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Knowing Noreen: A tale of two women

Read an excerpt of Lisa Belkin's New York Magazine cover story on her former nanny, accused of assaulting two elderly patients in her care.
/ Source: Weekend Today

Just how much trust should we place on people we hire to care for our children and other loved ones?

More than a decade ago, New York Times Magazine contributing writer Lisa Belkin hired a vivacious and apparently loving young woman to help care for her two young sons. Then two and a half years ago she discovered that her former baby sitter had been arrested on charges of assautling two elderly patients in the Irish hospital where she had worked as a nurse.

Belkn writes about her ordeal in this weekend's New York Times Magazine cover story "Knowing Noreen."

Here is a short excerpt:

The public seating in Room 25 of the Circuit Criminal Court complex in Dublin is not designed for comfort. The half-dozen rows of benches are wooden and narrow, with barely enough room for your knees. I spent the better part of October trying not to fidget in those pews, sitting, as I was, just a few paces away from the defendant, who was under strict orders from her lawyer not to fidget at all.

In this court the defendant sat apart and alone, on a separate bench, directly opposite the jury, while the lawyers for both sides shared a large wooden table. For nearly a month this defendant followed her orders well; while I squirmed, she stared purposefully ahead, rarely looking directly at anyone, though once in a while I accidentally caught her eye.

Her name was Noreen Mulholland. She was a nurse. She was in this courtroom charged with assaulting two patients in her care. In the Irish tabloid headlines she was "the Naas Nurse," after the town where the supposed crimes were to have occurred.

She had also been my children's baby sitter.

I met Noreen in 1994 when she answered an ad I placed in our suburban New York newspaper seeking help on Saturday nights. My son Alex was a newborn then, and Evan had just turned 3. The occasional weekend night became every week – and also whenever our au pair was sick, or I had to travel for work, or we needed an extra pair of hands.  At one point, when Noreen was between apartments, she lived in our spare room.  At another point, so she could make extra money, I hired her to clean the house.  My friends grabbed her the rest of the time, and after school every day she cared for the little boy who was Alex’s best preschool friend.  My world and Noreen’s were loosely, but definitely, entwined.

To read the rest of the article go to The New York Times Magazine.