Viewers of The Killer Nanny slam 'very cold' Louise Woodward
Viewers slam ‘cold’ and ‘extremely emotionless’ Louise Woodward as detective recalls she ‘never asked how Matthew Eappen was’ after the baby was hospitalised for a brain injury on The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It?
- Viewers of The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? slammed ‘cold’ Louise Woodward
- Louise, then 19, from Chester, was found guilty of killing Matthew Eappen in 1997
- Matthew died of brain injuries while Woodward was working as a nanny in the US
- She was first found guilty of second-degree murder and given a life sentence
- British nanny’s conviction was reduced to involuntary manslaughter 10 days on
- One viewer said: ‘I thought she came across as very cold, it didn’t help her’
Viewers of The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? slammed the ‘very cold’ and ‘extremely emotionless’ British teenage nanny who was jailed over the death of an American infant in her care in 1997.
The first episode of the Channel 4 documentary, which aired last night, explored the case of Louise Woodward, then 19, from Wirral, who was found guilty by a jury of killing eight-month-old Matthew Eappen while working as an au pair for his family in Newton, Massachusetts.
Just 10 weeks after she started the job, the baby died of brain injuries, with prosecutors alleging he had shown classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
But the defence team instead argued that his death was caused by an injury he sustained weeks before, and Woodward has always maintained her innocence.
During her trial Woodward’s expressionless demeanour led to vitriolic criticism about her supposed coldness and lack of emotion.
In the documentary, detective sergeant William Burns recalled: ‘The one thing I’ll always remember is Louise Woodward never asked me how that child was doing.’
Woodward, who is now mother to her own young daughter and goes by Elkes after taking her husband’s name, was initially found guilty of second-degree murder and given a life sentence.
But after an appeal, her conviction was reduced just 10 days later to involuntary manslaughter and she was released after serving 279 days in jail.
Many of those watching accused Louise of being ‘extremely emotionless’, with one writing: ‘I thought she came across as very cold, it didn’t help her.’
Viewers of The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? slammed the ‘very cold’ and ‘extremely emotionless’ Louise Woodward as a detective recalled how she ‘never asked’ how Matthew Eappen was after he was hospitalised with a brain injury
Just 10 weeks after Louise started the job as nanny for the Eappens, the baby died of brain injuries, with prosecutors alleging he had shown classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
Another said: ‘I thought it then and I thought it now, what an incredibly cold, cold person Louise Woodward was.
‘No concern or regret on the death of the baby. Not a tear shed in that courtroom. Chilling.’
Another wrote: ‘I was only 11 when this story came out in 1997. Listening to what is being said today, is just awful.
‘She doesn’t seem to show any emotion throughout.’
Simon Holmes, Louise’s friend, who met her on holiday in 1993, described her as ‘ lovely and bubbly and friendly’ in the documentary, saying: ‘We had similar hobbies, going to the theatre and musicals – anything to do with the arts.
‘Louise wanted to explore the world so it made sense she would go away from home.’
Many of those watching confessed they were baffled by how ’emotionless’ Louise appeared in clips from the courtroom
WHAT IS SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME?
Shaken baby syndrome is a severe brain injury that results from forcefully shaking an infant or toddler.
Due to babies’ neck muscles being weak and unable to support their heads, shaking a baby can allegedly cause serious brain injuries.
Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome can include:
- Difficulty staying awake
- Breathing problems
- Pale skin
The term was first coined in the 1970s by British paediatric neurosurgeon Dr Norman Guthkelch, who said babies were showing a pattern of injuries after being violently shaken.
These injuries – swelling of the brain, bleeding on the brain’s surface, and bleeding behind the retinas – became known as the ‘triad’.
However, in the last two decades, new research has discovered that accidents, diseases, and genetic conditions can cause the same injuries.
In a clip from Panorama which aired in 1998, Louise recalled: ‘They were adorable…they were just beautiful children.
‘They were pretty devoted parents when they were there. They would take turns each night to come home and take the children from me.’
Woodward was 18-years-old when she travelled 3,100 miles to work as an au pair for an agency in Boston after finishing her A-levels in 1996 and wanting to take a gap year.
She was soon hired by Sunil and Deborah Eappen, both 30-year-old doctors, to take care of their young son Matthew.
However within two months, the concerned parents reportedly cautioned Woodward against her late nights staying out and drew up a list of expectations in January 1997 to ensure ‘the safety and well-being of our kids’.
But on February 4, Woodward called an ambulance to the Eappens’ home after Matthew stopped breathing and he was put on a life-support machine at Boston Children’s Hospital.
He died of a brain haemorrhage on February 10.
Woodward was arrested five days earlier, with police saying she admitted to having shaken Matthew and thrown him on a pile of towels – but she pleaded not guilty to battery of a child.
Elaine Whitfield Sharp, defence team, recalled visiting Louise at a women’s prison, saying: ‘What struck me about her, was how small she is and how tiny her hands were.
