The first day of the rest of her life

Woodward's return: Former au pair arrives in Britain with a message - `I think, in time, the truth will come out'

IN SEAT 1A, Louise Woodward had a choice of eight films on her British Airways flight home. She may have peaked, at least, at Liar, starring Tim Roth. The blurb in the in-flight magazine sounded good. The plot synopsis, all about someone arrested for murder, came with the mini-headline: "The truth will out".

Within four hours of landing at Heathrow she was at Manchester Airport facing the world's press. Yes, she said, answering one reporter's question, she regretted having a manslaughter conviction against her name. But she didn't deserve it. She added: "I think, in time, the truth will come out."

Will it, though? You only have to wait 120 minutes for all to be revealed by Mr Roth. But in the few hours since Woodward waved goodbye to Boston, she has said nothing we have not already heard from her. "Like I've said time and time again," she said in Manchester, "I had nothing to do with the death, I did not hurt Matthew, I did not kill baby Matthew."

How touching was the optimism of the handful of journalists who piled on board the BA plane with her in Boston on Wednesday evening. What were we expecting - that, once the wheels were up, Woodward would gather us all up front to unload a new, definitive, version of what happened on 4 February last year that sent Matthew Eappen to Emergency with a broken skull?

We had no such luck, of course. What Woodward actually did as we lifted into the leaden New England sky was flick on Channel 8 on the in-seat video screen and watch the news. It was a BBC bulletin -- her first taste of home. And, surprise, it was all about her. She did not bother to plug in her headphones.

In any event, media advances, however polite, were decidedly unwelcome. An invisible wall was erected around Woodward, through which no one was to penetrate. The Massachusetts State Trooper, who came along, sitting just two rows behind in 3A, helped see to that.

And so did British Airways, which might have earned itself the moniker: Woodward official airline. `The Spirit of Louise' might look good on one of its aircraft.

When Woodward was whisked into a private lounge at Boston airport before take-off, who should show up to visit her? Sir Colin Marshall, the airline's chairman, no less.

Sir Colin (soon to be Lord Marshall), who said he had been booked on the plane for weeks, resumed his socialising with Woodward on board. True, he was sitting plumb across the aisle from her in 1B. As for reports that his airline had even paid for her first-class ticket, Sir Colin notably failed to come up with any kind of denial. "Not in a position to disclose that..."

And the plane's pilot was not going to tolerate any nonsense. Any trouble, he warned one highly reputable correspondent, and he would arrange for his instantaneous arrest upon arrival at Heathrow.

It was the same journalist who suffered an unprovoked, mid-flight, verbal battering from Gary Woodward, Louise's father.

Mr Woodward actually accused us all of trying to "spy" on him and his daughter as they travelled the skies. Spy? Well, come to think of it. But my sympathy was with the other passengers who had had no notice of the company they would be keeping at 30,000ft. Among them was Dame Shirley Williams, who at least knows what it is to be caught in a Fleet Street swarm.

So, Louise was left in peace. She did not talk and she did not live it up with champagne or, indeed, any kind of alcohol. Hers was an in-flight diet of orange juice, pasta with pesto sauce and no breakfast. Nor did she don the natty sleeping-suit that is available in First Class BA for those wishing to get snuggly.

A last-minute change of plan at Heathrow that sent Woodward to Manchester by car rather than on the 6.45 am BA shuttle was instigated by the airline itself. The shuttles are one-class planes and there was concern that the press containment practised across the Atlantic might not work a second time. The media frenzy that greeted Woodward as she stepped into a Manchester Airport conference room two hours later would have been enough to unnerve even the steeliest of souls. As the photographers bawled at her to turn to their lenses, Woodward looked suddenly frightened, just as she had when she first stepped onto the witness stand in last year's trial. But yesterday, just as she had on the stand, she quickly composed herself. In case we had forgotten, Woodward has no difficulty in articulating herself.

With mother and father beside her, Woodward restated her innocence and urged the "medical community to take up my case, now that the appeal avenues are closed, to help prove my innocence". And she reiterated what her lawyers were saying even before her October trial started - that negative press coverage about her in Boston had prejudiced the jury and the final outcome. "My voice was taken away," she suggested. "I don't think I got a fair trial."

But what now for Woodward, we wanted to know? This October will see the start of the trial in the wrongful death suit filed against her by the Eappen family back in Boston. About that she would say nothing. But she is thinking about the rest of her life.

The homecoming,

Friday Review

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor