Friends and neighbours at the Community Centre helping in the search for missing schoolgirl Shannon (Photo: Phil Spencer)
Julie Bushby was busy ironing when she was told by a neighbour: “ Karen ’s eldest girl’s gone missing.”
It was about 6.30pm on February 19, 2008, when mum-of-three Julie, chairman of the local residents’ association, was asked to bring the keys to open the community house.
Within an hour, around a hundred people from the 220 houses on the Moorside estate had arrived to help – all ready to start the search.
They walked the streets in freezing conditions until the early hours of the morning shouting, “ Shannon ” and searching derelict buildings.
Pensioners who were too frail to search brought tea and coffee.
Karen Matthews faked the kidnap of her own daughter (Photo: West Yorkshire Police/PA)
Julie and her helpers slept all night in the community house with all the lights on to act as a beacon if the nine-year-old schoolgirl found her way home. But she never did.
Early the next morning her street was full of the UK’s media, catching locals in their dressing gowns.
Police dogs, helicopters and TV satellite trucks became part of the furniture on the estate alongside extra police to patrol the streets.
Posters were put up, police press conferences held and Karen made
a TV appeal clutching her daughter’s teddy.
By Day 24 there was still no news and everyone thought Shannon was dead.
Julie, now 46, remembers: “That’s when I got a text saying, ‘That kid’s been found down Batley Carr’.”
It was true, Shannon was alive.
Soon the celebrations began on the estate, with cans of lager arriving at the packed community house.
Residents started burning the “Help find Shannon” posters, a bonfire was lit in the community house garden and a disco went on all through the night.
But eight years later, there is a feeling these same residents have been blamed for someone else’s crime .
Karen Matthews and Julie Bushby
Julie explains: “It’s as if they punished us for what happened and killed our community spirit.
“It felt like the powers that be didn’t want to know us after Shannon was found, as if they were embarrassed about us.
"But nobody could be more embarrassed than us — we didn’t see it coming either.
“We sacrificed our own families for 24 days to help look for a missing child but in return the community house is now shut.
“There’s only about a handful of the originals left on the estate. Most have moved because they don’t want to be associated with it."
Video thumbnail, ‘Sheridan Smith will be shocked I don’t hate Karen Matthews even though she kidnapped her own child’