‘Matthew was a beautiful butterball of a baby. For this little person to shake this big baby with such violence, it didn’t make any sense.’
On March 5, a grand jury decided Woodward must face a murder charge.
At her trial, expert prosecution witnesses claimed that Matthew’s injuries, including a cracked skull, showed the ‘triad’ of symptoms consistent with him being violently shaken.
One video showed police officer William E Burn Jr describing his initial interviews with Louise in court.
He said: ‘I noticed she was surprisingly calm, her hands weren’t shaking, her eyes seemed focused on me.’
Louise, then 19, from Wirral, was found guilty in 1997 by a jury of killing eight-month-old Matthew while working as an au pair for his family in Massachusetts
In the documentary, detective sergeant William Burns recalled Louise ‘never asked how the child was doing’ after he suffered the brain injury
Martha Coakley, who was part of the prosecution team, explained: ‘The crux of our case was that Matthew died of a shaking and an impact.’
Meanwhile Dr Patrick Barnes testified that it was the ‘classic model’ of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) and dismissed the defence’s arguments, but the medic has now changed his mind
In the documentary, he claimed that the science behind the diagnosis of SBS is flawed and said he couldn’t now give evidence to convict Woodward.
He said: ‘I was very strong, that it had to be shaken baby syndrome. I can’t (now) give testimony that would convict Louise Woodward beyond a reasonable doubt.
‘I shouldn’t have done that.’
But prosecution lawyer Gerry Leone told the Sun there was ‘no question’ in his mind that Woodward was responsible for ‘killing Matthew’.
The case is being re-examined in a new three-part documentary The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It?, with Dr Patrick Barnes (pictured) reassessing the evidence he gave during the trial
He added: ‘The defence took dissociated and sometimes random pieces of facts to create a story which would steer the evidence away from Louise Woodward.
‘But in the end, 12 people who never met each other found that she was responsible, beyond reasonable doubt.’
Meanwhile, British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith claimed that there is ‘no science’ surrounding SBS and said it is ‘latter-day voodoo’.
The lawyer, who has been representing parents and careers accused of SBS since 1995, said: ‘It’s based on a 1972 hypothesis by British neurologist Norman Guthkelch, and it was just a hypothesis, with no factual basis on which to prove it.
‘Before he died two years ago, he said how horrified he was that his theory had been accepted as fact and sent so many people to prison.’
In October, a jury finds her guilty of second-degree murder, with the British teenager collapsing into tears when the verdict is given.
She was jailed for 15 years, but released after just 279 days when she won an appeal to reduce her conviction to involuntary manslaughter.
And feelings about the case still run high in America; a decade after her case Woodward was dubbed ‘the most notorious criminal in Massachusetts’ by an American magazine – beating a drug dealer who had topped the FBI’s most wanted list.
Woodward has always maintained her innocence, and her claims have been backed by various medical experts in recent years.
However, her case saw Woodward in an all-or-nothing trial, where no charge lesser than second degree murder would be considered, according to the documentary makers.
Prosecutors claimed the baby showed classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome – which was denied by Louise Woodward’s team
After a guilty verdict, justice protest rallies followed in both the UK and US, on separate sides of the argument.
In recent years, Woodward has embraced family life after marrying her businessman husband Anthony Elkes in 2013 and now works as a dance teacher.
Before her child was born Woodward told The Daily Mail: ‘I know there are some people waiting for me to have a baby so they can say nasty things.
‘It upsets me but that is not going to stop me leading my life. I am innocent. I have done nothing wrong. I am entitled to enjoy my life. I am not going to apologise for being happy.’
After news of Woodward’s pregnancy emerged, Matthew’s aunt Mary Wong said the law graduate had a ‘right to have a child’, but suggested she take parenting classes and learn to control her temper.
She said: ‘For the sake of her family I hope her parenting skills have come a long way. I think that she needs to have parenting skills and support for her baby. I hope no harm comes to the child.’
Dr Patrick Barnes testified it was the ‘classic model’ of shaken baby syndrome, but the medic has now changed his mind. Pictured: Woodward at trial
The trial prompted justice protest rallies in both the UK and US, on separate sides of the argument. Pictured, supporters of Woodward marching through the village of Elton, Cheshire
With unprecedented access to both defence and prosecution lawyers, detectives, paramedics and journalists, Louise Woodward: Villain or Victim? will detail and re-examine the case, the trial and its conclusion which saw the judge throwing out the jury’s decision, reducing Woodward’s murder conviction to involuntary manslaughter and releasing her from prison.
Fatima Salaria, Managing Director of Naked, said: ‘The media circus around this story means it has remained in the public consciousness for over 20 years.
‘With the opportunity to look back with fresh eyes alongside exclusive access to both sides of the story, this documentary offers a new perspective on the case.’
Daniel Fromm, Commissioning Editor for Factual Entertainment at Channel 4, said: ‘With privileged access to some of those close to the case, this three-part documentary boxset offers fascinating insights into a trial that gripped the public’s attention on both sides of the Atlantic.’
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