Murder case girl parents put faith in her innocence

Nine months after her arrest on charges of first-degree murder for the death of small boy in her care, 19-year-old British nanny Louise Woodward faces trial in Boston today. In an interview with David Usborne, Louise's parents expose the depths of their agony as they wait for justice.

Amidst the raw dread painted so clearly on their faces, Susan and Gary Woodward at least have this rock-solid certainty to cling on to: the charges laid against their teenage daughter, which could send her into a prison in the United States for the rest of her life are false. Unimaginably. Stupid, even. That Louise could have killed nine-month-old Matthew Eappen, or any child, is simply not conceivable.

In that, they have unbreakable confidence and they are joined by it. In all else, however, they are two people bereft of faith. Their doubts are manifold: in the fairness of the court proceedings before them, in their daughter's ability to heal herself even if she is acquitted, even in their bonds as husband and wife. For Mr Woodward, his faith in God is imperiled also.

About some things, the couple, who have just come from Sunday service in Trinity Church, Boston, prefer not to talk. Of their success in bringing together a defence team which includes Barry Scheck, a member of OJ Simpson's "dream team" - or how they are paying for it - they remain silent. Questioned about the mother and father of Matthew, they simply choke.

For the Woodwards, their tragedy began on 6 February, when, at 6.30am, the nanny agency that had placed Louise with the Eappen family in Boston during her gap year before university, telephoned the Woodwards' home in the village of Elton, near Chester. "Somebody from the agency told us that there was a problem and that the baby had been taken to hospital and that the police were asking some questions. I was just baffled, I didn't know what was happening," Mrs Woodward explained.

The bafflement turned to petrification - their term - when they saw their daughter being bundled into a police van in Boston on the six o'clock news the same evening. Louise was being accused of shaking Matthew in the bathroom of the Eappen house and slamming his head against a hard surface. At the time, the infant was in hospital, but he died five days later. Initial charges of manslaughter were instantly upgraded to first- degree murder. By the time Mr Woodward got to Boston the next day, Louise had undergone more questioning - with no contact with her parents or any lawyers. He was allowed to see her for the first time that night on 7 February.

Mrs Woodward, especially, is careful before attacking the judicial system that has swallowed her daughter. But the last few months, she explained, have delivered one knock after another. First, there was the refusal of the court to grant Louise bail. "The prosecution said that she would flee the country and go to Brazil. It was ridiculous."

The Woodwards have other reasons for anger. Why has the court refused to admit as evidence the results of a lie detector test taken by Louise in May which she passed? Why has the prosecution put Mrs Woodward on its list of potential witnesses, meaning she will not be able to visit Louise during the trial, or even be in court?

Above all, they are angered by the court's refusal a week ago to dismiss the case following revelations that some of the brain tissue taken at the autopsy of Matthew has since been lost. "You have to wonder what other things we don't know about," Mrs Woodward noted.

As a couple, they are managing only to "function, with our lives in a vacuum", Mr Woodward said. It is he who nearly breaks down in tears when we discuss the church service they have just left. "It is difficult to keep my faith," he conceded, hands together, pressed against his face.

But for both the Woodwards there was this one sign of hope in the service. "Make me a Channel of Thy Peace", was sung as one of the hymns. It is Louise's favourite.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us