A WOMAN who played a leading role in the desperate hunt for schoolgirl Shannon Matthews will face a Crown Court next month on benefit fraud charges.
Amanda Hyett, who is the sister of Craig Meehan – former partner of Shannon’s mum Karen – is accused of defrauding the system of more than £43,000.
And she was told yesterday she would stand trial at crown court accused of the huge fraud.
Hyett appeared at Dewsbury Magistrates’ Court, for a brief remand hearing, charged with seven counts of benefit fraud.
Hyett, 27, of King Edward Street, Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, is accused of failing to declare she was living with her husband, Neil, when claiming benefits and keeping money wrongfully paid into her account.
Hyett, wearing a cream, short-sleeved jumper and jeans, attended court with her husband and spoke only to confirm her name, address and date-of-birth during the brief committal hearing.
Magistrates told Hyett her case was being committed to Leeds Crown Court for trial.
She was granted unconditional bail to appear before that court on October 7.
Hyett is charged with six counts of making false statements or representation to obtain benefits, including social security, income support, housing benefits and/or council tax benefits, between September 2003 and August 2006.
She is accused of failing to declare she was living with Mr Hyett and failing to promptly notify the Department of Work and Pensions of a change in her circumstances that would affect her entitlement to income support.
She is also charged with retaining a wrongful credit of £5,181.52 in a Post Office account between July 31, 2006, and April 14, 2008.
The claims involved in the charges come to a total of £43,050.79.
Hyett became a well-known figure after she became involved in the hunt for Shannon, who sparked a huge search operation when she disappeared in February last year.
She took part in candlelit vigils for the missing girl, gave television interviews and was a frequent visitor to the Matthews’ home next-door to her own former property on Moorside Road, in Dewsbury Moor.
Shannon, then aged nine, was missing for 24 days before she was found in the base of a bed in the home of Hyett and Meehan’s uncle, Michael Donovan.
Her mother and Donovan were convicted last year of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.
They were both jailed for eight years for conspiring to keep Shannon drugged and imprisoned at Donovan’s home in a desperate plan to claim £50,000 in reward money.
LOOKING after four of Karen Matthews’ children is costing Kirklees Council taxpayers up to £400,000 a year, the Examiner can reveal.
Four of the Dewsbury woman’s seven children are being cared for outside the family.
They are believed to have been placed outside Kirklees – but taxpayers here must pick up the bill for their care.
A residential care home placement outside Kirklees costs £100,000 a year, compared with £40,000 for foster care.
Looking after the four Matthews children costs Kirklees taxpayers between £160,000 and £400,000 a year.
But a council spokesman stressed that the other 500 children being looked after by Kirklees were not suffering because of the expense of caring for the Matthews’ children.
He said: “The costs are met by the Children and Young People Service budget, which went up by £4.5m in this year’s budget in order to reflect an increased demand on services.
“It is not the case that other services have been cut to pay for care of these particular children.”
In addition, the taxpayer is also footing the estimated cost of £40,500 per year of keeping the children’s mother Karen Matthews, 34, in jail.
She was sentenced to eight years for the kidnap of her daughter, as was her co-accused Michael Donovan.
She will be eligible to apply for parole after four years.
The overall cost per prisoner has been calculated taking into account costs met centrally by the Prison Service and the National Offender Management Service.
These are primarily property costs, such as depreciation and the cost of capital, but they also include some headquarter overheads and other costs met centrally.