Murder case nanny seeks bail

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The Independent Online
Louise Woodward, the British nanny accused of killing a nine-month- old-boy in her care in the United States, appeared in court late yesterday and was expected to plead innocent to a charge of first-degree murder.

Her appearance at Middlesex County Court in Cambridge, Massachusetts, followed the handing down from a grand jury on Wednesday of the first- degree indictment. The charge is the most severe possible and Miss Woodward faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Defence lawyers were also expected last night to ask the judge to grant bail in the case. Miss Woodward has been held for the past three weeks at a county jail in Framingham, outside Boston.

Miss Woodward, who is from Chester, came to the US in June to work as a nanny after taking her A-levels. She was arrested last month after the boy, Matthew Eappen, was admitted to hospital apparently suffering from "shaken-baby syndrome."

He died on 9 February after five days on life support.

The parents of the victim, Deborah and Sunil Eappen, who are both doctors in Boston, have publicly asked that bail be denied.

Religious and civic leaders of Upscale Newton, Massachusetts, where the Eappens live, have urged that Miss Woodward be released pending trial.

An autopsy indicated that Matthew had died from being shaken violently at the Eappen home on 5 February. A two-and-a-half-inch skull fracture suggested the child's head had also been struck against a solid object. Miss Woodward has told police she gently shook the child while bathing him and may have tossed him into some towels on the floor.

By asking for the first-degree charge, the grand jury signalled that it believes that Miss Woodward had acted with premeditation or with extreme atrocity and cruelty.

The defence team, from the Boston law offices of Silverglate & Good, is expected to argue that Miss Woodward may not have been alone in having contact with the infant when the injuries occurred. In a letter to a local newspaper, the firm said it had evidence showing that Miss Woodward was "not the only person with access to the infant who could have inflicted an injury."

The firm has not elaborated on this claim.

However, it is thought that Matthew's two-year-old brother, Brendan, was in the Eappen house on that day. Any implication of Brendan in the death has been dismissed by Mrs Eappen. "No two-year-old could inflict that kind of trauma," she said.