EXCLUSIVE ‘Killer nanny’ Louise Woodward is seen for first time in years

Former nanny Louise Woodward has been pictured for the first time in years as it was revealed that Channel 4 are making a major documentary about her conviction for killing a baby.

The 43-year-old whose case made headlines around the world in 1997, clutched her mobile phone in her hand as she left her home this morning.

Dressed in blue top and a black cardigan, she placed her keys in her mouth while getting into her car in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

It is not known if Woodward — now known by her married name Louise Elkes — has been interviewed for the three-part documentary series which will reanalyse her case.

While she is now a happily married mother with a seven-year-old daughter, there is still a huge amount of notoriety surrounding her case, and she remains a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.

Woodward was aged just 19 when she was found guilty of the murder of eight-month-old Matthew Eappen while working as an au pair for his parents in the United States.

Her conviction for second degree murder was reduced to involuntary manslaughter just ten days later, and she was freed after 278 days behind bars.

Channel 4 is promising that its upcoming documentary called ‘Louise Woodward: Villain or Victim?’ will provide ‘fascinating insights into a trial that gripped the public’s attention on both sides of the Atlantic’.

Woodward set her heart on a gap year adventure after finishing her A Levels in 1996 and left her family home in Elton, Cheshire, to travel 3,100 miles to the United States to work as an au pair.

She was taken on by an agency in Boston, Massachusetts, and was initially placed with a family, but she left after reportedly becoming ‘unhappy’ with the 11pm curfew they had placed on her.

Woodward was then hired in November 1996 by Sunil and Deborah Eappen, both 30-year-old doctors, to care for their baby son Matthew at their home in Newton, Massachusetts.

She was said to have been cautioned by the parents for staying out late within two months of taking on her role.

The couple reportedly drew up a list of expectations which they presented to her in January 1997 to ensure ‘the safety and well-being’ of their baby children.

Woodward called an ambulance to their home four days later after Matthew stopped breathing while in her care.

He was found to have a fractured skull, a fractured wrist and internal bleeding, and was put on a life support machine at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Woodward was arrested and charged with battery of a child, but tragically the youngster died from a brain haemorrhage just six days after being admitted to hospital.

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Police charged Woodward with first degree murder after she allegedly told them that she had shaken Matthew and thrown him on a pile of towels.

The prosecution claimed during her trial that she had killed the baby in a ‘frustrated, unhappy and relentless rage’.

But her lawyers strongly rejected the claim and Woodward constantly insisted she was innocent while facing criticism that she appeared ‘cold’ and ‘remorseless’.

Woodward stated under cross examination that she had ‘popped’ baby Matthew, rather than having ‘dropped’ him as police officers had previously claimed.

She admitted to having played ‘a little roughly’ with him a few days earlier, and explained that to ‘pop’ was an English term meaning to lay’ or to ‘place’.

Experts claimed that Matthew was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome where a baby suffers brain damage from being forcefully shaken, usually by someone in rage or frustration.

But Woodward’s defence team and brain surgeon Joseph Medsen argued that his death could have been due to a head injury suffered two weeks earlier.

She wept as she was found guilty of a lesser second-degree murder charge in October 1997 before later being jailed for life and told to serve a minimum term of 15 years.

Her mother Sue Woodward who had strongly supported her said outside the court: ‘They’ve made a horrendous mistake and they need to put it right.’

It emerged two days after her conviction that jurors had been split before they finally found her guilty.

One jury member disclosed at the time that none of the jurors ‘thought she tried to murder’ Matthew.

Woodward’s conviction provoked a wave of sympathy for her plight in the UK and across the world, and well-wishers donated thousands of pounds to help her and her parents who had travelled to the US to support her.

The jury’s verdict was overturned by Judge Hiller Zobel ten days after she was sentenced to life in prison.

The judge ruled instead that she was guilty of involuntary manslaughter and jailed her for 278 days – the amount of time she had already spent behind bars.

He said in his judgement: ‘Viewing the evidence broadly, as I am permitted to do, I believe that 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 of second degree murder.

‘Frustrated by her inability to quiet the crying child, she was `a little rough with him’ under circumstances where another, perhaps wiser, person would have sought to restrain the physical impulse. The roughness was sufficient to start (or re-start) a bleeding that escalated fatally.’

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Judge Zobel went on: ‘The sad scenario is, in my judgement after having heard all the evidence and considered the interests of justice, most fairly characterised as manslaughter, not mandatory-life-sentence murder. I view the evidence as disclosing confusion, fright, and bad judgement, rather than rage or malice.’

Prosecutors insisted they would ‘pull out every stop’ to get Woodward back behind bars, although her lawyers said the judgement represented ‘total vindication’.

Judge Zobel’s decision was overturned in June 1998 after it was claimed that he had ‘abused his statutory discretion’.

The case then went to the Supreme Court which upheld his verdict of involuntary manslaughter and the reduced sentence, which allowed Woodward to finally fly home.

She continued to protest her innocence in a special edition of the flagship BBC programme Panorama when she talked to Martin Bashir who was recently discredited over the deceptions he used to secure his Princess Diana interview.

Woodward stated that she hoped to go to university and live an ordinary life, saying: ‘I’d like to do what any other 20-year-old would do, I’d like to get a part-time job and just do normal things.’

She described her manslaughter conviction as ‘a conviction I don’t deserve’, and said she held out hope that ‘in time the truth will come out’ and she would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

In a later interview, Woodward admitted to ‘lightly shaking’ the unresponsive baby.

Woodward went on to study law at London South Bank University where she graduated with a 2:2 (Hons) degree in July 2002.

She began a training contract two-years-later with law firm Ainley North Halliwell, in Oldham Greater Manchester, describing her law career as ‘a crusade’.

But she dropped out of the contract the following year to become a ballroom and Latin dance teacher in Chester.

It was reported at the time that she wanted to release a series of instructional videos with her then boyfriend Richard Colley, a qualified dance instructor.

Woodward married truck hire company boss Anthony Elkes in May 2013 after moving to Bridgnorth and continuing her career as a dance teacher.

Before her daughter was born, 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 innocent. I have done nothing wrong. I am entitled to enjoy my life. I am not going to apologise for being happy.’

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After her pregnancy was announced, Matthew’s aunt Mary Wong said she had a ‘right to have a child’, but called for her to take parenting classes and learn to control her temper.

She said: ‘For the sake of her family I hope her parenting skills have come a long way. I think that she needs to have parenting skills and support for her baby. I hope no harm comes to the child.’

Feelings about Woodward’s case still run high in America.

A decade after her trial, she was named as ‘the most notorious criminal in Massachusetts’ by Boston law magazine Exhibit A, beating a drug dealer who had topped the FBI’s most wanted list.

Her case was reported to have played a major part in ensuring that legislation to restore capital punishment in Massachusetts was defeated.

The state’s House of Representatives was deadlocked 80-80 on a bill to restart the practice in November 1997 before throwing it out

One politician Rep. John P. Slattery said he switched from support to opposition of the bill because of the Woodward case.

He said at the time that he didn’t ‘want to be the one lying in bed some night wondering if the wrong person is being put to death’.

Further doubt was cast on Woodward’s conviction by Patrick Barnes, a paediatric radiologist at Stanford University, and a key prosecution witness in the trial.

He said in 2011 that he would not give the same testimony today, claiming there had been a revolution in the understanding of head injuries in the past decade, partly due to advances in MRI brain scanning technology.

He said it was now understood that other medical conditions could affect a baby’s brain and look like findings that used to be attributed to Shaken Baby Syndrome or child abuse, such as infections and strokes.

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