THE mother of missing youngster Shannon Matthews last night pleaded: "Darling, please come home."
As 200 police officers stepped up the hunt for the Dewsbury nine-year-old, Mrs Karen Matthews made her tearful plea.
Chief Supt Barry South said they were investigating the possibility that Shannon may have told some of her friends that she was planning to run away from home.
Speaking for the first time outside her Dewsbury Moor home last night, Mrs Matthews wept as she begged her daughter to come home.
She said: "Shannon, you are a princess in every way, come home."
She said it was the first time Shannon had disappeared and reassured her that she did not need to worry about returning.
"Shannon, you are not in trouble, darling, please come home.
"This is the first time Shannon you’ve done it, we don’t know why baby, but we love you."
Describing her daughter, Mrs Matthews said: "She is loving, caring in every way possible, you could not wish for a better child."
She added: "One thing Shannon does not like is dark, cold and everything else.
"I just want her home where she belongs with her family.
"If anyone’s got Shannon, please return her home safe."
She continued: "It’s breaking everybody’s heart just to see any news that’s on the telly, everybody’s getting upset about it.
"Shannon please come home, please, I’m begging you baby, come home."
The youngster’s desperately-worried family contacted police after Shannon Matthews failed to return home from school.
Shannon, who lives on Moorside Road in Dewsbury Moor, had stayed behind at West Moor Junior for after-school activities and was last seen on playing fields behind the school at around 7:30pm. She has never been missing before.
A major missing person inquiry is now well underway.
Neighbours and members of the community joined police and spent many hours searching for the youngster.
West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We are very concerned about Shannon. Temperatures plummeted to well below freezing overnight and it was very frosty out there.
“Extensive inquiries have been carried out during the night with family and friends. Those inquiries are continuing.’’
Shannon is white, just over 4ft tall with shoulder-length, medium brown hair that was possibly tied up in a ponytail. She is also slim with blue eyes and freckles.
Shannon was wearing a black school jumper with a school logo on it, a white cotton T-shirt, black trousers and a black waist-length coat with fur round the hood.
She was also wearing pink and grey 'Bratz' furry boots.
Anyone with information should contact police on a dedicated number 01274 373737 or text 07786200806. To call anonymously phone Crimestoppers number 0800