Nanny Trial: The Eappens tell of their `beautiful baby'

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The Independent Online
Matthew Eappen's parents, Deborah and Sunil Eappen, made a witness impact statement before sentence was passed on Louise Woodward. Mrs Eappen said: "On May 24 1996, we gave birth to a healthy baby boy. We named him Matthew - gift from God.

"Matthew was a beautiful baby with black silky hair and rich chocolate eyes. He was a real butterball. He was so content. He made his needs known and when they were met he was happy again. A real smiling baby, he was the object of great affection from his two-year-old brother Brendan, who proudly announced: `Brendan makes baby Matthew feel better' ...

"I loved Matty's weight in my arms, his head on my shoulder, his hot breath tickling my neck and his gentle hand pressing my chin and I loved to snuggle and get cosy with my two boys.

"In December '96, I wrote a letter to Matthew on a card that showed a lot of kids on a sunny day in the Boston Gardens during the Dublin parade. And I wrote: `You are really a joy, never fussy and always sweet and easy to comfort. You can tell that your personality will calm and laid back. You are confident that your needs will be met'. I wrote how loving and protective Brendan was, how Dad adores you and how Matthew laughs a great laugh. `Your wonderful calm spirit is one that melts my heart. I want you to know Matthew, how special you are to us, even at such a young age'.

"At Christmas, I gave Matthew a book called Brothers and Sisters and inscribed it with: `You have added so much joy to our family. Dad and I love your smile and giggles. You are so amusing to each other. We can feel your love as brothers is strong already. We are so lucky and so proud of you. You are our sunshine, Matthew'. We loved this little bundle of joy, our chumber-munchkin and we thought that life looked good, that things had fallen into place after medical school and residency, and after getting settled in our new jobs.

"Only one week before February 4, Sunny and I were talking and thanking God. We are so blessed. And we dreamed of Matthew's future and of Matty running together, playing ball and roughhousing ...

"And to wiry little Brendan we would joke: `You'd better be nice to your brother, he's going to be a lot bigger than you'. They were so beautifully different, like Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. We felt happy and secure. We loved our family. I wouldn't change a thing." On February 4 1997, all our hopes and dreams were torn apart. Our Matty had been hurt. We soon learned our baby Matthew was dying. We couldn't believe it.

"It was all inconceivable. It was beyond our comprehension that our Matty was dying because someone we trusted had hurt him. We couldn't give up hope. We wished for a miracle. We would love Matty any way, he didn't need to be perfect.

"Could he survive, with maybe half a brain? But repeated tests and CAT scans showed that there was nothing to save. The whole brain was destroyed. There would be no life for Matthew.

"On February 9, we made the most painful decision of our lives. We had to let Matty go. Matty died in our arms, surrounded by family, including his loving two-and-a-half-year old brother, Brendan. Despite the tubes and IVs and surgical dressing covering his head, he looked to me like a little prince.

"Since that day, our lives have completely altered. Our hearts are heavy every day with the most excruciating pain. How can we be accepting any of this? How can we go on? Can we be happy again?"

"I get flashbacks of learning this has happened to my little defenceless baby Matthew. I am sickened to think he was crying for help but was instead beaten by the hands that were supposed to be caring for him. She didn't look scary to me. She didn't seem like a child abuser or a monster or murderer. We had no idea she would harm our kid.

"I am scared now when I hear an ambulance. I have nightmares, I am afraid to answer the phone or door. We are not safe. The unspeakable has happened and now anything could happen. My assumptions about life are now my goals; that my children will be safe, my marriage intact and my life one day happy again. I can't end without speaking for Brendan. He was so upset by someone he care for.

"He had so many questions: `How can baby Matthew die? What is death? Where is heaven? He would look up to the stars to say good night to Matty. `I love you. How was it up in heaven today?' ...

"He asked the question: `Why did Louise hurt Matty? Why did Louise hit Matty's head with something hard?' And he cried and I had no answers. And his questions will haunt me forever. `How? What exactly happened? How long did Matty suffer. Why?'

"Every day we are faced with the challenge how to go on living without Matthew. I am so grateful to those who have helped and supported us.

"I am so sorry now for all the pain that everyone involved must suffer. I am hopeful that some day we will find the key."

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