The Radio Times logo

The Moorside: how accurate is the BBC's Shannon Matthews drama?

The real story behind the nine-year-old's disappearance – and how her mother Karen was connected to the crime all along

Published: Tuesday, 15th January 2019 at 9:13 am

Sheridan Smith stars in a BBC drama about the disappearance of a young girl from The Moorside Estate in West Yorkshire, but just how accurate is the story this two-episode tale tells?


Who is Shannon Matthews and when did she go missing?

Shannon Matthews is a young English girl who became the focus of one of the biggest search efforts since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

In 2008, when she was just 9 years old, Shannon was reported missing by her mother, Karen, after she failed to return home from school on February 19th.

The last confirmed sighting of her was outside Westmoor Junior School, in Dewsbury, at 15:10 GMT.

Her disappearance gripped the nation and rewards of up to £50,000 were offered for her safe return as Karen pleaded for her to come home.

Who is Karen Matthews?

Shannon’s mother was the one who made the 999 call and reported her missing.

She became the face of the campaign to bring her daughter home, making numerous pleas for her safe return.

Who is Julie Bushby?

Julie Bushby (played by Sheridan Smith) was a neighbour of the Matthews family who rallied the community together to search for the missing Shannon.

She was chair of the Moorside estate’s tenants’ association at the time.

Where is The Moorside?

The Moorside Estate is in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, located west of Wakefield, east of Huddersfield and south of Leeds.

How long was Shannon Matthews missing for and where was she found?

Shannon was missing for three weeks before she was found on March 14 2009.

She was discovered hidden inside the base of a divan bed at a house in Batley Carr, just about a mile from her family home.


The house she was found in belonged to her stepfather’s uncle, Michael Donovan, and police soon established a link between Karen and the man who’d been holding her daughter.


Sponsored content