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Policemen who helped rescue Shannon Matthews have revealed how they tracked her down – and their elation after finding her alive.
Detective Constables Nick Townsend and Paul Kettlewell were both nearing retirement when nine-year-old Shannon vanished in March 2008.
The child disappeared on her way home from a swimming lesson in Dewesbury, west Yorkshire – and her mum Karen issued a tearful appeal on TV.
However, Shannon had been drugged by her mum and her stepdad’s uncle Michael Donovan, who were both hoping to split the £50,000 reward.
Paul and Nick first heard about Donovan on Day 23 of the hunt, the Daily Mirror reports.
There was no answer at his flat so the pair decided to speak to June Batley, his neighbour downstairs. What she told them made them determined to get into Donovan’s flat.
They knew from police briefings that Shannon had an unusual gait and walked with tiny steps.
June told the officers she knew Nick was in because she had heard movement upstairs, including the “tiny footsteps of a toddler”.
Nick said: “That’s when my spidey senses really started tingling. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.” They had to wait for back-up to arrive and use a door rammer to get into the flat.
Paul walked in first. He recalled: “There was a deathly silence, then I heard a little girl’s voice. She said, ‘Stop it, you’re frightening me.’
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“I think Donovan had his hand over her mouth. I knew the voice had come from within the room. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from.
“There were some noises from within the double bed base, shuffling noises. Then Shannon started to appear head first. One of the officers passed her to me. I asked if she was Shannon and she said, ‘Yes.’”
Donovan bit a police officer as he was dragged from the bed base. He told them: “Get Karen down here. We’re sharing the money – £50,000.” While he was carted off in a police van, Shannon was in the car speaking on the phone to her rescuers’ boss.
Paul explained: “We had to get Shannon to say hello because Detective Inspector Chris Walker didn’t believe us!”
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“It was almost like a dream driving to Dewsbury Police Station to deliver Shannon to my colleagues – and to say to them we’d done it as a team.”
Revealing their first conversation after her ordeal, Nick said: “I asked, ‘Who knows you’re here? Does your mum know you’re here? She said, ‘Yeah.’
“I asked, ‘Have you seen your mum?’ and she said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Have you spoken to your mum?’”
Shannon told him: “No, Michael wouldn’t let me. She called the other day and he wouldn’t let me speak to her, so I don’t like Michael any more.”
In 2009, Matthews and Donovan were each sentenced to eight years in prison.
- The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews, is on Channel 5, tonight and tomorrow at 9pm
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