Pathologist casts doubt on case against nanny

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The Independent Online
The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Matthew Eappen has contradicted the prosecution's claim that the baby had been violently shaken before his death. His evidence adds a new twist to the case of the British nanny Louise Woodward.

Dr Feigin's dramatic intervention yesterday threw doubt on the case against Miss Woodward. He said that if somebody had been shaken violently for a minute he would expect to find haemorrhaging of the neck muscles and bruises on the baby's arms and ribs where he had been grabbed.

"There were none," he told defence attorney Barry Scheck in cross-examination on the third day of the trial of 19-year-old Miss Woodward, from Elton, near Chester, at the Middlesex Superior Court, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The evidence of Dr Feigin - called as part of the prosecution case - also differed from that of the state's previous witness, neuro-radiologist Dr Robert Barnes, who told the court brain scans of Matthew after his admission to hospital on 4 February showed a classic pattern of brain haemorrhaging from "shaken impact child abuse-type trauma".

Dr Feigin said he had deliberately not mentioned in his autopsy report shaking as a cause of death, which he said was due to "blunt head trauma" from the baby's head being forcibly struck against a hard surface.

Mr Scheck asked him: "Were your findings consistent with this baby being taken and shaken back and forth violently?"

The doctor replied: "It isn't consistent with that."

Miss Woodward denies murdering the baby at the home of his parents, doctors Deborah and Sunil Eappen, in Newton, Massachusetts. She faces life without parole if convicted.

Both doctors agreed that there were no signs of any old brain injury which could have caused the haemorrhaging that led to Matthew's death.

But Dr Feigin admitted he had been wrong when he told a Grand Jury, hearing Miss Woodward's case earlier this year, that an infant would have to suffer a force equivalent to being dropped from a height of 15 feet on to a hard surface before suffering a skull fracture.

He said he had confused two papers he had read - one of which referred to research carried out using dead children.

He accepted he was "about 13 feet out" when Mr Scheck told him fractures had been suffered by babies falling from a height of just 32 inches. The trial continues.