Woodward lawyer in row over guilt claim

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The Independent Online
A LAWYER who represented British nanny Louise Woodward yesterday rejected claims that she told a United States police officer who arrested her for drunken driving that she now believed her client guilty of murder.

"It is not true, it is a fabrication," the British-born lawyer, Elaine Whitfield-Sharp, insisted yesterday.

Ms Whitfield-Sharp, who admitted the drunken driving offence in court in Massachusetts on Tuesday, was the junior member of the defence team in last year' s trial of Woodward for the murder of baby Matthew Eappen, which drew immense international attention.

Woodward has been living in the lawyer's home in Boston pending the outcome of appeals.

Ms Whitfield-Sharp was pulled over for erratic driving last Friday.

The police officer involved is understood to have stated in his official report that Ms Whitfield-Sharp complained of having been under unusual stress because she had reached the conclusion since the trial's end that Ms Woodward was indeed guilty of murdering the boy, who died from massive head wounds aged just eight months while in her care.

The police report was not publicly available yesterday, making verification of the officer's alleged statement impossible.

While such a claim could be deeply embarrassing to the defence, it could have no material bearing on the case, if only because of Ms Whitfield- Sharp's state of intoxication at the time.

Woodward was found guilty on 31 October last year of second-degree murder in the case and given a mandatory life sentence.

Later, however, Judge Hiller Zobel reduced the conviction to one of manslaughter and ruled that the 279 days she had already served in prison was sufficient punishment.

Since an appeal hearing at the highest Massachusetts' court on 6 March this year, Woodward has remained in the state, forbidden access to her passport, awaiting the outcome.

The court's panel of seven judges, which is expected to release its ruling any day, has a range of possible options, including confirming Judge Zobel's decision, which would allow Woodward to return home, or reinstating the life sentence.

Offering a starkly different version of what occured at her arrest last Friday, Ms Whitfield-Sharp said it was the arresting officer, a state trooper, who introduced Woodward to their conversation.

She insisted yesterday: "I was stopped and the trooper said to me: `You have been drinking, because of the Louise Woodward case.'

"I said: `That was back in October and this is May.' He then said `If you have sex with me, I'll let you off.' I told him to f... off."