Karen Matthews was not the mastermind in the plot to kidnap her daughter Shannon.

That’s the latest claim from her former friend Julie Bushby , who wants the case to be re-investigated.

Julie, who is played by Sheridan Smith in BBC drama The Moorside , told the Daily Mirror that shamed mother Karen, of Dewsbury Moor, was a “pawn” in a bigger cover-up and that many more played a part.

Shannon was kidnapped and held by Michael Donovan at his flat in Batley Carr in 2008.

Speaking for the first time since the programme aired, Julie said: “Karen was not intelligent enough to think it up on her own. I’m not saying that what she did was right, or that she was totally innocent, but she’s not evil.

Karen is a child in adult’s clothing and easily used and manipulated.

Julie Bushby, a friend of kidnap mum Karen Matthews (inset), whose story is to be dramatised for TV with her played by actress Sheridan Smith.

“This was never about the reward money, something else was going on. We need the truth .”

Julie was a major campaigner in the community’s search for Shannon after she disappeared following a school swimming trip, and says she was not immediately suspicious of Karen.

I don't hate Karen Matthews despite what she did says Julie Bushby

She now wants the case to be re-opened.

“I think there are at least three other people who know far more than they let on,” she said. “This is a horrible conspiracy of silence and it’s time for those people to speak out and tell the truth.”

The Moorside concludes tomorrow (Tues) on BBC1 at 9pm.

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