Kidnap plot mum like Jekyll and Hyde, court told

Karen Matthews, the British mother who kidnapped her nine-year-old daughter Shannon, appeared to have a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality acting tearful in front of police and media and making lewd jokes and laughing behind closed doors, a court has been told.

The schoolgirl was allegedly kidnapped by her mother and held captive for 24 days in a flat in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, by two accomplices as part of a plot to reap a 50,000 pounds ($115,000) reward. She was kept drugged and tethered to the ceiling with an elastic noose, Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday.

Natalie Brown, a friend and neighbour of Karen Matthews, told the hearing that she had seen her behave tearfully when dealing with the authorities but that she appeared to enjoy life with friends when she was out of sight.

On one occasion, she even joked that she would enjoy sex with one of the police officers who were guarding her house at the same time as hundreds of other officers combed the neighbourhood looking for her missing daughter.

She said Matthews acted as if it was a "normal day" with friends and relatives, but would become withdrawn and quite whenever the police came near her.

The evidence was provided on the second day of the trial of Matthews, 33, and Michael Donovan - the 40-year-old uncle of Matthews' boyfriend Craig Meehan - in whose house Shannon was eventually found.

Both are charged with kidnapping and falsely imprisoning Shannon as well as perverting the course of justice.

The charges relate to the 24-day disappearance of Shannon in February and March this year when she was nine years old, during which Ms Matthews made public appeals for the return of her "beautiful princess daughter". Yorkshire police mounted an unprecedented search operation costing more than 3 million pounds and finally found the girl hidden in the base of a bed.

At the hearing yesterday, Ms Brown said when Matthews and Meehan stayed with her for five days, Matthews acted as if it was "a normal day".

"She helped me clean the house and make cuppas, laughing and joking," Ms Brown told the court.

When the television news began, Matthews' mood changed and she became quiet and "glued to the TV".

"When the police and press were present she came over as all upset and withdrawn," Ms Brown added.

The neighbour also recounted a "girly moment" when a woman remarked that a police officer guarding the house had a "cute bum" and that Matthews had commented that she would like to have had sex with him in a room upstairs.