But the 41-year-old is now begging for forgiveness for the fake kidnap – said to be a cynical bid to collect reward cash – and told how she has turned to God as she tries to turn her life around.
Lonely Matthews, who was jailed for eight years in 2008 after being found guilty of abducting Shannon, then nine, joined a Bible group to meet new friends, has become a teetotaller and prays every day in an effort to lift her spirits.
But the mum-of-seven’s notoriety has left her unable to get a job and she claims she is trying to survive on just £25 a week in benefits.
And her weight has soared due to a behind bars diet of chocolate, which also left her teeth rotten.
Matthews, who has joined a Christian group that watches motivational videos featuring Bear Grylls talking about his religious views, told a pal she has “given up f****** swearing” and quit booze.
She revealed to the friend: “When I left prison I picked up a Bible and saw a passage about ‘God loves you’.
“I knew I was hated by everyone, cut off from my family… but here they were, saying I was loved.
"I know I did something wrong but I’m not the baddest person people are making out. I am sorry for hurting people.
“I’ve hurt my family. My friends that supported me at the time, I’ve hurt them.
“I love my mum and dad and I miss them. She’s my mum, she gave birth to me.
“I would hate to lose them before I had the chance to say, ‘Sorry.’”
The ex-con, who served half of her sentence for kidnap and perverting justice, moved hundreds of miles away from her home in Dewsbury, West Yorks, and adopted a new name – the same as her favourite Hollywood star.
She told the pal she turned to the Bible group as she spiralled into a life of miserable -loneliness after being cut off from her family and friends.
Matthews added: “I get to meet people and talk. The people are kind and don’t judge. My favourite passages in the Bible are Matthew’s.
“They are the best because they are the same as my old surname. I asked for forgiveness through prayer when I first prayed for ¬forgiveness.
"I knew I did ¬something wrong. It lifted me.”