Three weeks ago the press here went wild with the story of Shannon Matthews, a nine-year old girl from Dewsbury who never made it home after swim practice at school. The story unfolded in the all too depressingly-familiar way of child abductions: CCTV camera footage examined, hundreds of police scouring the neighboring areas and dragging the local pond, door-to-door interviews with locals, and sad televised appeals from the parents. The effort to find her was massive: more than 200 homes within a half-mile radius of the girl’s home were searched, 300 officers were assigned to the case, and half of the police dogs in England capable of detecting corpses were brought in. As the days wore on, grim reminders from “police consultants” that the chances of finding the girl alive diminished with every passing day were broadcast.
I got the gist of what was going on (the media coverage was so large you just couldn’t miss it) but didn’t really delve into the details. Last Friday, 24 days after her disappearance, the story took an unexpected by happy turn with the announcement that Shannon had been found alive and unharmed. Wow – a storybook ending?
Maybe not. Today, I sat down with the paper and got the details. The first thing that caught my eye was that Shannon had not been joyfully reunited with her parents after being rescued but was instead now in protective care. The second was that the police found her at the apartment of the uncle of her mom’s current boyfriend. The divorced uncle had recently lost the right to visit his daughters, who live with their mother. The authorities decided that returning Shannon to her mother, 32, who lives with the six other children she’s had with five different fathers and is now dating a 22-year old, might not be the best thing to do. Ya think?
Let’s hope the child somehow recovers from the trauma of it all.