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 will sentenced for this on January 14.
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 January 14.
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 Police investigated 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 later this month, 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.”
Melanie’s court appearances
Nottinghamshire Live contacted eight courts – Nottingham Crown Court, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, Derby Crown Court, Derby Magistrates’ Court, Peterborough Crown Court, Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, Cambridge Crown Court and Leeds Crown Court – in order to try and get a full picture of Melanie’s court appearances.
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court declined to provide information about Melanie’s court appearances. However, some information about her appearances at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court was provided by another court.
It remains a slightly confusing picture, with different parts of the criminal justice system giving – at times – conflicting information about her court history.
But as far as we can best establish, these are Melanie’s court appearances since 2014. Not all will necessarily have been appearances in person, as some may have been by videolink.
Melanie Shaw’s court appearances
December 11, 2014 (Nottingham Crown Court)
Found guilty of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at an address in Bonnington Crescent, Sherwood on February 1, 2014; and damaging property at the same address on June 26, 2014.
She was given a community order for three years with supervision from the probation service. She was also given a five-year restraining order banning her from contacting the victims of the arson attack or going to their home.
August 26, 2015 (Peterborough Magistrates’ Court)
Pleaded not guilty to a charge that between June 22, 2015 and July 13, 2015 at Peterborough she pursued a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of [a named person] and which she knew or ought to have known amounted to the harassment of her in that sending flowers, gifts and card to HMP Peterborough, telephoning and camping outside HMP Peterborough, harassing members of staff on their way in and out of work, contrary to section 2(1) and (2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Remanded on bail for trial at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Nov 11, 2015.
November 11, 2015 (Peterborough Magistrates’ Court)
Pleaded guilty to the charge above. Remitted to Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on conditional bail for sentence on December 4, 2015.
December 4, 2015 (Nottingham Magistrates’ Court)
Appearance for sentencing over the above charge. Remitted to Nottingham Magistrates’ Court to Jan 20, 2016. Remanded on bail.
January 20, 2016 (Nottingham Magistrates’ Court)
Appearance for sentencing over the above charge, sent to Nottingham Crown for sentence on February 10, 2016.
February 17, 2016 (Nottingham Crown Court)
Given three restraining orders, as well as other penalties, after being convicted on three counts.
(1) Pleaded guilty to displaying threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour to cause another harassment, alarm, or distress on July 21, 2015 in Nottingham. She was also fined £200 for this offence.
(2) Pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to harassment from June 21 to July 6 in Nottingham. She was also given and a three-month prison sentence (suspended for two years) for this offence.
(3) Pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to harassment from June 26 to July 13 in Nottingham. She was also given and a three-month prison sentence (suspended for two years) for this offence, concurrent.
June 3, 2016 (Peterborough Magistrates’ Court)
Appeared charged with attending HMP Peterborough on June 1, 2016 – which she was prohibited from doing by the restraining order imposed by Nottingham Crown Court on February 17, 2016. Case sent for trial at Peterborough Crown Court on July 1, 2016.
September 16, 2016 (Peterborough Crown Court)
The above matter was transferred to Nottingham, as the restraining order was issued at Nottingham.
January 11, 2017 (Nottingham Crown Court)
Sentenced to a total of two years in prison.
(1) Six months in prison for a breach of a suspended sentence order in relation to the indictment of February 2016;
(2) Nine months in prison (consecutive) for breach of the restraining order in relation to the indictment of February 2016;
(3) Nine months in prison (consecutive) for the breach of the restraining order dated June 1 at HMP Peterborough.
February 8, 2017 (Derby Magistrates’ Court)
Appeared charged with one count of criminal damage on August 25, 2016, one count of making a threat to kill on August 20, 2016, and one charge of assault by beating on September 24, 2016. All sent to Derby Crown Court for March 8, 2017.
(Also, one charge of assault occasioning ABH in February 2016 was withdrawn; and one charge of threatening to destroy and damage property in August 2016 was withdrawn.)
March 8, 2017 (Derby Crown Court)
Given a total of eight months in prison for the offences listed above. This was:
(1) Eight months in prison for making a threat to kill on August 20, 2016;
(2) Three months in prison (concurrent) for common assault on September 24, 2016;
(3) One month in prison (concurrent) for damaging property on August 25, 2016.
January 10, 2018 (Derby Magistrates’ Court)
Appeared charged with two counts of arson on February 8 and February 10, 2017, and one count of sexual assault on February 15, 2017; all sent for trial at Derby Crown Court on Feb 7, 2018.
March 16, 2018 (Derby Crown Court)
The arson cases above were transferred to Leeds Crown Court.
July 21, 2018 (Derby Magistrates’ Court)
Three charges of criminal damage and one count of sexual assault dating from February 2017 were all withdrawn.
October 16, 2018 (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 committed the offences on February 8 and February 10, 2017, at HMP Foston Hall, Derby; and on June 21 at New Hall prison in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. She is being sentenced on Jan 14.