Last Updated: 11:04pm GMT 17/03/2008
A 39-year-old man has been charged with kidnapping and falsely imprisoning schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
Karen Matthews only got glimpse of Shannon
Shannon's complex family tree held up police
Michael Donovan, a former computer programmer who now lives on disability benefits, will appear in Dewsbury Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning charged with snatching the nine-year-old on February 19.
Mick Donovan is led away from Halifax magistrates’ court
Mr Donovan, formerly known as Paul Drake, is an uncle of Shannon's stepfather Craig Meehan.
Peter Mann, Head of CPS West and North Yorkshire Complex Case Unit, said: "Having carefully considered all of the material supplied by West Yorkshire Police, we have made the decision that there is sufficient evidence and have authorised that Michael Donovan be charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment.
"We will continue to keep this case under constant review as it develops."
It has also emerged that Shannon was kept unaware of the massive search for her as she was held captive in a dingy flat for 24 days.
Although there was a television in the premises, the nine-year-old was prevented from watching news programmes.
A senior police source told The Daily Telegraph: "We believe she was kept totally incommunicado. There was a TV in there, but we suspect she wasn't allowed to watch any news."
The source also disclosed how police had feared Shannon could have been in imminent danger before officers broke down the door and found her hidden in the base of a divan bed on Friday.
The disclosures came as Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire police, hit back at those criticising his force over claims that officers ignored leads regarding Shannon's whereabouts. He described them as "fantasists".
Instead he singled out for praise the two officers who found her, said he was "immensely satisfied and immensely proud" of his investigative team and dismissed accusations of a lack of professionalism.
Shannon remained in police care as two female detectives gently tried to coax more information from her about her ordeal.
Sir Norman said the three-week long investigation involved searching 3,000 houses and interviewing 6,000 people, mostly within a mile radius of Dewsbury Moor, West Yorks.
He said officers had received 2,000 calls from the public "with just a hook in there about a weirdo, paedophile, living at X or living at Y".
Shannon Matthews’s mother Karen returns home yesterday
He said the "painstaking investigation" to find Shannon reached its conclusion when "the jigsaw pieces came together" last Thursday, throwing up the address of Michael Donovan, Shannon's stepfather's uncle.
Two officers, Det Cons Paul Kettlewell and Nick Townsend, both members of the force's homicide and major inquiry team, visited his house in Batley Carr, Dewsbury, a mile from Shannon's house, but there was no reply.
They began questioning neighbours who told them for the first time they had heard child's footsteps in the flat and, keeping it under surveillance, asked for back-up before smashing the door in.
Sir Norman rounded on critics who claim police were given Mr Donovan's name early in the investigation and ignored it.
He said: "People who might have said, that have been quoted as having given the police the whole jigsaw, the box lid, are fantasising."
He said Shannon was "safe and well and in the place where she is the safest at the moment". She is being questioned in a child-friendly interview suite and questions are being kept to a maximum of two hours a day.
Her mother, Karen, 32, who has only been able to glimpse her through a one-way mirror, said: "I can't wait to have my daughter back."
She said that when she saw Shannon she was in "scraggy clothes" and her hair had not been brushed.
She said: "It was very hard not to be able to talk to her. When I first saw Shannon again I was overwhelmed - I just couldn't stop crying."
Last Updated: 1:09am GMT 17/03/2008
The complex extended network of Shannon Matthews's family was one of the key reasons why officers took as long as they did to find her, police have disclosed.
Shannon police defend actions
In addition to her mother's many relatives, her stepfather also had a myriad of family members who all needed to be investigated.
Shannon's mother, Karen, 32, has had seven children by five different fathers and each had to be checked out. She did not register the father of her first child, Tony, 11, who was born when she was 20.
Shannon's father is Leon Rose, who is also the father of her older brother Ian, 10, who lives with him. The couple split up before Shannon was two and he now lives with a new partner in Huddersfield.
Karen's next relationship was with Paul Hooker, the father of Daniel, seven, who lives with his father.
That relationship lasted less than two years and Karen then took up with William Marshall, the father of Kelly, six, who lives with him.
The identity of the father of Cameron, five, remains a mystery because he was not registered at birth.
