LONDON – A British woman convicted of kidnapping her 9-year-old daughter in an effort to collect reward money was given an eight-year sentence Friday.
Her accomplice got the same jail term.
Karen Matthews reported her daughter Shannon missing in February 2008 from her home in the Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, about 180 miles north of London.
The mother's tearful appeals for her daughter's safe return gained widespread sympathy and intense media coverage. Police spent more than $4.16 million in their search for Shannon, now 10.
They found the girl 24 days after she was reported missing, hidden under a bed in an apartment belonging to Michael Donovan, Matthews' accomplice.
Donovan, also sentenced to eight years, is an uncle of Matthews' ex-boyfriend.
Judge Richard McCombe said the two should serve half their sentences in jail before being paroled for the remainder of the terms. They also will get credit for time already served.
Prosecutors say Matthews, 33, and Donovan, 40, drugged the girl, probably restrained her, and hatched a plot to collect reward money.
Police believe the pair may have been influenced by the coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a British girl who disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.
Matthews and Donovan were convicted last month of kidnapping, false imprisonment and trying to obstruct justice.
"The offenses that you committed were truly despicable. It is impossible to conceive how you could have found it in you to put this young girl through the ordeal that you inflicted upon her," McCombe said Friday.
McCombe indicated that he thought unidentified accomplices may have been involved in the plot, too, saying Matthews and Donovan did not appear to be intelligent enough to plan and execute it themselves. However, the detective who led the investigation said the case was now closed.