Elton waits, divided and silent

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The Independent Online
LITTLE IS ever as it seems in village life and Elton is no exception. Louise Woodward's home is a large detached home that her father helped to build, and whose size is commented on regularly around here.

Yesterday, though, that house seemed the loneliest place in the village. Looking in, you could only see a curtain move. Looking out was Sue Woodward.

The sense of a community pulling together for a common goal has been tarnished by the past few weeks of accusations over money and the very public dispute within the support committee. On the record, everyone says exactly the right thing. Off the record, other feelings emerge. The support committee is described as being on an emotional rollercoaster. Jean Jones, the respected and well-known villager who started the support group to help the relatively unknown Woodward family, has fallen out with Sue over the trust fund and accused her of being obsessed with money.

Everyone wishes Sue would talk. Perhaps today she will. She is said to have wanted to on Tuesday. When she heard from Boston that her daughter was free to leave (though still as a convicted felon) her first reaction was to walk out of her front door and onto her well-cut lawn to give an impromptu press conference.

After all, some 100,000 people have written letters to the family and some pounds 250,000 has been donated to help pay her daughter's legal fees. Why not tell them how she felt? She was excited and on an adrenalin high. She had lots to say.

But then she talked to her lawyer and the result was a formal statement that gave very little away.

Many people think Sue Woodward has sold her story to the media already. Some people who know her believe it, others do not.

Many in Elton are already rehearsing the reasons why she should. . No one thinks Louise should.

One of the few things that everyone in the village can agree on is that if Louise Woodward sold her story to the media then the tide of goodwill that still carries her here would turn on her. But Sue, they say, is a different story.

Which it is, of course. It is a mother's story and villagers yesterday were able to mount fierce cases in the pouring rain as to why a mother should be able to sell a story about visiting her daughter every day, about giving up her life and work and habits, about a marriage that has been divided for some time by the Atlantic.

"It's definitely in the public interest," said one man. "Absolutely."

So, I ask, is the village split about this?

"The village is already split," he says.

"What about?"

The answer to this question is a long and winding with too many questions and long pauses. Should any of the Woodwards profit from their story? Should the Eappens try to stop them? What's going on with the trust fund? Will Louise fight on to clear her name? Lots of questions and at the root of them all is money.