Her current relationship is with Craig Meehan, 22, with whom she has another child, Courtney, two.
Mr Meehan's mother was one of nine brothers and sisters, creating numerous further potential routes for investigation.
Officers were trawling through Shannon's complex family tree when they received information that led them to the flat of Michael Donovan - Mr Meehan's uncle.
Mr Donovan's two daughters, aged 10 and 12, were in care and he lived alone, although he had no convictions for sexual offences. Mr Donovan's ex-wife Sue Bird has six children by three fathers.
A senior police source said: "We would have got to Donovan eventually but someone we spoke to told us something that pushed him up the list."
Forensics officers arrived at Mr Donovan's sister's house two days before they found Shannon in a divan bed at Mr Donovan's flat.
Alice Meehan, Mr Meehan's mother, had moved out of the house a week earlier, neighbours said.
Ex-wife reveals how he tried to strangle and smother her
ANGRY SUE: When I heard Shannon had vanished I knew it could have been Mick
By Neville Thurlbeck
The ex-wife of Shannon Matthews' kidnap suspect has revealed he secretly fantasised about sex with children.
In an exclusive interview Sue Bird told how Mick Donovan's sick lust was sensationally exposed when horrified teachers found graphic sex notes he'd put in his own DAUGHTER'S lunch box.
He was then BARRED from seeing 12-year-old Jane and sister Mary, aged 10, but SNATCHED them from council care and hid away with them in Blackpool for three days.
READ: I TOLD COPS A WEEK AGO
Sue said: "On top of that he used to force me to dress up as a schoolgirl for sex. That's why none of this is a surprise to me.
"He's actually kidnapped before, just 18 months ago. This man is a real
MASKING THE FEAR: Smiling Sue and baby Mary
nasty piece of work."
In an exclusive interview, Sue relived her seven years of hell atthe hands of the man who was hauled from his Dewsbury flat on Friday after police smashed their way in. They found nine-year-old Shannon hidden in the drawer under a divan bed. As West Yorkshire police gently questioned the youngster about her 24-day nightmare, Sue broke down and revealed she always had doubts about loner Donovan as he:
SPANKED her in bed while fantasising about being a kinky father or headmaster.
TRIED to STRANGLE her during one bizarre romp.
THREATENED to cut her throat unless she walked ten miles to get him drugs.
ENJOYED beating her black and blue—especially in bed.
Sue, 37, said: "Mick was a walking, ticking time bomb.
"He's so horrible, something like this was bound to happen. If he could kidnap his own children, he could kidnap anyone.
"When I heard little Shannon had been taken I was sick to the pit of my stomach. And I knew in my heart that it could have been Mick."
Sue insists 39-year-old Donovan— uncle to Shannon's stepdad Craig Meehan—had an unhealthy interest in children right from the start of their relationship in 1990.
"When he made me dress like a schoolgirl he'd want me in knee-high white socks, flat shoes and a tight top," she said.
"I had to tie my hair up in plaits. And always no make-up, to complete the schoolgirl look.
FAMILY LINK: Donovan and nephew Craig, Shannon's stepdad
"If I was wearing make-up, he'd make me go and wash it off.
"His nickname for me was ‘Toots' and schoolgirl sex was always his fantasy. He'd often want it twice a day.
"He'd spank my bottom during sex, too. He loved being in control. He said he loved feeling like a ‘father or headmaster' in bed.
"I went along with it because he was very dominating and violent.
"Sometimes, his violence would spill over into our lovemaking. He was having sex with me once when for no reason, he started strangling me. I could feel his hands tightening around my neck, so I pushed him as hard as I could and he fell off the bed.
"I really thought I'd had it. But he just put on his dressing gown and walked out of the bedroom.
"After that I started sleeping with a knife under the mattress. I honestly thought he'd kill me one day.
"He was really horrible, an obsessive compulsive man who had to be in control all the time—especially in a sexually violent way."
Sue, who suffered years of brutal beatings at the hands of the 5ft 6in, nine-stone Donovan, then recalled the terrifying moment when her worst fears nearly came true.
"A sixth sense woke me up," she said. "We'd gone to bed after a row and I suddenly awoke to find him straddling me and about to smother me with a pillow.
