Who is Melanie Shaw, why is she in prison, and what do her supporters want?
She was one of the first people to talk about abuse at Beechwood
Over the last year, an average of more than 14,000 people have searched for her name every month.
There are at least ten different Facebook groups dedicated to her.
And at a recent court appearance by Tommy Robinson, it was her name that was being chanted by supporters.
But who exactly is Melanie Shaw, why is she in prison – and what are her supporters calling for?
The simple answer is that Melanie was one of the very first people to make allegations of sexual abuse at Beechwood children’s home in Nottingham.
But have a quick browse of the internet and you will find a host of further answers involving buried bodies, secret court hearings, and Westminster paedophile rings.
We have therefore attempted to tell Melanie’s story below, as best as we can. It won’t answer all of the questions about her, but it will hopefully provide some detail which might not be immediately available to everyone.
Melanie was born in October 1970, and was placed in foster care at a young age.
She grew up in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, and from 1981 to 1987 she was at Ashfield Comprehensive School in the town.
When she was 16 she was sent to Beechwood children’s home in Mapperley. She stayed there for around a year.
When she left, she overcame drug problems, started doing voluntary work.
In an interview broadcast in 2015, she described how she was a full-time mother for 24 years before she decided to speak out about what had happened at the children’s home.
In 2010 she went to the police to report what had happened to her at Beechwood, and was one of the first people to do so.
In more recent years she has lived in Sherwood and Sneinton.
What does Melanie say happened to her in Beechwood?
Melanie said that she was raped in the basement of the Lindens unit at Beechwood in Mapperley, and was physically and sexually abused.
She has spoken about one particular member of staff who she said had threatened to kill her ‘like the others’ if she spoke out over abuse. She said he told her that he had already murdered and buried two children in the grounds of Beechwood.
And she also said that, while she had never been abused by a politician, she was aware of young boys from Beechwood being taken by minibus down to London to be abused by ‘the rich and elite’.
No charges have been brought against anyone who she alleged had assaulted her at Beechwood. And she has said she has a fear that she is going to be found dead.
Why is she in prison?
As far as Nottinghamshire Live is aware, Melanie has been either convicted of or found to have carried out offences on five different occasions since 2014.
In December 2014 at Nottingham Crown Court, she was convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, and damaging property. She was given a community order for three years and a five-year restraining order.
In February 2016 at Nottingham Crown Court, she was given three restraining orders, fined £200, and handed a three-month prison sentence for displaying threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour to cause another harassment, alarm, or distress; and two counts of pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to harassment.
In January 2017 at Nottingham Crown Court, she was given two years in prison; six months for breach of a suspended sentence order, nine months for breach of a restraining order, and nine months for breach of a separate restraining order.
In March 2017 at Derby Crown Court she was given eight months in prison; eight months in prison for making a threat to kill; three months(concurrent) for common assault, and one month (concurrent) for damaging property.
And in October 2018 at Leeds Crown Court, a jury found that Melanie – who was deemed unfit to stand trial – had committed three counts of arson being reckless as to whether property was damaged or destroyed. She was due to be sentenced for this on January 14, but this has now been moved to February 11.
The Ministry of Justice does not give out information on release dates for individual prisoners.
Obviously, even in the event that Melanie served the full term of her two-year sentence from January 11, 2017, she would be due for release in January 2019.
However, she has been remanded in custody in connection with the arson offences which she is being sentenced for on February 11.
You can see a list of Melanie’s court appearances at the bottom of this story.
Where has she been held?
Melanie has been held in a number of different prisons. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, HMP Peterborough, HMP Foston Hall in Derby, HMP New Hall in Flockton near Wakefield, HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire, and HMP Styal in Cheshire.
There have been a number of rumours online about Melanie being moved to Rampton in north Nottinghamshire. But her supporters sent her Christmas cards to HMP Styal.
What do the authorities say?
In terms of the allegations made by Melanie, Nottinghamshire Police said: “Nottinghamshire Policeinvestigated all of the allegations thoroughly. Where the threshold was met, the CPS considered the evidence.
“Unfortunately, it was determined that the evidential test was not passed and, as such, no prosecutions brought.
“Our enquiries have also not identified any unaccounted-for people at Beechwood Children’s Home.
“Searches were carried out at Beechwood in February 2012.
“The work was undertaken by us in conjunction with national search advisors and searches were made of the grounds and building. It included the use of search dogs and radar following concerns reported by a member of the public.
“Nothing was identified at the time that supported the reports.”
Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie said: “Melanie Shaw first contacted me several years ago, since when I have offered support as I would to any constituent in her circumstances. I have continued to enquire after Melanie’s welfare, including with the prison.
“It would be inappropriate and not responsible of me to discuss the details of these highly sensitive matters with anyone other than Melanie or her legal representatives, who are always welcome to contact me at any time.
“However, over many years now there have been stories circulating about Melanie’s case, and most of the posts circulating on social media are wildly inaccurate.”
Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I’ve known Melanie for many years and we have talked about the difficulties she has faced.
“It’s disappointing that she is in prison while she waits for sentencing, but we are doing what we can to help her and we are regularly in touch with the professional people who support her.
“However, in the short term this is a matter for the Crown Court.”
The two legal firms in Nottingham which represent Melanie for civil and criminal matters said they could not comment without explicit permission from their client, which has not yet been obtained.
The Ministry of Justice said they do not comment on individual cases.
What do her supporters want?
Although the various groups come from slightly different angles – with some focusing more on the what happened at Beechwood and others on the London/Westminster allegations – they all want Melanie out of prison.
A member of the Justice for Melanie Shaw group, which has been running since 2014, said that, taking into the account the time Melanie had spent on remand, she should have been released from prison in June 2018 following the completion of her two-year sentence.
She said: “I think she is being persecuted, and I can’t help thinking it’s a set-up. They wanted her in prison, and they’ve got her in prison.
“I’m not going to pretend Melanie is an angel. She can be a bit of a handful. Even if you think she’s all right, you still have to be a bit wary of how she can react, which is because of what she’s been through.
“But what is happening to her now is disproportionate to what she is supposed to have done. Prisoners set fire to their cells every day of the week.
“If it isn’t a conspiracy, why are they making it look like one?”
She added: “We’ve always believed that the police weren’t trying their hardest to investigate the fate of children who had allegedly died at Beechwood – allegations I believe there is truth in.
“I’m prepared to believe that when Melanie went to the police she produced quite a bit of evidence about what she was saying.
“Melanie said she gave evidence to the police and it disappeared. I can’t prove that’s true, but that’s what she said.
“I think it’s accepted that the authorities didn’t know how many children were in care – and what happened to those who disappeared.”