BBC "pauses" plans for Shannon Matthews drama

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

The BBC has put plans for a drama based on the hoax kidnapping of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews on hold.

Writer Jeff Pope revealed at the Edinburgh International Television Festival earlier in the year that production was underway on the project, with Cilla star Sheridan Smith tipped to play Matthews’ mother, Karen.

Sheridan Smith had been tipped to star in the controversial drama Sheridan Smith had been tipped to star in the controversial drama

But the Sunday People reported yesterday that plans for the Dewsbury-based drama had been shelved over fears that the resulting public anger could have an impact on its licence fee negotiations next year.

However, a BBC spokeswoman said it remained "committed" to the project and that it had decided "to pause in order to progress some important production and editorial matters”.

Schoolgirl Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury in February 2008.

She was discovered 24 days later after a huge police hunt at the home of her stepfather’s uncle, Michael Donovan, less than a mile away, where she had been imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

Matthews and Donovan were both jailed for eight years but were released after serving half their sentences.