The BBC are in talks to run a TV drama about the hoax kidnap of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews, whose mother was jailed for what the judge described as a “truly despicable” plot.

Writer Jeff Pope, who was behind hit blockbuster Philomena, suggested award-winning actress Sheridan Smith is set to play the role of Shannon’s mother Karen (pictured).

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008, sparking a massive police investigation.

But she was discovered 24 days later at the home of her stepfather’s uncle, Michael Donovan, less than a mile away, where she had been imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

The youngster had been drugged and forced to adhere to a strict list of rules while held captive.

Matthews and Donovan were both jailed for eight years but were released after serving half their sentence.

Jeff has said that the project would be “extremely complex”.

Speaking at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, where he appeared alongside Sheridan, he said: “It’s very early stages; it has not been commissioned yet and the casting process hasn’t even begun.”

But when asked if Sheridan might be involved in the drama he replied: “Maybe, yes.” When asked if she might play Shannon Matthews’ mother, Jeff replied: “Yes.”

The pair have previously worked together, with Jeff casting Sheridan in a lead role in his docu-dramas Mrs Biggs (2012 drama about the Great Train Robbery) and Cilla (about Cilla Black, to be screened this autumn).

The drama would be made for the BBC and created by ITV Studios, where Jeff is head of factual drama.

Jeff also said he wanted to create a drama about TV presenter Jimmy Savile, but added that he had “not quite got the way in” to writing about the prolific paedophile.