Woodward Case: The victims - The Eappens' anger and anguish.

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The Independent Online
The world was shocked when Judge Hiller Zobel reduced Louise Woodward's verdict to manslaughter. Shocked, however, does not get close to how the parents of baby Matthew feel. David Usborne hears about the anger and the anguish of Deborah and Sunil Eappen.

You would not expect otherwise, but their words are none the less heart-rending. Sunil and Deborah Eappen remain certain that Louise Woodward caused the death of their little boy at just eight-and-a-half months. He is dead; she, on the other hand, is free and eating chocolates.

All they have now is questions. How did it happen that the person who was a convicted murderer 10 days ago is now free and rejoicing? How can a judge say in the morning that a defendant is guilty, albeit of manslaughter and not murder, and let her go in the afternoon? How did it come about that they, the bereaved parents, have been receiving the hate mail since all this began and not Woodward?

One more question that is of overriding importance to the Eappens is why won't Woodward now, at last, acknowledge responsibility - even just a slither of responsibility - for Matthew's collapse on 4 February and his death five days later? Then, at least, they, the parents, would know what happened.

"One day, if not in court, she will have to admit what she did to Matty. We hope she believes that, too. If only she would say, 'I did this. I'm sorry'. We could go on with forgiveness, without bitterness," Mrs Eappen told the Boston Globe. "Louise Woodward has denied us that option."

The anger of the Eappens today, however, is directed less at Woodward and more at Judge Zobel for what he has done. At the bench on Monday, he insisted that he did not mean by his decisions to "denigrate the death of Matthew Eappen". Apparently, however, the Eappens do not believe him.

"What is Judge Zobel thinking? What does that say about justice? Does it say that you can fake a few tears and you are forgiven? Does it say that you can kill a baby and that your youth and inexperience with cranky babies counts for more than a child's life?" Mrs Eappen asked.

Sunil Eappen voiced similar disgust with Judge Zobel. "He mentioned in his decision that he was a grandfather. What if Matthew had been his grandson? Doesn't he get it? Someone killed Matthew. He acknowledges on the one hand that someone killed Matthew, and on the other hand he frees her. It makes no sense."

And nor was there sense, for the Eappens anyway, in Judge Zobel's reasoning that it was time to bring the whole affair to a "compassionate conclusion". "Compassion for whom? For Louise?" asked Mrs Eappen. "For a defendant who didn't ask for compassion? For a defendant who didn't take responsibility, who denies what she did, who is in denial about the seriousness of her actions?"

Since Monday, the Eappens have stayed out of the glare of the cameras. They are reported to be preparing to the leave and sell the suburban house where Matthew once lived. Then, says Mrs Eappen, she will focus on educating people about child abuse. "The judge doesn't understand the prevalence of child abuse. I wish I could be as ignorant as he is, but Matty is dead so I had to learn the truth."