When a child goes missing it is devastating for most parents, unless they are involved in the disappearance. There have been many cases over the years where parents have known more than they tell police. We believe there is a case for polygraph testing parents of missing children. It would significantly help subsequent police investigations.  Not least, because it immediately eliminates them from enquiries.

The disappearance of Shannon Matthews

9 year-old Shannon Matthews vanished on 19 February 2008. The last time anyone saw her was on that day, at just after 3pm outside her school (Westmoor Junior School, Dewsbury Moor).  It would have taken her 10 minutes to walk home. When she hadn’t arrived, some 3 hours later her mother, Karen Matthews, contacted the police. That call sparked a search that was the largest of its kind ever undertaken by West Yorkshire Police. Involving 200 police officers, enormous resources were put into the search. Watching the news broadcasts and appeals we believe polygraph testing for parents of missing children would have avoided the waste of time that it was.

A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare and to accuse the parent of any involvement at the onset is unthinkable. However, watching Karen Matthews in the days that followed should have caused concern. Many people believe that Karen had seen the details of rewards offered during the Madelaine McCann disappearance and this is what triggered the scandal she created.

Reward claim led to arrest

Shannon was found alive and well on 14 March 2008 at a Batley Carr house belonging to 39-year-old Michael Donovan. He was the uncle of Craig Meehan, who was in a relationship with Karen Matthews at the time. Donovan, known as Paul Drake at the time, eventually claimed to have found Shannon. He took her to the police and claimed the reward money. He would have shared this with Karen had he not been arrested on the spot and charged with false imprisonment and kidnapping. This means this poor little girl was hidden for over a month.

Body language

Professor Paul Ekman, the world’s leading criminal body language expert, said during Matthews’ plea for Shannon to come home her shoulder went up twice in a row, a sure sign that she wasn’t comfortable with what she was saying.  The case for polygraph testing parents of missing children gets stronger in the light of this assertion. A lie detector test asking Karen if she knew where Shannon was, would have found this little girl far sooner than the 24 days she had to hide away from view, drugged in the base of a divan bed.

Karen’s behaviour wasn’t that of a normal mother, grieving for a lost child. She went on with life as normal – cleaning, shopping and living life as if nothing had happened. She seemed to get a kick out of the media attention.  It should have, at the very minimum, sparked doubt. If the police had insisted on a lie detector test then this woeful matter would have been resolved much sooner.

How polygraph testing parents of missing children helps

Child abductions by complete strangers are very rare. Fortunately most children who are reported missing are found safe and well. However, if polygraph testing parents of missing children was implemented at the beginning of the process, suspicion is immediately removed. Police can then follow lines of enquiry to identify the perpetrators and more importantly find the missing child.

Karen Matthews strengthens the case for polygraph testing parents of missing children. Few parents lie about abductions for financial gain or social status. But over the years some parents have been involved in criminal activity including murder of their own children. Certainly Shannon’s ordeal could have been reduced in time and anxiety had this simple test been administered.

Lie Detector Test Ireland has specialist polygraph examiners who handle sensitive matters with empathy and compassion.  Parents should experience no anxiety before, during or after the test as they will get to know the examiner well in the pre-test interview. Our professional, highly examiners are totally unbiased and seek to achieve the best possible results.

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