IT is a trial between the UK and the US, when teenage nanny Louise Woodward is accused of beating eight-month-old Matthew Eappen to death.
Convicted of murder and jailed for life in 1997, she was released 279 days later in a shocking verdict when the judge lowered the sentence to manslaughter.
25 years on and public opinion is still divided over what happened on that fateful day when Louise, then 18, from Elton, Cheshire, cared for two children at their US home near Boston, Massachusetts.
At her trial, expert prosecuting witnesses suggested that Matthew’s injuries, including a fractured skull, showed a “triad” of symptoms consistent with his severe concussion.
One expert, Dr. Patrick Barnes, corroborated this as the “classical model” of baby tremors (SBS) and rejected the defense’s argument that Matthew’s injuries were pre-existing.
But in a new Channel 4 documentary, The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It?, the doctor reveals he’s changed his mind – and says the science behind SBS’s diagnosis is flawed.
During the three-tier competition, which begins tomorrow, he said: “I was so strong that it must have suffered from infant tremor syndrome. I cannot (for now) give incriminating testimony against Louise Woodward beyond a reasonable doubt. I shouldn’t have done that.”
But prosecution attorney Gerry Leone told The Sun: “I had no question in mind that Louise Woodward responsible for killing Matthew.
“The defense took separate and sometimes random pieces of facts to create a story that pushed the evidence away from Louise Woodward.
“But in the end, 12 people who had never met each other found that she was responsible, beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Controversy surrounding baby tremors has raged on both sides of the Atlantic since then.
Some experts remain adamant that the triad of symptoms Matthew presents – bleeding in the brain, swelling in the brain and bleeding in his eyes – points to intentional abuse.
But critics say these symptoms can be caused by many other causes, including accidental falls and rare genetic conditions.
British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith has represented accused parents and carers at SBS since 1995, when he successfully appealed his father’s death sentence.
He told The Sun: “When it comes to infant tremors, there’s no science at all, it’s a latter-day routine.
“It’s based on a 1972 hypothesis by British neuroscientist Norman Guthkelch, and it’s just a hypothesis, with no factual basis to back it up.
“Before he died two years ago, he said how horrified he was that his theory had been accepted as fact and sent so many people to prison.”
Clive says bleeding on the brain can be caused by very little trauma – and the triad theory is “stupid”.
He explains: “If you were an infant or small child 2ft 6in and you fell 3ft, your head would hit the floor at about 15mph, faster than you and I can run water. withdraw.
“If you hit a wall you can do serious damage, so to say that an infant cannot have a fatal head injury from that type of fall is clearly wrong.”
I have no doubt that Louise Woodward is responsible for the murder of Matthew. 12 people found that she was responsible, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecuting Attorney Gerry Leone
Louise was only 18 years old when she traveled to the US for a short year, eventually working for Debbie and Sunil Eappen, who is both a doctor and nanny for three-year-old Brendan and baby Matthew.
Louise loves her job and seems to take care of children.
“They were so lovely,” she said in a clip from a 2003 interview on TV’s Panorama: “Brendan is so bright and funny, you can talk to him. And Mattie is a sweet, funny and playful baby. ”
On the afternoon of February 4, 1997, Matthew was rushed to the hospital after Louise panicked and called an ambulance, saying he couldn’t breathe.
While lying in a coma, Louise was arrested on suspicion of child abuse. When he died five days later, the charge was elevated to murder.
Detective chief Bill Byrne told the documentary Louise admitted to being “disappointed” by Matthew crying, and claimed that she said, “Maybe I was a little rough on him.”
British-born lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp took over Louise’s case after concluding that she was too small, with “tiny hands”, to do much damage to a “butter ball of hers”. a baby” 22lb.
She said: “For this little person to rock this big baby with such violence, it makes no sense.” In the lead-up to the trial, in October 1997, there was a lot of support in the UK led by people in her home country.
But in America, she is considered a murderer. Prosecutors allege she was an irresponsible, party-loving teenager who held a grudge against the Eappens family after they insisted on imposing a curfew.
The court heard Matthew had a 2.5-inch crack in his skull and that his head had been “viciously shaken for a long time”.
Defense attorneys argued there were no bruises on his arms, stomach, chest or legs, which would have been if someone had lifted him up and used force to shake him.
Expert eyewitnesses also testified that the lack of fresh blood to the brain suggested that the skull fracture was an old injury.
I was so strong, that it must be shaken baby syndrome. I cannot (for now) give incriminating testimony against Louise Woodward beyond a reasonable doubt.
Dr. Patrick Barnes
Louise told paramedics at the scene that Matthew was in a coma, not eating and screaming a lot – all symptoms of a previous injury.
Neurosurgeon Ronald Uscinski, who presented the defense, said: “What I saw was that the wound was not a new one.
“No matter what they said, it couldn’t have happened that day. We gave them science and the prosecution gave them hysteria.”
Dr Barnes, who now regrets dismissing the theory of an old injury at Louise’s trial, believes the rigorous training around SBS is to blame for previous mistakes.
He said, “My teachers taught me that tremor baby syndrome produces characteristic findings, the so-called triplets. Because we’re biased by the trio representing tremors, we won’t believe the (other) story. “
Defense attorney Barry Sheck told the documentary that the trial was a “huge witch hunt”, adding: “They locked her up based on false assumptions about violent shaking and what you need to cause a skull fracture. It’s crazy.”
Prosecutor Gerry Leone denied that Dr Barnes ‘returned’ because he was not involved in the case.
He told The Sun: “The evidence and the jury found beyond reasonable doubt that she not only engaged in a violent shake on Matthew – causing serious eye injuries, brain and other parts of his body – but also he hit a hard object, causing a 2.5in crack in the back of his skull. ”
At the trial, Louise appeared aloof when she was cross-examined, and her laughter when questioned about Matthew’s death, turned many against her.
She then explained, “I was asked not to show any emotions, because the prosecutors were trying to paint me as a fickle person. I’m not distant, I’m just scared. I am very scared and inhibited”.
She was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
But in a shocking move a few days later, the judge overturned the sentence and sentenced her to 279 days, the length of time she had already served pending trial.
I never forgot, in all this, that a boy died. I really feel really sorry about that.
Gerry insisted the judge’s leniency was “an insult to justice”. “He can make whatever decision he wants under the law on that matter,” he said.
“But I have tried a father accused of child murder in a similar case a year to the day before this case, and he is still in prison.
“In my view, that contradicts the release of Louise Woodward because there is less prison time when Matthew Eappen lives on this planet.”
Eappens went on to have two more children.
After returning to the UK, Louise, now 43 years old, He studied law, got married, and had children of his own.
In her only TV interview since then, she said: “I never forgot, in all this, that a boy died. I really feel really sorry about that.
“The whole thing was just such an injury and I certainly haven’t forgotten about him.”
- The Killer Nanny: Did she do it? starting at 9pm on Channel 4 tomorrow.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tv/17256676/louise-woodward-shaking-baby-science/ Expert in The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It?