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Tuesday, June 23, 1998 Published at 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK

Fleet Street rages over Woodward interview

Louise Woodward protested her innocence over the killing of baby Matthew Eappen on BBC's Panorama programme, but the UK Press gave her a thumbs down.

After the former au pair appeared to blame baby Matthew's parents for the death, The Mirror's splash headline was "How dare you blame us, Louise".

"She's lied and lied" screamed the headline inside over the story about a vitriolic open letter from a friend of the Eappen's to the former au pair.

"Guilty of total child abuse" was the splash headline in The Express for a story about an e-mail from a police officer who arrested Woodward to BBC News Online.

Louise Woodward put herself on trial again by going on Panorama said the Daily Mail.

But in uncharacteristic style, the paper said it would let the British public make up their own minds.

Father affair claims

"By going on Panorama, Louise has entrusted her future to public opinion," wrote the Mail's Paul Harris.

"Its verdict will depend on careful analysis of her words and appearance."

For many editors, her appearance was crucial and led to comparisons with the Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995.

"Woodward adopted the same pose, wore the same clothes and appeared to mimic the Princess's gestures," said The Sun which nevertheless relegated the story to the bottom of page 13.

Far more interesting than the style points of the interview, were claims that Woodward's father Gary had been involved in an affair.

Panorama in dock

The Eappen's lawyer also compared the Woodward interview with Diana's Panorama appearance.

His comments that Woodward was "more interested in her celebrity status than the truth" were widely reported.

The Daily Telegraph nailed its colours to the masthead with its editorial.

Above the headline "TV's Louise Woodward", it put Panorama in the dock.

"By granting a glamour interview to Louise Woodward in Panorama, the BBC has colluded in an ill-judged celebration of this controversial young woman."

It said it would have been more appropriate to examine the forensic evidence.

And it did not help that the interviewer was Martin Bashir, who also interviewed Princess Diana.

"The effect was to introduce a degrading element of showbusiness into the impassioned debate over the death of a child."

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