"I fought him off and he backed away, claiming he'd done it in his sleep. I never slept with him again after that. I stayed downstairs with a chair against the door.
"He was addicted to opiates, and when he was high he wanted sex all the time. But when he was off them, he used to have black moods and that's when he'd attack me. Anything would set him off. He used to punch me, kick me and slap me.
"He's broken my cheekbone and bust my nose several times. I always had cut lips and bruised ribs."
Although scrawny, Donovan has immense strength, says Susan.
"Once when the police came round to sort out a fight, he went ballistic," she said. "There were five hefty policemen and it took them all to pin him down.
"He had a ferocious temper and it gave him superhuman strength."
Sue then recounted the chilling moment when, starved of drugs, Donovan threatened her with an eight-inch carving knife.
She said: "He knew my grandad had some powerful painkillers he was taking for his cancer so he wanted me to walk the ten miles from Dewsbury to Bradford and back to get them.
"I refused and he went berserk. He grabbed me from behind, slammed me against the wall and thrust the tip of the knife into my throat. I thought I was going to die. He looked me in the eyes and yelled, ‘Just do it girl!'
"So I did and my grandad handed the drugs over because he knew I'd get a beating if he didn't."
Susan first met met Donovan during a hospital visit to her mother in 1990. He was a fantasist who had changed his name from Paul Drake in honour of his TV idol, former Neighbours star and singer Jason Donovan.
The pair moved to Bradford where they married after Susan gave birth to their first daughter Jane in May, 1995.
(We have changed the names of both Donovan's children to protect their identities.)
Then just seven weeks after the birth of second daughter Mary in June, 1997, Susan was forced to flee Donovan for good.
Police had been called to the family home SEVEN times to deal with his violence but Sue always dropped charges.
But if she feared for herself, she was terrified for elder daughter Jane, with whom he had a worrying obsession. Susan felt unable to trust him alone with her. She said: "Something happened to Mick after Jane was born. He got very obsessive with her in an unnatural way.
"He was always interested in changing the girls' nappies. He delighted in it and took ages over it. It used to make my skin crawl.
"I couldn't relax around him or fully trust him with our children.
"There was something not quite right about him.
"As soon as we had the girls he became overpoweringly controlling and demanding.
"He'd take Jane out from 9am in the morning and not bring her back till 9pm at night. I was sick with worry.
"But he intimidated me so much I was afraid to go out in public with him. And I was shocked when we finally split and he said, ‘You're not taking Jane—but you can keep that thing!'—referring to our Mary."
For the next two years Sue lobbied social services to have Jane removed from Donovan. "I was really worried about her but they didn't seem to take me seriously," she said. Worse was to come. Susan became so depressed by her plight that in late 1998 she was admitted to hospital after a nervous breakdown.
"That's when social services let Mick have Mary, too," she said.
"Now both my daughters were under his control. I was bouncing off the walls with worry that he'd do something."
Finally social services acted in 2000, took both girls from Donovan and, with mum Sue still too depressed to care for them they were placed in a foster home. But their father still had access—until the scandal of the lunch box sex notes.
Sue, who now lives in Cornwall, last saw Jane in 1996 and Mary in 1998. They are being looked after by social services.
Sue told us: "My mental health deteriorated because of Mick. Much to my regret, I was in no fit state to look after the girls as I was in and out of hospital."
Sue's four other children by two other partners all live with their fathers.
She told us: "I can imagine how Shannon's parents are feeling right now because I've been through exactly the same fears.
"I just feel so sorry for Shannon. I wish something had been done about him earlier then maybe this wouldn't have happened.
"I'm so glad she's been found but I feel sick thinking about what he could have done to her.
"I don't believe that poor girl was there of her own free will.
"That man is sick. What would a 39-year-old man want with a nine-year-old girl?
"I just want to tell her family how sorry I am. I feel guilty that I didn't do enough to take this man off the streets earlier.
"I knew that something like this could happen but nobody would listen to me.
"I never want to see that creature Donovan again and I wish I'd never set eyes on him.
"He's the most destructive person I've ever met. The law and social services should have seen this coming long ago."