A 33-year-old mother and her brother have been arraigned in the UK for arranging the abduction of the woman's ten-year-old daughter and keeping the hapless girl drugged - in an attempt to whip up public excitement and claim the reward for the 'discovery' of the girl.
Shannon Matthews disappeared after a school swimming trip in February last. Her mother Karen Matthews raised the alarm and pleaded to the public for help in the 24 days that Shannon was missing, before the schoolgirl was found in the flat of her uncle Michael Donovan. She was discovered hidden in the base of a divan bed, Leeds Crown Court heard.
Further inquiries revealed Karen had herself arranged it all, hoping to receive reward money that could be offered if public interest was heightened.
The country's biggest ever missing persons inquiry involved more than 250 uniformed officers and 60 detectives.
Julian Goose, QC, prosecuting, said: "The 999 call was part of a dishonest and we say wicked plan by Michael Donovan and Karen Matthews. Shannon was an innocent victim of the plan.
"She was kidnapped and falsely imprisoned in the flat where Donovan lived.
"She was drugged to subdue her during the period of her captivity."
Goose told the court the "overwhelming likelihood is that the reason for the plan was dishonestly to obtain the reward money offered by the press".
The court heard that at its height the money was up to £50,000.
He told the jury: "The prosecution's case is that this plan was as dishonest as it was wicked.
"Karen Matthews was using one of her own children in her plan with Donovan to kidnap and falsely imprison her.
"Both defendants stood by and watched the very large police investigation and assistance by many members of the public in the search for Shannon.
"Karen Matthews made impassioned public pleas for the recovery of her daughter, some of those you will see from television recordings shown on national television.
"Karen Matthews also gave deliberately misleading and false leads for investigation by the police."
He said Donovan kept Shannon "drugged, subdued and hidden from the public" and bought newspapers which described the extent of the investigation.
"He was watching the public search as the reward money grew," Mr Goose said.
He said "other victims" in the case were the friends, neighbours and residents of the Dewsbury Moor estate who helped look for the youngster.
"Substantial resources" were diverted away from genuine investigations in the search for Shannon.
Goose said the public followed the day-by-day events until Shannon was eventually found, "only then to discover that it had all been a lie, a trick and deliberately false complaint".
Matthews, 33, sat in the dock alongside Donovan, 40, as Mr Goose outlined the case against them.
They both deny kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.
The case continues.
Karen's ex-boyfriend — Donovan's nephew Craig Meehan — is awaiting trial on child porn charges not related to the Shannon case.
He was arrested on April 2 after 140 images were allegedly found on his computer.