Nurse on murder charge denies having lesbian affair

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A British nurse held in Saudi Arabia has made a "vehement denial" that she had a lesbian relationship with a colleague whom she and a fellow nurse are accused of killing, lawyers said yesterday.

It had been alleged that a lesbian affair involving Deborah Parry was admitted in statements made to police soon after she and Lucille McLauchlan were arrested over the death of Yvonne Gilford, an Australian nurse.

However Ms Parry denied any such admission when she and Miss McLauchlan were visited by their lawyers on Saturday for the first time since their arrest.

The lawyers said the two "very confused and apprehensive" nurses had made written statements to police admitting the murder soon after their arrest. But this was only in response to a promise that if they did so, they would be deported instead of being prosecuted, said the Riyadh law firm of Salah Al-Hejailan.

The firm said it was taking the unusual step of issuing a press statement at the "express request" of the two nurses, who were "concerned" that widespread media coverage assumed their guilt while the case was still under investigation.

Meanwhile, the brother of the dead nurse said yesterday he would not ask for clemency if the pair are found guilty.

Frank Gilford, of Jamestown, near Adelaide, said he believed in an eye for an eye and said: "My sister wasn't shown any mercy when she was murdered." Under Saudi law, relatives of a murder victim can ask for the death penalty, or can ask instead for "blood money", or they can waive both rights.

In an apparent attempt to build bridges with the Saudi authorities, the family of Lucille McLauchlan yesterday thanked them for providing her with "the best possible legal representation" and said they had faith in the Saudi justice system.

The statement in Dundee by Miss McLauchlan's brother John, 28, said: "We feel sure that Lucy will be found innocent of any crimes. We would also like to extend our sympathies to the family of Yvonne Gilford. They must be going through hell."

Miss McLachlan, 31, and Ms Parry, 41, were arrested and jailed on 20 December, nine days after Yvonne Gilford, 55, was found dead at the King Fahd military hospital complex where all three worked.

Saudi police have said a late-night row flared up over "personal relationships", and that the two killed the Australian and used her bank card to withdraw cash, which they now deny.

The two women, in Saudi cloaks, were seen by their legal team on Saturday in the prison where they are being held at Dammam.

They were also seen separately that day by a British consular official who reported them fit and well but "concerned" at the charges against them.

Their lawyers said that a senior police officer was present during the interviews, but the women did not seen intimidated. They added: "The withdrawal of the written statements by both nurses obviously changes the complexion of the case and we will be discussing this with the relevant authorities as soon as possible."