In February 2008 on the Moorside estate in West Yorkshire Karen Matthews reports the disappearance of her 9 year old daughter Shannon. Karen's friends, largely single mothers like herself, led by outspoken Julie Bushby, rally round, organizing search parties, along with Christine Freeman and other police officers. Whilst Christine prepares Karen for the worst Julie is upbeat, launching a poster campaign and spear-heading a march as twenty thousand pounds are offered as a reward for Shannon's return. As Karen and boyfriend Craig are offered money for a tabloid interview Julie dissuades Craig from a suicide attempt but another friend, Natalie Brown, finds Karen's reactions rather suspect and when Shannon is eventually found Julie realizes that Karen's doubts may not have been unfounded.
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