The mother of Shannon Matthews has become convinced by her own lies, one of the women she first confessed to revealed today.
Karen Matthews (33) was jailed for eight years at Leeds Crown Court in January after she was found guilty of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.
A major search was launched when her nine-year-old daughter vanished in February last year as she walked home from school near her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorks.
She was found 24 days later less than a mile from her home, hidden in the base of a divan bed in the flat of Matthews’ former partner’s uncle, Michael Donovan. Matthews maintained a constant presence in the media as police worked to find Shannon, who went missing less than a year after the case of Madeleine McCann hit the headlines.
But a documentary analysing how body language gives away criminals suggested Matthews showed numerous signs of her guilt. When even her friends became suspicious, they confronted her, prompting a confession and her immediate arrest.
Julie Bushby, who led the community campaign to find Shannon, said she felt “used and abused” when she discovered Matthews was involved in the disappearance.
She said that as she and another neighbour sat in the back of a car listening to Matthews admitting she had known where her daughter was all along, Matthews was “sobbing and they weren’t crocodile tears, they were proper tears, they was proper tears.”
Matthews went on to deny the charges throughout the trial and on a recent visit to her in prison, Ms Bushby told the programme Tears, Lies and Videotape she asked her why she did it.
“And she just glared at me actually and then says ‘I didn’t do it’,” she said. “She’s adamant she’s totally innocent, absolutely adamant. But I think she’s lied to herself that much that I think she convinced herself. But it was worth a try.”
The documentary hears from criminal experts who examine how webs of deceit unravel in the public eye, with tell-tale signs picked up during press conferences and TV coverage.
Professor Paul Ekman, the world’s leading criminal body language expert, said during Matthews’ plea for Shannon to come home her shoulder went up twice in a row,
“It’s like a slip of the tongue,” he said. “This is a gestural slip, she doesn’t know she’s doing it. Every time we have seen it, and we have seen it in many situations, the person has always been lying.”
Perhaps inspired by the moving shots of Kate McCann, whose daughter disappeared while on a family holiday in Portugal, clutching Madeleine’s favourite toy, Matthews posed for pictures holding Shannon’s teddy bear.
But, along with bizarre comments that did not fit with natural expectations of how a distressed mother should behave, the action was exposed as fake.
Professor David Canter, the UK’s leading forensic psychologist, said: “She doesn’t know quite what to do with it – it’s totally different from the way Kate McCann carried the teddy everywhere with her as some sort of reassurance of her daughter.”
The tendency of Matthews’ lips to upturn betrayed her apparent enjoyment of the attention received as a result of the situation
“If you’re an anguished mother we wouldn’t expect that you’d be smiling,” said Prof Ekman. “She’s getting a kick out of being able to pull the wool over the eyes of the community and the police because she thinks this whole plot is going to succeed.”
Detectives and reporters add their thoughts on criminals’ attempts to hide the truth in the documentary.
Ian Huntley’s media performance 10 days after murdering schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002 comes under scrutiny, as well as the 1996 press conference and unravelling of the "road rage" story given by former glamour model Tracie Andrews.
Tears, Lies and Videotape will be screened on ITV1 tonight at 9pm