Nanny Trial: We are ready to fight, say supporters

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The Independent Online
A new determination has gripped the people of Elton, the Cheshire home of the Woodward family. "We are ready for the fight," said Linda Reynolds, a key campaigner for the release of Louise Woodward. "The first feelings of shock have now gone. Just look around you - all these people, supporting us and Louise, it's done wonders for us."

Ms Reynolds was talking outside the Rigger public house, where campaigners had gathered to wait for the live broadcast of the sentencing of Louise Woodward.

Earlier, supporters had felt the 19-year-old au pair's fear and distress as the verdict was announced.

Debbie Lalor, 36, who often invited Louise to babysit for her daughter Georgina said: "Her cries were harrowing. They will stay with us forever, whatever happens now.

"The impulse to reach out and touch Louise was great, to reassure her as well as her parents, Sue and Gary Woodward.

"We intend to keep them out there close to Louise for as long as it takes. We have had tremendous support from around the world. We are now setting up a website to keep people informed, and let them know where to send their donations."

Ms Lalor was talking after 48 hours without sleep. Her energy has returned with the swell of public enthusiasm to win freedom for Louise, which had been reinforced by telephone calls and messages from well wishers.

As Ms Lalor stepped into the Rigger in time for the live broadcast of the sentencing, she was stopped by another mother who wanted to tell her of an idea to help the Woodwards - the sale of small yellow ribbons as symbols of her return home. Ms Lalor welcomed the idea, and as she spoke a large yellow ribbon was being tied around a tree outside the pub. Then Ms Lalor was swept away to join other campaigners for photographs to be taken at the tree. They were anxious the picture would show the Woodwards and the rest of the world that they had not given up.

Meanwhile, angry Britons flooded the American embassy in London with calls yesterday. Staff played the address and fax number of the district attorney's office in East Cambridge, Massachusetts to callers wishing to complain about American justice after many callers became abusive.

Officially the embassy would not "characterise" the nature of the phone calls, but one embassy staffer said that many of the calls verged on the ludicrous: "All of the calls were negative, some called us all manner of evil things and some were just plain cranky.

"There were people connecting the trial of Louise to America's position on global warming and to our supposed support of the IRA.

"There were others who were just really upset. They were polite and considerate, but they had a need to talk to someone about the trial."

The embassy pointed out it was a local court matter unrelated to the federal government: "We would not be happy if it impacted on America's relationship with the British," said a press spokesman.

The court can be reached via the Office of the District Attorney, 40 Thorndyke St, E. Cambridge, Mass. 02141. Fax: 001 617 225 0871.

- Esther Leach