Louise Woodward: Chronology

This is the timetable of events which led up to the decision by US Judge Hiller Zobel to reduce au pair Louise Woodward's conviction…

This is the timetable of events which led up to the decision by US Judge Hiller Zobel to reduce au pair Louise Woodward's conviction from second degree murder to manslaughter.

July 1996: Woodward (18) after finishing A-levels at Helsby County High School, near Chester, finds placement as an au pair in United States, through EF Au Pair agency in Boston.

November 1996: After leaving first placement, unhappy at an 11 p.m. "curfew", Woodward starts work with Doctors Sunil and Deborah Eappen (30) in Newton Heights, Boston.

January 30th, 1997: The Eappens, concerned at Woodward's late nights out, draw up a written list of what is expected, with the primary goal "the safety and well-being of our kids".


February 4th: Woodward calls an ambulance to the Eappens' home after Matthew stops breathing. He is put on life-support machine at Boston Children's Hospital.

February 5th: Woodward is arrested. In court she pleads not guilty to battery of a child. But police say she admitted having shaken Matthew and thrown him on a pile of towels.

February 10th: Matthew dies of a brain haemorrhage.

March 5th: A grand jury decides Louise must face a charge of first-degree murder. Louise's father Gary, at home in Elton, Cheshire, says he and her mother Sue "are totally shocked".

October 7th: The trial starts with prosecution claiming Woodward killed eight-month-old Matthew in a "frustrated, unhappy and resentful rage".

October 8th: Brain surgeon Joseph Medsen concedes that Matthew's head injuries could have been received days or weeks before he was taken to hospital.

October 26th: Woodward's defence opts for all-or-nothing verdict, not allowing jury to consider charges less serious than murder.

October 28th: The prosecutor calls Woodward "a liar and aspiring actress". The jury retires.

October 30th: Jury finds Woodward guilty of second-degree murder, meaning a mandatory life sentence with no parole for at least 15 years. She collapses in tears.

October 31st: Judge Zobel sentences Woodward to life. Protesters demonstrate outside court. Woodward's mother says: "They've made a horrendous mistake and they need to put it right." Supporters launch an appeal for funds.

November 1st: Woodward, in a prison visiting room, tells parents: "Please don't let me spend the rest of my life in here for something I didn't do."

November 2nd: It emerges the jury was split when it retired, but those favouring acquittal were persuaded to accept conviction. None "thought she tried to murder him", says one member.

November4th : Judge hears defence plea for murder verdict to be overturned or for charge to be reduced to involuntary manslaughter. He says he will post his decision on the Internet.

November 10th: Judge reduces conviction to manslaughter. Release of ruling on Internet is delayed by power failure. Later Woodward appears in court to hear the judge sentence her to 279 days - the exact time she has already spent in jail - allowing her to walk free. The prosecution immediately lodges an appeal.

November 11th: Woodward says in statement: "My relief at being freed does not reduce my desire to obtain total vindication." Her lawyers vow to clear her name, while the prosecution promises to "pull out every stop" to see her back in jail.

March 9th, 1998: At a 55-minute Supreme Judicial Court hearing, Woodward hears the prosecution argue that Judge Zobel abused his statutory discretion in replacing the jury's murder verdict with one of manslaughter. Her own lawyers seek to have her cleared completely, saying the defence was not allowed to examine Matthew's skull injury. The judges delay a decision, after putting questions which raise the possibility of a retrial.

June 16th: The Supreme Court decides, by four votes to three, to uphold the manslaughter verdict and the reduced sentence imposed by Judge Zobel. Woodward is finally free of the risk of jail, and free to return to Britain.