Karen Matthews didn’t plan kidnap plot alone, new doc claims

Pal says she thinks there were others who pulled the strings

The friend of Karen Matthews, who was played by Sheridan Smith in the recent TV drama The Moorside, says that she thinks other people were involved in the fake kidnapping of her nine-year-old daughter.

In a new documentary on Channel 5, Julie Bushby reveals she believes Karen was acting under instruction from somebody else.

Indeed, other neighbours are convinced that Karen and her accomplice Michael Donovan were not smart enough to have come up with the plot themselves – a theory touched upon in the recent drama.

Julie, who help launch a massive volunteers search for schoolgirl Shannon, says: “I think others were involved.

“Others have got to be involved because, like I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, Karen didn’t have the intelligence, and Donovan, from what the cops have said, he didn’t have the intelligence.”

“I think there are at least three other people who know far more than they let on. This is a horrible conspiracy of silence and it’s time for those people to speak out and tell the truth.

“Karen was not intelligent enough to think it up on her own. I’m not saying at all what she did was right, or that she was totally innocent, but she’s not evil.

“This was never about the reward money, something else was going on. We need the truth now.”

READ MORE: Hollyoaks actress announces pregnancy

Shannon vanished for 24 days back in 2008.

Mum Karen had told police she had gone missing, but it would later emerge that Karen’s boyfriend Craig Meehan’s uncle Michael Donovan had her hidden under a double bed in his home.

Julie supported Karen through the ordeal, but began to suspect she was involved in Shannon’s disappearance when she was found.

It was believed that Matthews and Donovan had dreamed up the elaborate plot to claim the £50,000 reward money for finding Shannon, having been inspired by the Madeline McCann case.

But Julie says she doesn’t think that was true, telling the documentary: “It certainly had nothing to do with money.”

She added that she thinks Karen wasn’t wicked, just a bit idiotic.

“She is stupid but not evil. I’ve always said that. I’ve always said she’s stupid.

“I don’t condone what she did. I don’t condone what she did at all.

“But I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. Life’s too short to hold grudges for the rest of your life. Karen’s got nobody.

“I know what she did were wrong, but at the end of the day, to me she’s like a child.”

READ MORE: ‘Farcical’ Oscars caught up in fresh controversy

Julie recently said that she was impressed with the BBC drama that retold the case.

“The BBC drama is very close to the truth,” she told Closer magazine.

“Sheridan and I have become great friends – she was great. And I think it’s important for Shannon to see the truth.”