Karen Matthews was charged last night with perverting the course of justice and child neglect in connection to her daughter Shannon who was the subject of a 24-day police search before being found hiding a mile away from home at that of her stepfather's uncle.
The latest development in the rapidly changing case came after it was reported that Mrs Matthews, 32, had allegedly confessed to knowing the whereabouts of the nine-year-old, and that a number of people claiming to be the girl's relatives made direct approaches to Kate and Gerry McCann asking for money from the fund for their missing daughter Madeleine.
Mrs Matthews, who will appear at Dewsbury magistrates' court this morning, was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. She is the fourth family member to be arrested over Shannon's disappearance after a school swimming trip on 19 February.
Michael Donovan, formerly known as Paul Drake, of Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, was arrested on 14 March after Shannon was found in the base drawer of a bed at his flat. The 39-year-old, who is awaiting trial charged with kidnap and false imprisonment, is the uncle of Craig Meehan, 22, who is married to Mrs Matthews.
Mr Meehan was himself last week remanded in custody after appearing at in court charged with 11 counts of possessing indecent images of children allegedly retrieved by police from his home computer. And on Friday, Mr Meehan's sister, Amanda Hyett, 25, who lives next door to Shannon's mother, and his mother, Alice Meehan, 49, were also both arrested in connection with the alleged abduction.
Mrs Matthews was arrested by a family liaison officer in response to a remark made apparently while chatting to two other female friends while being transported in a police car.
Earlier yesterday, reports emerged that several individuals claiming to be Shannon's relatives approached the McCanns about obtaining a donation from the Find Madeleine fund set to search for the four-year-old who went missing in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz on 3 May last year. Clarence Mitchell, the McCann family spokesman, said: "An approach was made on two or three occasions by an individual who appeared to be associated with the family." He added that one person even turned up on the McCanns' doorstep and demanded financial help: "The man concerned was aggressive and seemed to be asking for money for the Shannon fund along the line of 'You have money, we don't, can we have some of yours?'" the spokesman said.
Last night, Peter Mann of the Crown Prosecution Service said in Dewsbury: "We have decided that there is sufficient evidence and have authorised that Karen Matthews should be charged with perverting the course of justice and child neglect."