Louise Woodward – Four evidence convinces jury to convict ‘nanny murder’ of ‘shake baby to death’

THIS are the four key pieces of evidence that led the jury to convict “nanny killer” Louise Woodward over the death of baby Matthew Eapenn in 1997.

Brit Au Pair was initially found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but her conviction was later overturned by Judge Hiller Zobel.

The prosecution used a number of professional medical witnesses to support their theory of Tremor


The prosecution used a number of professional medical witnesses to support their theory of TremorCredit: AP: Associated Press
Louise Woodward's behavior during cross-examination turned many people against her


Louise Woodward’s behavior during cross-examination turned many people against herCredit: Reuters

The shock ruling downgraded the verdict to involuntary manslaughter and saw Woodward released from prison after 289 days behind bars on charges related to Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Now, 25 years on, a new Channel 4 documentary, The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It?

The trial has divided opinion across the Atlantic with many in the US believing Woodward had little Matthew taken to death while supporters in the UK accused her of being an innocent victim caught up in the system. complicated laws of the country.


On the afternoon of February 4, 1997, Matthew was rushed to the hospital after a panicked Woodward called an ambulance, saying he couldn’t breathe.

While in a coma, the teenager was arrested on suspicion of child abuse. When Matthew died five days later, the charge was raised to murder.

Most read in The Irish Sun

At her trial, expert prosecution witnesses claimed Matthew’s injuries, including a fractured skull, showed a “triad” of symptoms consistent with his being violently shaken. and used his brain scans to back up their argument.

One expert, Dr. Patrick Barnes, endorsed this as the “classical model” of baby tremor syndrome (SBS) and rejected the defender’s argument that the boy’s injuries had been sustained for a long time. days earlier.

The jurors were presented with black and white scans of Matthew’s brain throughout the case, which both sides of the aisle used it to play into their arguments.

The famous defense marched the scan – which appeared to show an old fracture along Matthew’s skull – around the courtroom to declare that he had died from a previous wound that had been provoked. when Woodward ‘mildly’ shook him.

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.


With Matthew’s cause of death ruled by SBS, the outcome of the trial is entirely dependent on medical expert opinion and both sides call neurosurgeon, radiologist, doctor. pathologists and child abuse specialists take a stance.

Dr. Barnes, an expert witness for the prosecution, presented evidence that confirmed Matthew’s injuries were caused by excessive and prolonged shaking.

But years after his time at the pier – which saw him angry at the defense for his evasive testimony – The seasoned doctor draws his statement.

Dr. Barnes told the documentary filmmakers: “I was very strong, that it must be tremor syndrome. I cannot (now) give incriminating testimony to Louise Woodward other than one reasonable doubt. I shouldn’t have done it.”

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.

Louise told paramedics at the scene that Matthew was in a coma, not eating and screaming a lot – all symptoms of a previous wound.

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 discarding the theory about a larger injury at Louise’s trial, believing the rigid training around SBS was 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. “

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 explained: “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 could 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.”


Detective chief Bill Byrne told the documentary Woodward admitted to being “disappointed” by Matthew crying, and claimed that she said, “Maybe I was a little rough with him.”

UK-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.

Worse still, Woodward’s apparent aloofness from being cross-examined and her laughter when asked about Matthew’s death – has 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”.


Prosecutors wanted to paint the young Au Pair as a reckless, party-loving teenager with a grudge against Eappens after they insisted on a curfew.

They theorized that the former nanny was more interested in the Boston nightlife than in taking care of Matthew and his brother Brandon, who was two years old at the time, and was annoyed by having to take care of a fussy child.

The prosecution argued that she killed the nine-month-old in a “rage of frustration, anger and resentment”.

Woodward admitted the curfew had upset her, but she would never take her rage out on Matthew.

Woodward was just 18 years old when she came 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.

She loves her job and seems to take care of the kids.

“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. ”

A still brain scan of Matthew goes to court


A still brain scan of Matthew goes to courtCredit: Reuters
Prosecutors tried to paint Woodward as a'reckless' teenager who had a grudge against Eappens


Prosecutors tried to paint Woodward as a ‘reckless’ teenager who had a grudge against EappensCredit: Mercury Press Agency
Young Matthew's injuries, including a skull fracture, showed a'triad' of symptoms thought to be consistent with his being violently shaken.


Young Matthew’s injuries, including a skull fracture, showed a ‘triad’ of symptoms thought to be consistent with his being violently shaken.Credit: AP: Associated Press
The doctor who testified to help prosecutors put Louise Woodward in jail for murder changed my mind Louise Woodward – Four evidence convinces jury to convict ‘nanny murder’ of ‘shake baby to death’

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