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Tuesday, June 23, 1998 Published at 03:47 GMT 04:47 UK

'Absolute child abuse' says Woodward detective

Det. Sgt Byrne broke his silence in an e-mail to BBC News online

The complete Panorama interview - video on demand

The police officer who arrested Louise Woodward after the death of baby Matthew Eappen has made a scathing attack on the former British au pair over the Internet, accusing her of "absolute child abuse".

The BBC's Philippa Thomas explain's the detective's comments
In an exclusive e-mail to BBC News online, Detective Sergeant William Byrne said he could no longer resist making his feelings known publicly.

The e-mail was sent to our Talking Point section. Journalists checked the officer's identity with Newton Police Department in Massachusetts.

Detective Sergeant Byrne, the officer who investigated and interviewed Louise Woodward, sets out in graphic terms what he sees as the scenario leading up to the baby's death.

The officer writes: "Louise gives the baby a bottle, feeds him a half jar of peas, gives him a bath and gently lays him in his crib. Five minutes later ..." The officer then gives a detailed description of the injuries he claims the baby sustained.

Open letter

Detective Sergeant Byrne goes on to ask: "Why is it so hard for many people to realise that this is absolute child abuse. It happens every day here in America and in England."

"If this girl (Louise Woodward) was a big unattractive woman with no teeth and tattoos, would the public have had a different opinion as to whether or not she was guilty?" he asks.

He ends his open letter to the BBC saying: "You may as well now know that I am Detective Sergeant William Byrne of the Newton Police Department that interviewed, investigated and arrested Louise Woodward. I testified for hours on October 14th during the trial."

Louise Woodward, convicted by a US court of the manslaughter of a baby, has claimed in an exclusive BBC interview that she was made to pay for the infant's death.

In the interview to be broadcast on the BBC's Panorama programme, Woodward says of the death of Matthew Eappen: "The mentality is that somebody has to pay. You know, and that seemed to be the problem, that, well, if the parents didn't do it, who did? There's only you left."

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