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Father: au pair Louise Woodward on suicide watch by prison guards

November 3, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Louise Woodward, the British au pair convicted of murdering an American baby in her care, has been put on suicide watch by prison guards, her father said in an interview published today.

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections denied she had been put on a suicide watch.

``My daughter is in an isolation cell on suicide watch,″ London’s Daily Mail newspaper quoted Gary Woodward as saying after he and his wife Sue visited her in Massachusetts’ Framingham prison.

``The wardens (guards) look at her every hour through the night and if she’s asleep they wake her up to make sure she’s not dead _ so she can’t even get much sleep,″ he was quoted as saying.

``She can’t take a shower in the cell because it broke when the last inmate hung herself from it.″

A Massachusetts corrections department spokesman said that as part of the incoming process, inmates go through medical and mental health screenings but denied she was on a suicide watch.

While her trial in America is widely regarded in Britain as having been unfair and Thursday’s verdict of second-degree murder wrong, opinion is divided on whether the prisoner is innocent or should be convicted of a lesser charge.

She received a mandatory life sentence on Thursday and will be eligible for parole in 15 years. On Tuesday, the judge in the case will consider defense motions to throw out the verdict, order a new trial or reduce the charge _ possibly to manslaughter.

The second-degree murder verdict and mandatory life sentence stunned her supporters on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her father said in the Daily Mail interview that she told her parents during their 3 1/2-hour prison visit: ``Please don’t let me spend the rest of my life in here for something I didn’t do. I told the truth and they didn’t listen, Dad. Why didn’t they listen?″

The paper quoted her father as saying: ``She was wearing prison issue denim shirt and trousers with white sneakers. It was horrible seeing her in those cheap shapeless clothes. She looked run down and frightened _ much younger than 19. She reminded more of when she was 13. It broke my heart to see her reduced to that.″

On Sunday, some 25 supporters demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in London as Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived for a reception. They lit candles in flower pots on the ground and wrapped a yellow ribbon round a tree to demand the prisoner’s release. The First Lady, driven in by a rear entrance, missed the protest.

Campaigners in the prisoner’s home town Elton in north England said they have raised $170,000 for a Free Louise fund since the verdict.

One juror said the panel wanted to consider a lesser charge. ``Nobody wanted to find a 19-year-old woman from another country who’s come to America under these circumstances guilty of murder and put her away for life,″ juror Stephen Caldwell said in an interview Sunday with ABC News.

But he also said acquittal was out of the question.

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