Mother takes Christmas gifts to Woodward

Susan Woodward, mother of the former au pair Louise, was yesterday preparing to fly to Boston to join her daughter for Christmas. She said that her daughter was disappointed that she could not come home but was adapting well to life in Massachusetts.

Woodward, 19, of Elton, Cheshire, was freed last month after being convicted by a jury in Boston of the second-degree murder of eight-month-old Matthew Eappen. The conviction should have meant a minimum of 15 years in jail, but Judge Hiller Zobel overturned the verdict, substituting a conviction for manslaughter, and sentenced Woodward to exactly the time she had already spent in jail on remand.

But she has been ordered to stay in Massachusetts until appeals by both the defence and prosecution have been heard next March.

Mrs Woodward said yesterday that everyone was resting and preparing for the appeal. "All that's happened of course from the beginning of February everybody knows and our lives haven't been the same - the whole saga takes a different turn all of the time, and at the moment we are in a quiet period waiting for the appeal in March. It's a very different phase now, it's a very supportive phase. Everybody shows how much they support Louise and share with us how wrong they think the verdict was and we are taking comfort from that," she told Sky News.

Woodward is unable to attend school in the United States because of the status of her visa, but her mother said she was using her time to brush up on her French with the help of a tutor and would be resuming clarinet lessons in the new year.

"She spends her day reading and writing letters, responding to the many letters that she gets, I don't think she would ever be able to tackle all of them. She has a lot of e-mail so she spends time on the computer and is brushing up on her computer skills, so she is using her time very usefully. It's just passing time though, until she can come home."

Mrs Woodward will fly out to Boston this weekend, laden with presents and cards from wellwishers for her daughter.