A POSSIBLE sighting of missing Dewsbury girl Shannon Matthews is being treated by police as significant.
But detectives searching for her admit they are very worried about her safety as the hunt for her is well into its third day.
Det Supt Andy Brennan, from West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide And Major Enquiry Team, revealed that a man said he had seen the nine-year-old between 9.15am and 9.30am on Wednesday.
The man believed he saw her walking on Moorcroft Road towards School Lane, which is just streets away from her home in Moorside Road in Dewsbury Moor.
Det Supt Brennan said the sighting was significant.
“Clearly, Wednesday is the following day after she spent the night out,’’ he said.
“The witness believes he saw Shannon at that time. He didn’t know Shannon, but when he saw images released he is 100% certain it was Shannon.’’
Det Supt Brennan said the sighting was one of a number his team of 60 detectives were investigating.
He said he was extremely worried about Shannon’s welfare and appealed directly to her to make contact.
“I would say: ‘Shannon, quite simply, you are not in trouble. We have genuine concern for you. Please contact your family, your friends or ourselves.
“‘There is nothing for you to worry about whatsoever.’
Det Supt Brennan added: “I couldn’t be more concerned.
“We have limited sightings. I would expect under normal circumstances that we would have located her by now so I’m very concerned.”
Police are also investigating two more unconfirmed sightings of Shannon on Tuesday night.
She is thought to have been seen between 6.30pm and 7.30pm on the playing fields near her school and between 5pm and 8pm at a children’s park at the junction of Heckmondwike Road and Staincliffe Road at Dewsbury Moor.
But, as yet, the last confirmed sighting of Shannon was at Westmoor Junior School on Church Lane at 3.10pm on Tuesday, when she and other pupils had been dropped off after a swimming lesson.
Det Supt Brennan said she normally walked to school with family friends and attended the breakfast club. She would walk home after school with friends or her 11-year-old brother, Tony.
However, on Tuesday, she did not reach home and by 7pm her worried mother Karen, 32, raised the alarm.
Since then, members of the community have joined more than 200 police officers and 60 detectives in searching for the youngster.
Those involved in the search include neighbourhood policing teams and recruits from the West Yorkshire Police training school along with specialist search advisers.
Shannon’s family, friends and neighbours have been re-interviewed and Det Supt Brennan said the search area for Shannon was constantly widening, following new reports of sightings.
“The width of the search varies with potential sightings,’’ he said. “It will grow bigger and bigger over the next day or two. We are leaving no stone unturned.”
Det Supt Brennan confirmed that Shannon had told friends she was thinking about running away from home.
He said police are aware of the reasons she gave, but he did not disclose them.
“She had suggested she may not want to go home,’’ he said. “We are satisfied that she made those comments. However that doesn’t help me in relation to the vulnerability of a nine-year-old who has gone missing for 48 hours.”
Shannon was described as not being streetwise and she had not taken much money with her. She had made no contact with her family and friends, who have dismissed the idea that she may have run away from home willingly.
Mum Karen, 32, made an emotional appeal on Wednesday night for her ‘princess’ to come home to her, stepfather Craig Meehan, 22, and her siblings Tony, 11, five-year-old Cameron and two-year-old Courtney.
Shannon’s uncle, Neil Hyett, said the family and other residents were drained but determined to continue.
He said Mrs Matthews and Mr Meehan were ‘bearing up’.
“They’re obviously extremely worried still. I feel physically drained, but I’m just keeping going for Shannon, as we all are.”
Det Supt Brennan said police were not aware of any problems she was experiencing at school.
As part of the hunt for Shannon, Det Supt Brennan confirmed that police are making checks on known offenders living within the area who may be classed as a danger to children.
He said: “I know of all the individuals that would be of concern to the public in that area and we are pursuing inquiries as necessary.
“I’m not excluding anything. It is of great concern to me that a nine-year-old has been missing for nearly 48 hours.
“If somebody has taken Shannon in, for whatever reason, contact the police as a matter of urgency. If anybody knows of anybody who may be holding Shannon, please contact us.”
Kirklees Police commander Chief Supt Barry South said officers are continuing in their searches.
He said: "As time progresses the search continues to intensify with over 250 police officers, 60 detectives and numerous local partners being involved.’’
Shannon is white, just over 4ft and slim with shoulder-length medium brown hair, which could be tied up in a ponytail.
She has blue eyes and freckles and was wearing a black school jumper with a logo, white cotton T-shirt, a black, waist-length coat with a furry hood and pink and grey ‘Bratz’ furry boots.