Shannon Matthews’ kidnapper dies 16 years after nine-year-old went missing

A man jailed for what a judge described as a “truly despicable” plot to abduct nine-year-old Shannon Matthews has died.

Michael Donovan became notorious in 2008 after the schoolgirl was found alive in his flat in Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, 24 days after she was reported missing from her home in nearby Dewsbury.

Donovan died after collapsing at a mental health unit in West Yorkshire on Tuesday, the PA news agency understands.

Shannon Matthews BBC drama
Shannon Matthews went missing from her home in February 2008 (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

Donovan was the uncle of Shannon’s step-father, Craig Meehan.

According to The Sun, Donovan, who was released from prison in 2012, collapsed at the Three Valleys Hospital, in Keighley, West Yorkshire, which is a mental health unit.

The paper said the 54-year-old has been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Shannon, who is now 25, was found in Donovan’s flat in Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, in the base of a divan bed.

The youngster had been drugged and forced to adhere to a strict list of rules while held captive.

Karen Matthews in 2008 during an emotional appeal for information while her daughter was missing (PA)
Karen Matthews in 2008 during an emotional appeal for information while her daughter was missing (PA)

The court was told the ordeal left Shannon “disturbed and traumatised” and suffering nightmares.

The search by West Yorkshire Police cost an estimated £3.2 million and was the largest inquiry in the force’s history since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Donovan and Matthews were each jailed for eight years at Leeds Crown Court in January 2009 after they were found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Missing girl
Michael Donovan was jailed for eight years (Dave Thompson/PA)

However, police said the case was closed and there was no evidence to bring any more charges.

The group which runs the hospital said it would not comment.

West Yorkshire Police said: “Police were contacted on Tuesday April 16 and made aware of the death of a man in hospital in the Steeton area.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious and inquiries will be conducted on behalf of the coroner.”

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