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'Most hated mum in Britain' Karen Matthews begs for forgiveness after faking daughter Shannon's kidnap

Mirror logo Mirror 12/12/2016 Lucy Thornton

Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror

Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror
© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

After snatching her own daughter Shannon in a twisted crime that shocked the nation, Karen Matthews became Britain’s most despised mum.

But the 41-year-old is now begging for forgiveness for the fake kidnap – said to be a cynical bid to collect reward cash – and told how she has turned to God as she tries to turn her life around.

Lonely Matthews, who was jailed for eight years in 2008 after being found guilty of abducting Shannon, then nine, joined a Bible group to meet new friends, has become a teetotaller and prays every day in an effort to lift her spirits.

But the mum-of-seven’s notoriety has left her unable to get a job and she claims she is trying to survive on just £25 a week in benefits.

And her weight has soared due to a behind bars diet of chocolate, which also left her teeth rotten.

Matthews, who has joined a Christian group that watches motivational videos featuring Bear Grylls talking about his religious views, told a pal she has “given up f****** swearing” and quit booze.

She revealed to the friend: “When I left prison I picked up a Bible and saw a passage about ‘God loves you’.

“I knew I was hated by everyone, cut off from my family… but here they were, saying I was loved.

"I know I did something wrong but I’m not the baddest person people are making out. I am sorry for hurting people.

“I’ve hurt my family. My friends that supported me at the time, I’ve hurt them.

“I love my mum and dad and I miss them. She’s my mum, she gave birth to me.

“I would hate to lose them before I had the chance to say, ‘Sorry.’”

The ex-con, who served half of her sentence for kidnap and perverting justice, moved hundreds of miles away from her home in Dewsbury, West Yorks, and adopted a new name – the same as her favourite Hollywood star.

She told the pal she turned to the Bible group as she spiralled into a life of miserable ­loneliness after being cut off from her family and friends.

Matthews added: “I get to meet people and talk. The people are kind and don’t judge. My favourite passages in the Bible are Matthew’s.

“They are the best because they are the same as my old surname. I asked for

forgiveness through prayer when I first prayed for ­forgiveness.

"I knew I did ­something wrong. It lifted me.”

The group meet in a Pret a Manger cafe. Websites they regularly use have Christian-sentiment messages from TV survival expert Grylls and want to help those with “questions about life”.

Matthews, once sex-crazed, attends church on Sundays… if she gets up on time.

Her daily outings from her £650 a month housing benefit flat are to Primark and charity shops. There are endless bus trips in a bid to keep warm.

Since her early release from prison Matthews has been out of work.

She has told friends her dream is to find a job in catering but she fails at the first hurdle once ­potential bosses see her criminal history.

She told one pal: “I would and I wouldn’t like a job. I’ve been to job interviews and they’ve turned me down when they see me.

“I need more confidence but I went to one interview and he just stared at me.”

And she has complained about the amount she is left with from her benefits.

She said to a friend: “They’ve completely lowered my money. It’s a horrible life.

“By the time I’ve put money towards running the flat and put £10 a fortnight on the electric and got myself a little bit of food, I have very little of live on.

“I’ve had to sell things. I haven’t even got any credit on my phone.”

The Mirror has chosen not to reveal where Matthews’ new home is – other than she has moved to the South of England where she lives alone.

When we saw her, she looked a forlorn, woman who has piled on four stone through comfort eating.

Matthews was gorging on a huge plate of chips at a cafe before going to watch carol singers.

With jet-black hair, she has a dramatic new look. But she told her pal she cannot get dental treatment for her decaying teeth under her new name.

Credits: West Yorkshire Police/PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: West Yorkshire Police/PA Matthews added: “I have a doctor but no dentist. I need identification to register as my birth certificate has my old name.”

She is said to hate leaving home without putting her “face on” and now has piercings in her lip and eyebrow and a belly-button bar – a treat to herself for her 40th birthday last year.

But despite asking to be forgiven for her wicked crime, Matthews still insists she is innocent and did not snatch little Shannon, who was missing for three and a half weeks.

The youngster vanished on February 19 2008.

A police hunt was launched and people from the ­estate in Dewsbury Moor where she lived joined in.

Officers and locals feared the worst when there was no sign of the youngster.

But she was found alive on March 14 at the flat of her mum’s ­accomplice Michael Donovan in nearby Batley Carr, where she had been drugged and held captive.

Credits: West Yorkshire Police/PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: West Yorkshire Police/PA Matthews came clean in a police car next to officer Christine Freeman and her closest friends, Natalie Brown and Julie Bushby.

But she later claimed she had arranged for her daughter to go away from home as part of a plan to leave partner Craig Meehan.

And Matthews still insists she did not plan the snatch with Donovan, who was also jailed for eight years after being found guilty of kidnap, false ­imprisonment and perverting justice.

She claims she only found out ­Shannon’s fate when told about it by police the day they found her.

During the trial at Leeds crown court, a forensic toxicologist testified how hair samples showed the youngster had been taking the “potent hypnotic” drug ­Temazepam regularly for months before she vanished.

A TV drama is due to be released next year about the kidnapping with Gemma Whelan from Game of Thrones playing Karen and Cilla star ­Sheridan Smith as Julie.

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