Why I wish I'd stayed with the Eappens

Their Swedish au pair talked exclusively to David Usborne
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"I try not to look back," said Jenny Vestbro. "I moved, and that's a fact. We don't know what would have happened if I'd stayed."

In an exclusive interview, the 23-year-old Swedish nanny who immediately preceded Louise Woodward as a live-in help with the Eappen family last year described a loving atmospherewhere, during three months last year, she had originally been very happy. She swiftly left, however, after an unexpected confrontation with Deborah Eappen one evening as she was getting ready to go out.

"They were beautiful kids and the family was very nice to me," Jenny said, describing how the Eappens had once given her money to go out after her wallet had been stolen. She left on 1 November, almost exactly a year ago, "because of something between me and Debbie".

Jenny, who spent almost a year in America with families found for her by EF Au Pair, the same agency that placed Woodward, spoke almost reluctantly about the conversation that triggered her departure.

Out of the blue, Mrs Eappen raised how in the year before coming to America, Ms Vestbro had tragically lost both her grandmothers and her boyfriend, who died in a motorcycle accident. "She said 'You're here because you lost your people, and au pairs are here just because they like to go out and see the US and everything. She said I was there because they died.

"I was just shocked. I decided I couldn't live with a person who said stuff like that."

But after going to two other families, both of which turned out to be still more problematic for her, she came to regret leaving the Eappens. That has since haunted her, because of the knowledge that had she not left, Matthew might be alive today. Woodward joined the Eappens on 18 November.

Ms Vestbro, who is now studying languages in Stockholm, still believes, however, that Mrs Eappen had perhaps simply had a "bad day". Her experience with Deborah and Sunil was in all other respects ideal. As to whether she had ever witnessed the parents inflicting any harm on Matthew and his elder brother Brenda, she said, "Nothing at all, nothing, nothing, nothing. They were really good parents." Nor, she insisted, did she believe that Brendan, aged two, could ever have hurt Matthew. "That's ridiculous, he loved him."

While Ms Vestbro never met Woodward, she recounted what a representative of Au Pair said to her about what seemed like a coldly indifferent reaction from the English au pair when she was told on the evening of 4 February that Matthew was in a critical coma.

"He told me that she didn't cry or anything. Instead she asked him if she would be leaving the Eappens and if she was going to have a new family."