Mother tells murder trial of fears about British nanny - News - The Independent

Mother tells murder trial of fears about British nanny

The mother of baby Matthew Eappen finally took the stand in the trial of the British nanny accused of killing him, Louise Woodward, in Boston yesterday. As David Usborne observed, Mrs Eappen's testimony was compelling and often chilling. For the jury it may have been deeply affecting.

Deborah Eappen testified yesterday that she was allowed to examine her own child, eight-month-old Matthew, moments after he was admitted to hospital in Boston suffering from severe neurological calamity last February and that she immediately recognised symptoms of severe retinal bleeding.

In testimony that could prove to be critical to the prosecution's assertion that Louise Woodward killed Matthew by violently shaking him and slamming his head against a hard surface, Mrs Eappen said: "I knew what that meant, I just couldn't believe it, I just couldn't believe it, when I saw it."

Mrs Eappen, an ophthalmologist, did not need to tell the jury what medical experts had testified in the courtroom earlier - that retinal bleeding is itself a symptom of distress caused by severe shaking inflicted on a child - or shaken baby syndrome.

The remark was at the heart of an hour of testimony by Mrs Eappen under direct questioning by the prosecution. By bringing Mrs Eappen to the stand, the prosecution was hoping to bring its case to the most powerful conclusion possible after several days of often very technical medical testimony.

At the defence bench, Ms Woodward and her lawyers sat grim-faced as Mrs Eappen described serial difficulties she and her husband had encountered with her as their nanny from 18 November 1996, when she first joined them. In mostly negative testimony about Ms Woodward's character Mrs Eappen described, for instance, returning from church on Christmas morning to find her in the kitchen, with a quiche that had meant to have been in the oven all over the floor. She had also "opened her Christmas presents without us".

One week later, on New Year's Eve, Mrs Eappen recalled that Ms Woodward failed to return to the home all night. She added that it was "kind of embarrassing", because her mother was staying with them and also did not know her daughter's whereabouts.

The deepest chill settled over the courtroom, however, when she described the moment of Matthew's death five days after his initial admission. Joining her at his bed were her husband Sunil, Matthew's brother, Brendan, a priest and other extended family members."We were at Matthew's bedside. We all took turns holding Matthew, we played some children's music, we lit my grandmother's candle, we were holding Matthew, we prayed and then he died," she said.

Mrs Eappen described leaving her home in Newton, a Boston suburb, on 4 February. Matthew had been crying; it was the last time she saw him in good health. "Matty just had a little tear on the side of his eye and I dabbed it and I said I didn't like to hear him cry like that. I kissed him and I left."

She said she and her husband had had deepening concerns about Ms Woodward's reliability from the moment of joining the family. Specifically, they included Ms Woodward's repeated late nights in Boston and her failure often to wake up on time to begin her duties in the home. In the first month of her stay at the Eappens "in spite of the fact that [she had said] she wanted to be part of the family, she stayed home only one night".

One morning in mid-January, for example, after Ms Woodward had been confronted about the late nights, she, according to Mrs Eappen, "came home at 2.48 in the morning". She added: "The reason I know the time is that she was wearing big boots and she made a lot of noise. We were just in disbelief."

Mrs Eappen also said she was worried that Ms Woodward failed sometimes to properly supervise Matthew and two-year-old Brendan, while she and her husband worked during the day. She was worried about her being "on the computer doing e-mail, being on the phone for long periods of time and being in the shower when she was supposed to be with the children".

The Eappens gave her the choice on 30 January of either leaving or agreeing to new rules, including a night curfew. Then the Eappens decided not to fire Ms Woodward. "We felt that she was capable, we felt that the kids liked her and we felt that she was motivated to change," Mrs Eappen said.

She told the court that she saw no signs of ill-health in Matthew in the days and hours before the alleged incident on 4 February. She testified that she spoke to Ms Woodward by telephone from the hospital as her son underwent emergency treatment. Ms Woodward, she testified, could offer no clue as to how Matthew may have hurt himself. "She said that he did not bump his head and had not been left unattended".

In cross-examination, defence lawyer Andrew Good asked Mrs Eappen about the discovery in hospital of a wrist fracture that, according to radiological assessments, appeared to have been two to three weeks old. The defence is hoping to demonstrate that Matthew died as a result of an earlier, undetected, injury to his head for which Ms Woodward cannot have been responsible.

If convicted, she faces life in prison without parole.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Secondary Supply Teachers to work in Peterborough

£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers required fo...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week