Woodward family joins forces to lobby for early release

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The Independent Online
Louise Woodward's supporters crammed into their local pub again yesterday to watch a message broadcast by her parents. Esther Leach was with them as they learned that the nanny will appeal if her conviction is reduced to manslaughter.

Jim and Joyce Woodward wept openly as they joined campaigners who crammed into their local pub to watch a personal message broadcast by the parents of 19-year-old Louise Woodward.

They have not seen their son Gary and his wife Sue since April when they left for Boston to be close to their daughter who faces 15 years in prison for the murder of nine-month-old Matthew Eappen.

The crowd at the Rigger pub in Elton, Cheshire, the centre of the Justice For Louise campaign, cheered and clapped as they heard the Woodwards vow to bring their daughter home.

"She does not belong in America, she has not done anything wrong," said Louise's mother.

Supporters heard that the couple had been "overwhelmed" by the campaigners' efforts.

Mr Woodward said: "It is nice to know you are behind us and it gives us a bit of strength and helps Louise. We get information and we give it to Louise when we visit her every day. It gives her a lift. It is nice to know you are not on your own."

His wife added: "All we can say is thank you to everybody all over the country and all over the world, for supporting Louise.

The campaign has now raised more than pounds 500,000 and its workers, some who have travelled to Boston to be with the Woodwards, are receiving messages and donations from all around the world.

Today they will begin their watch on the Internet, taking it in turns to scan for news of a decision from Judge Hiller Zobel. He has to decide whether to free Woodward, order a retrial, reduce the second degree murder conviction or let it stand. Her lawyers said yesterday she will appeal even if her conviction is reduced to manslaughter.

Her defence attorney, Harvey Silverglate, said her lawyers had become convinced of her innocence after "pounding on her" repeatedly to try to get some explanation as to how Matthew had come by his injuries.

Woodward told them she had no idea how the baby had been hurt and that she had not been responsible.

The prosecution would also have the right to appeal against whatever decision Judge Zobel makes.

Earlier Vicky Woodward, Louise's sister, stood surrounded by members of her family. They travelled from Liverpool to be with her, comfort her and encourage her as she waits for news of her sister's fate. Sometimes the emotion was too great for the 18-year-old psychology student and tears filled her eyes but she declared her faith in her sister's innocence.

"I know it will be okay," she said. "We can offer all our love and support. She knows it's there but I think she must be feeling lonely because at the end of the day she is the one who is locked away in a cell."

Vicky has not seen her mother since June or her father for about a month, but they talk or send messages daily.

She rarely visits The Rigger pub because she cannot cope with the intense emotion she feels when people talk to her about her sister.

In the lounge about a dozen or so members of the family talked about the mutual support they give each other. But there was feeling too for the Eappen family who have lost their son.

"We are parents too and we grieve for the Eappen family," said Joyce Woodward.

"No one's to blame," said Graham Boyes, a cousin with children of his own. "There doesn't have to be someone to blame. If you knew Louise as we do you'd know she could not hurt anyone."

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