karen matthews
Shamed mother of Shannon Matthews, Karen, pictured in 2008 BBC

The nation's memory of the disappearance of nine-year-old schoolgirl Shannon Matthews was refreshed as drama The Moorside starring Sheridan Smith premiered on BBC1 this week.

Now, it has emerged that the mother of the 'missing' girl, Karen, is frightened for her life since the controversial drama hit TV screens – which was watched by seven million people – as she has been taunted with death threats.

The petrified mother-of-seven has claimed to have been bombarded with abuse as the first of the BBC two-part series aired on Tuesday night (7 February), divulging the beginnings of her plot to kidnap her own child to earn reward money.

But Matthews, 40 – who was charged with child neglect and perverting the course of justice in April 2008 – is still protesting her innocence over the heartless kidnap.

She told a friend: "I cannot go out of the door. I'm frightened out of my life. I'm shaking like a leaf. I'm s*** scared to even get any ­shopping or anything.

"I know I can't stop it but why does it have to be dragged up again? Why don't they just leave me alone and let me get on with my life?" The Mirror reported.

She added: "I'm worried I'll have my windows smashed right now. I'm too scared to go anywhere. I feel isolated. If I could go back I would ask the police to ­reinvestigate everything... the truth's going to come out."

Game of Thrones actress Gemma Wheelan – who plays Matthews in the series – shines in her role as the troubled mother just as much as Sheridan Smith, who plays her friend Julie Bushby.

Viewers took to Twitter to express their thoughts on Matthews, with one person writing: "Scary how accurate the actress playing Karen Matthews is #TheMoorside" as another put: "Feel sorry for Shannon Matthews. Imagine having Karen as a mother and millions of people talk about you. Hope she's doing well. #TheMoorside".

A third added: "Tragic that we pay taxes for people like Karen Matthews, sickening #themoorside".

What happened to Shannon Matthews?

Shannon Matthews is a young English girl who became the focus of one of the biggest search efforts in the region since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. At the age of nine, Shannon was reported missing by her mother after failing to return home from school on 19 February 2008.

The last confirmed sighting of her was outside Westmoor Junior School, in Dewsbury, at 3pm GMT. The search for her soon became a major missing person police operation, comparable to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Her story captured the nation's hearts and rewards of up to £50,000 were offered for her safe return as mother Karen pleaded for her to come home.

The Moorside concludes on Tuesday 14 February on BBC1 at 9pm.