British nurses face beheading after lawyers' plea fails

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A bold plea for clemency from lawyers acting for two nurses facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia has backfired, making the spectre of their beheading a real possibility.

The Saudi lawyers for Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry, who are accused of murdering fellow nurse Yvonne Gilford, said last night they were "desperately disappointed" their plea had been rejected by Ms Gilford's brother, Frank. They made an attempt to bridge the cultural gap between Eastern and Western legal systems by presenting lawyers for Mr Gilford, an Australian, with a 17-page "rationale", quoting ideas from the Pope, the philosopher Albert Camus and American lawyers, on why it would be wrong to call for the death penalty if the nurses are found guilty.

It was handed to Mr Gilford's Saudi representatives, the International Law Firm, on 27 March, in the hope that it would persuade him to change his call for the death penalty. Under Sharia law, he can say whether a guilty Ms Parry, 41, and Ms McLauchlan, 31, should be spared.

After studying it closely for four days, Mr Gilford, 58, who lives outside Adelaide, rejected its arguments. "We're not going to be pushed around by the defence lawyers or the press regarding what to do here," he said in a statement released by his lawyers. "I am surprised that their lawyers made this appeal before there has been a trial. It sounds to me as if their lawyers are admitting the nurses' guilt."

Ms Gilford, 51, also Australian, was found dead in her room at the King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dhahran last December. She had been stabbed four times, beaten over the head with a hammer and smothered. A week later Ms Parry and Ms McLauchlan were allegedly caught by a store video camera, using her credit cards.

Robert Thoms, an American colleague of the Saudi-based lawyer, Salah al Hejailan, who wrote the "Rationale for early Waiver of the Death Penalty", said: "We were hoping that Mr Gilford would consider its legal and philosophical arguments.

"We didn't intend to be pushy. We intended to be compassionate and caring."

Jim Phipps, one of Mr Gilford's lawyers in Riyadh, said: "He has simply said he will respect the outcome of the Saudi legal process. He also feels if you ain't guilty, then you don't need to make a plea for clemency."