Channel 4 documentary The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? delves into the case of Louise Woodward, the British au pair who was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of eight-month-old baby Matthew Eappen
The trial of Louise Woodward sent shockwaves across both sides of the Atlantic and strongly split opinion.
Dubbed the ‘Killer Nanny’, the-18-year-old au pair was accused of violently shaking eight-month-old Matthew Eappen to death.
Woodward was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of second-degree murder, but just 10 days later her conviction was reduced to involuntary manslaughter after an appeal.
After finishing her A-levels in 1996, the British teenager flew to the US on a gap year and worked for an au pair agency in Boston, Massachusetts.
Woodward, from Cheshire, was hired by doctors Sunil and Deborah Eappen to look after their young son in January 1997.
On February 9, the nanny made a panicked 911 call stating she had found baby Matthew unresponsive and gasping for breath.
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The eight-month-old was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital with a fractured skull, internal bleeding and a fractured wrist.
Tragically, baby Matthew fell into a coma and died five days later from a brain haemorrhage.
Woodward, then 19, was arrested for battery of a child and, according to Detective Sergeant William Byrne, admitted to playing ‘a little roughly’ with Matthew days before his death.
A grand jury later decided on a first-degree murder charge and she was denied bail while being held at a maximum security prison until the trial.
The prosecution alleged that Woodward had killed the baby in a “frustrated, unhappy and relentless rage”, something her defence team strongly rejected.
There was dispute over a statement the au pair had made to the police, with Woodward claiming she told the authorities she had “popped the baby on the bed”.
After clarifying she said “popped” rather than “dropped”, Woodward explained that the word “pop” in as English term meaning to “lay” or “place” as it has different connotations in America.
Experts were called to testify by the prosecution, including a neurosurgeon, an ophthalmologist, a radiologist, two pathologists, and an expert in child abuse.
They stated that they believed Matthew’s injuries were symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome, in which a baby is violently shaken resulting in serious brain damage or death.
However, brain surgeon Joseph Medsen, who was brought by the defence, argued Matthew’s head injuries could have occurred days or even weeks before he went to hospital.
After deliberating for 26 hours, the jury found Woodward guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 15 years to be served.
Two days later, Woodward’s legal team launched an appeal after it emerged the jury had been split before finding her guilty of the murder charge.
Judge Hiller Zobel reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter, stating: “The circumstances in which the defendant acted were characterised by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense supporting a conviction for second-degree murder.
He added: “I am morally certain that allowing this defendant on this evidence to remain convicted of second-degree murder would be a miscarriage of justice.”
Alamy Stock Photo)
Woodward was sentenced to 279 days in prison, which was the time she had already served so she was freed.
Almost 25 years on from the trial, Woodward now lives as a free woman in the UK with her own family.
In January 2014, Woodward became a mum herself when she had a baby with businessman husband Antony Elkes.
During her pregnancy, she told the Daily Mail: “I know there are some people waiting for me to have a baby so they can say nasty things.
“It upsets me but that is not going to stop me leading my life… I am entitled to enjoy my life. I am not going to apologise for being happy.”
Louise, who got a degree in law, now works as a dance teacher after starting her own school to teach jive and salsa.
Alamy Stock Photo)
Channel 4 documentary The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? airs across three consecutive nights and explores the case in detail.
The first episode focuses on the case against Louise Woodward, with exclusive access to the prosecution team, the paramedic who treated Matthew and the investigating detective.
With new access and leads to both defence and prosecution lawyers, detectives, paramedics and journalists, the harrowing documentary series will detail and re-examine the divisive case, the trial and its conclusion.
It also includes contributions from jury members, who openly discuss the factors that influenced their decision for the first time and Woodward’s defence lawyer, who sis still adamant she is innocent.
Lifting the lid on the documentary series, Fatime Salaria, managing director of Naked said: “The media circus around this story means it has remained in the public consciousness for over 20 years.
“With the opportunity to look back with fresh eyes alongside exclusive access to both sides of the story, this documentary offers a new perspective on the case.”
Daniel Fromm, commissioning editor for factual entertainment at Channel 4, added: “This three-part documentary boxset offers fascinating insights into a trial that gripped the public’s attention on both sides of the Atlantic.”
*The Killer Nanny: Did She Do It? airs on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on Channel 4 at 9pm
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