was made when she questioned Matthews because it ‘didn’t seem to add up’.
“It was like a huge relief,” she said. “I wasn’t wrong in what I was thinking.
“It was over. Everyone can go back to their normal lives.”
While neither of the women has been in contact with Matthews, they have heard about her from those who have made prison visits.
Ms Brown said: “As far as I know Karen still believes she didn’t do anything wrong. At the time, she was saying there were other people involved, but because there’s no evidence it’s never been investigated.”
On Matthews’ rumoured new identity, she added: “She’s going to get noticed wherever she goes. People are going to recognise her. This new life people keep saying she’s going to get, she’s not.”