What is life like now for the Karen Matthews, once dubbed the most hated mum in Britain?

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In February 2008, everyone in the UK knew the face of Shannon Matthews.

The 9-year-old Dewsbury schoolgirl was last seen outside her junior school after returning from swimming lessons with her class.

Her mother Karen Matthews called the police when she failed to return home as normal.

What followed was the biggest investigation by West Yorkshire Police since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Officers stopped over 1,700 motorists in the search for Shannon. Around 1,800 homes and commercial properties were searched.

Every newspaper in the country reported on the case, and The Sun offered a reward of £50,000 for information leading to Shannon’s safe return.

Neighbours in Dewsbury supported the search, handing out leaflets and wearing t-shirts with Shannon’s picture on.

Shannon Matthews (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

And Karen Matthew’s face was almost as well known as her daughter’s.

Parents across the country felt her pain during her tearful TV appeals, begging for Shannon to come home.

Only – while the police, her friends and family, and strangers all over the country were looking for her daughter – Karen knew exactly she was.

On 14 March 2008, three weeks after she’d gone missing, Shannon was found alive, hidden in the base of a bed, at a flat less than a mile from her home.

The flat belonged to Michael Donovan – the uncle of Karen’s boyfriend.

Donovan was arrested. Soon after, so was Karen Matthews.

And, in November 2008, both denied charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment, and perverting the course of justice.

The story that emerged at Leeds Crown Court was hard to stomach.

Karen stood accused of engineering the kidnap plot with Michael Donovan in order to claim the £50,000 reward money.

The court heard Shannon had been drugged, tethered, and hidden inside a divan bed during her 24 days in captivity.

On 4 December 2008, Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan were found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment, and perverting the course of justice.

Both were later sentenced to eight years in prison –  but it was Karen that was the focus of public hatred.

People asked themselves, how could someone do that to their own daughter?

Karen Matthews’ tearful TV appeal (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

With Karen behind bars, her children were taken into care.

For most of the year she’d been all over the news, but finally Shannon disappeared from the headlines, allowed to settle into her new life and live a normal childhood.

But interest in Karen – dubbed the most evil mum in Britain – stayed strong.

She still filled column inches while locked up, with papers reporting on anything from her weight gain to her claims of innocence.

In April 2012, Karen was released from prison after serving half her sentence.

Such was the anger at her for her crime, it was reported special measures were put in place to protect her – including a ban on returning to her old Dewsbury estate.

Before long, the newspapers carried pictures of Karen’s new look– she’d slimmed down and a choppy darker hairstyle replaced the red hair she’d been famous for.

Her location remains a secret – but one report in 2014 said she was living in the same seaside town as Ian Huntley’s ex girlfriend Maxine Carr and Tracey Connelly, mother of tragic Baby P.

The papers say she’s a born again Christian and tee-total.

Others say she wants plastic surgery so she’s no longer recognisable.

Most recent reports from 2016 say Karen Matthews is struggling to get by on benefits.

Not the life she dreamt of when she planned the get-rich-quick scheme that put her daughter in danger and made herself one of Britain’s most reviled women.