Forensic hope for Saudi nurses

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Lawyers representing two British nurses facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia said yesterday they have "dramatic" new evidence which will prove that they are not the murderers of a fellow nurse.

The new evidence, which has been given to lawyers in Saudi Arabia, includes statements from experts in forensic medicine, psychiatry and psychology which the defence team claims will destroy the case against the women.

Defence lawyers said they will want to know why the knife with which Lucille McLauchlan (pictured left) and Deborah Parry (right) were supposed to have stabbed Yvonne Gilford 13 times contained no traces of blood.

Details of the new aggressive approach by the defence were unveiled yesterday at a press conference in Glasgow. Earlier, hopes were raised when Frank Gilford, the brother of Yvonne and the man who can ask for the death penalty to be commuted if the nurses are found guilty, said in a newspaper interview that he had never sought capital punishment for the Britons.

Peter Watson, representing Ms McLauchlan, 31, from Dundee, said the three experts, who have not been named at this stage, would provide evidence to show that the nurses' confessions were "totally unreliable and unsafe." He refused to go into specific details.

Describing the confessions as "grossly unfair", Mr Watson said Ms McLauchlan had been questioned by a large number of male police officers over several days, deprived of sleep, physically and sexually assaulted and taken to the murder scene on three separate occasions. "All these factors would have increased the probability of false confession."

The families have recently returned from visiting the nurses in Saudi Arabia. Stan McLauchlan, 53, said: "We were able to report to her [Lucille] that there was certain forensic evidence. We were not able to tell her exactly what that forensic detail was. It gave both girls a lift to know these things are happening for them back home."