The mother who was jailed for orchestrating her own daughter’s kidnapping says she should not be branded “evil”.

Karen Matthews, who was jailed 10 years ago for kidnapping her daughter Shannon, insists she knew nothing of the plot to snatch Shannon and has even offered to take a lie detector test on the events surrounding Shannon’s disappearance and subsequent discovery less than a mile from the family home on the Moorside estate in Dewsbury, the Mirror reports.

A huge police operation was launched when nine-year-old Shannon failed to return home from a school swimming trip. Her mum made an emotional TV appeals for the return of her daughter which led to a £50,000 reward being put up.

Now Matthew, 43, has spoken out – pointing to other vile criminals to justify her claim that she should not be branded evil. Mum-of-seven The mother of seven said: “I’m not Britain’s worst mum. I didn’t kill anybody.

“Baby P’s mum and Maxine Carr don’t get the abuse that I do.

“None of it’s true. I’m on the edge. It makes me want to kill myself but I’d never do that. I’m scared I’ll die lonely and alone.”

Karen Matthews enjoys a day out around Caversham on the river Thames

Despite being found guilty of snatching Shannon when the youngster and serving four years of an eight-year sentence, Matthews still refuses to accept she took any part in the plot to cash in on £50,000 reward money.

She said she was made a “scapegoat” and added: “From the start I didn’t know where she was. Others were involved. I didn’t have a clue.

“You can’t kidnap your own child. I know the truth and I wasn’t involved in it. I still have nightmares thinking that it’s all going to happen again.

“I want to take a lie detector test to prove my innocence.” But she says she fears she won’t be forgiven.

Matthews and her then boyfriend Craig Meehan joined the hunt for Shannon and she made several public appeals for help to find her daughter. Shannon was found on March 14 at Michael Donovan’s flat in nearby Batley Carr. She had been drugged.

Donovan was also found guilty of kidnap, sentenced to eight years and released after four. But he was recalled to prison in 2012 after a bust-up in Leeds.

Born-again ­Christian Matthews spoke about her time behind bars.

She said: “When I was first in jail I thought I was going to die. I panicked. They were banging on my cell door saying, ‘Come out here, you dirty nonce.’ Prison made me weaker. I don’t feel like the same person any more. I was beaten up inside because of who I was.

“Once they threw a snowball with a rock in it at me and other times I was punched. I didn’t say anything, I was too scared.”

But Matthews insisted she did make friends, including a transgender prisoner in Peterborough’s segregation unit.

And she claimed she had admirers on the outside.

Karen Matthews said she was made a “scapegoat” over the kidnapping of her daughter Shannon

She said: “Men used to write to me with semi-naked pictures and ask if I fancied meeting up because everyone makes mistakes.”

Matthews also used our interview to deny claims she has a 72-year-old “sugar daddy”, Eric Anderson.

She said: “I have standards. I’m very lonely and I found a friend who I thought I could trust. A true friend.

“He was just somebody to talk to because I’ve got nobody else. Somebody has blown our relationship out of context. He did give me money because he wanted to help me.

“He got the money from some inheritance and said he wanted to help me out because I’m struggling.

“He’s like a father figure to me, like an uncle. There’s no sex involved. I’ve known him for years.

“Eric takes me for coffee and KFC and tells me not to go with the nasty men I have met and not to be taken advantage of.

“I’ve sworn off men. I will never get married. I don’t trust them at all.

“I’m trying to get my life back on track and everything that is being said is not true.”

Matthews also denied claims she was selling sandwiches to the ­homeless that had been handed out free by Pret a Manger

shops.

Karen Matthews

She said: “I never sold them I gave them to the homeless.

“This woman that’s a church person was handing them out.

“It was getting dark earlier and I used to go to help pick them up and take them to the homeless around the station.

“Sometimes I’d take them to the ­Salvation Army. It makes me sick what was said, that’s not me. I was doing it out of the goodness of my heart.”

Matthews was relocated to a town in the south of England for her own safety after being released from prison.

She said she spends her days walking from charity shop to charity shop, trawling for bargains. But she also works as a volunteer in a ­Christian charity shop.

Everything you need to know about Shannon Matthews: What Happened Next

She added: “I am really proud of getting a job. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved ­something for myself.

“I feel I’m not being judged when I’m there. I love my job and I love going in every time.

“They say I’m a good worker, one of their best and I could get a paid job in the future.”

Karen Matthews - her part will be played by Gemma Whelan
Karen Matthews

But Matthews revealed she has now stopped going to church.

She said: “People found out who I was and I was getting grief there, people saying, ‘Oh, do you know who that is?’

“I felt uncomfortable and there were kids there as well. I still believe in God, I just don’t go to church now.”

Matthews lives in a one-bedroom basement flat with her budgie Bob.

She said she is still “terribly lonely” and added: “I talk to Bob when I get home. I feed him from my hand.

“I don’t want a man. I don’t trust them. It’s just me and the budgie now.”

Because of her time behind bars Matthews said she is uncomfortable indoors. She added: “I hate being trapped. I have to get out.”

Michael Donovan was the uncle of Karen Matthews' partner Craig Meehan
Michael Donovan was the uncle of Karen Matthews' partner Craig Meehan

When she goes out she puts a head band on to cover up her roots as her natural ginger hair starts to appear.

She isn’t very well – doctors said she has gallstones – and she is on pills to ease the pain as she awaits surgery.

Matthews said: “It scared me. I’ve lost six stone since because it was down to fatty foods. I used to eat lots of sweets but now I try to eat better.”

Karen Matthews in 2016

Last year the BBC screened a drama, The Moorside, about ­Shannon’s kidnap. Gemma Whelan starred as Matthews, Sheridan Smith played her best pal Julie Bushby and Sian Brooke was neighbour Natalie Brown.

In the past, Matthews has spoken to the Mirror about how the only thing she missed in jail was sex and ­shopping.

In another interview she claimed she knew where Shannon was after she had been snatched – contradicting her own story.

Karen Matthews has not been paid for this interview.