Cleared nursery manager Laura Pettitt reveals 'life of hell'

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The Independent Online

A nursery manager spoke today of the "hell" she has endured after she was cleared of shaking, dropping and force-feeding babies in her care.

Laura Pettitt, 27, was accused of cruelty to 10 different children while she was working at Little Stars nursery in Bromley, south London.

But after a week-long trial a jury at Croydon Crown Court found her not guilty on all counts.

Wearing a smart black trouser suit, blonde Miss Pettitt wept in the dock as the unanimous verdicts were read out.

As soon as the brief hearing was over, she rushed to her tearful family in the public gallery and hugged them.

Miss Pettitt, of Thayers Farm Road, Beckenham, south-east London, was accused during her trial of throwing babies about and putting blankets over their faces if they would not go to sleep.

When she was arrested and interviewed by police in January 2009 she said her colleagues made up "malicious" allegations against her after learning she was a lesbian, the court heard.

Outside court, Miss Pettitt said her life had been "hell" while she awaited trial, adding: "Justice has been served."

She said: "I'm relieved it's all over. I just want to get on with my life - it's been on hold for two years. The whole thing was ridiculous."

Miss Pettitt alleged that the claims against her had been "concocted", but said: "I don't know if it was because of my sexuality."

She said she would not be returning to work in childcare.

Miss Pettitt worked at Little Stars for seven years and became manager of the baby room, where she was in charge of children ranging from babies aged just a few months up to young toddlers, the court heard.

A number of nursery assistants gave evidence to the trial alleging that she was cruel to the children she was looking after.

Simon Taylor, defending, told the jury that Miss Pettitt had fallen victim to rumours and "bitchiness" among her colleagues that took on "epic proportions".

He said she was "confident and forthright" in her handling of the babies and suggested that prosecution witnesses had put a "sinister interpretation" on everyday events like babies crying and being sick.

Mr Taylor said: "She is not a monster. She is just the victim of a whispering campaign of lies and exaggeration."