Who was Matthew Eappen?

THE shocking story of Matthew Eappen made headlines all over the world and tonight ITV documentary The Trial Of Louise Woodward will bring it back into the spotlight.

But who was Matthew and what happened to him? Here’s all you need to know…

Who was Matthew Eappen? 

Matthew Eappen was an eight-month-old baby from Boston, Massachusetts, who’s death in 1997 made headlines across the world.

In November 1996 of his parents Sunil and Deborah Eappen, both 30-year-old doctors, hired Louise Woodward, 18, from Elton, Cheshire, to be his nanny.

But within two months, it was claimed the parents were concerned by Woodward staying out late at night and they cautioned her.

They allegedly drew up a list of expectations in January 1997 to ensure “the safety and well-being of our kids”, the Irish Times reported.

What happened to Matthew Eappen? 

Four days later the eight-month-old was rushed to hospital after falling unconscious while in her care in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1997.

He was rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital and put on a life support machine – but tragically six days later, he died of a brain haemorrhage. 

In between that time, Woodward, then 19, was arrested by police and she pleaded not guilty to one charge of battery of a child. 

The case made headlines globally with prosecutors arguing Matthew had shown classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.

Her defence claimed the tot's death was caused by an injury sustained weeks before.

In October, Woodward wept in the docks as she was found guilty of a lesser second-degree murder charge and was later sentenced to life in prison. 

Two days after her conviction, it emerged that the jury was split before they were convinced in favour of finding the teen guilty.

According to one jury member, none of them “thought she tried to murder” Matthew.

The defence launched an appeal and within 10 days of being sentenced to life in prison, Woodward was released. 

What is shaken baby syndrome?

Dr. Harvey Karp, CEO of Happiest Baby inc, explains: “Shaken baby syndrome is arguably the deadliest form of child abuse.

“It usually occurs before 12 months of age (Peak around four months of age during the colicky phase of infancy) when a parent finally loses patience with their inability to sooth the babies crying and grabs the baby by the shoulders rapidly shaking the baby’s body out of frustration. 

“The babies heavy head may be hit against a surface or snapped back-and-forth on the infant’s thin neck causing the soft brain inside to bang against the hard inside of the skull causing brain swelling and tearing tiny veins causing life threatening bleeding. 

“Clearly, the serious cases are the tip of the iceberg. Many children may have minimal brain damage that is not diagnosed but perhaps goes on to cause neurological problems such as attention deficit and learning problems.”

John McMullan, consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at Sheffield Children's Hospital, toldthe BBC that shaking a baby caused brain injuries similar to those in boxing.

But he said: "In boxing the incidences of the head blows are relatively infrequent and so that damage is taking place over, typically, years.

"Whereas with an infant shaking, the damage is occurring in seconds."

Judge Hiller Zobel overturned the jury's verdict and ruled that she was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

He sentenced her to 278 days in jail – the amount of time she had already spent behind bars.

The following day, the prosecution vowed to “pull out every stop” to get Woodward back in jail and her lawyers promised “total vindication”.

By June 1998, Judge Zobel’s verdict had been overturned after it was claimed he “abused his statutory discretion” and the decision moved to The Supreme Court.

By four votes to three, his verdict of involuntary manslaughter and the reduced sentence was upheld, which finally allowed Woodward to go home to the UK.

Where is Louise Woodward now? 

In 2008, it was reported Woodward was living in Bridgnorth and had started a dance school where she taught jive and salsa.

She went on to attend baking classes and sold her goods in Wolverhampton before getting a degree in law.

Woodward married Anthony Elkes, who owned a truck hire company, and at the start of 2014 she gave birth to a daughter.

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.”

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