Nurses fall out over account of confessions

Free at last, but a friendship ruined amid claim and counter-claim. Now the Nursing Council is to investigate
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The Independent Online
GROWING evidence emerged yesterday of the breakdown in the relationship between Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan.

In Saudi Arabia, the two nurses had been close; they spent 17 months in a cell together. But by the time they arrived back in Britain they barely had a word for each other. "I just said goodbye and she said 'See you again sometime' - though I doubt I ever will," Ms Parry told the Express.

At the heart of this breakdown is the way in which Ms McLauchlan, 32, was said to have encouraged Ms Parry, 39, to confess to the savage killing of their colleague, Yvonne Gilford. Both have sold their stories, to the Mirror and the Express respectively. Both have different stories to tell.

Ms McLauchlan insists that she only signed a confession because she feared she was about to be raped. She says she encouraged her friend to confess because she had been told they would both be released if she did. But it is the manner in which she encouraged her to confess that appears to have upset Ms Parry's supporters.

"Debs told us that what happened was that Lucille was offered her freedom if she named Debbie as the killer so the whole case could be put to rest," Ms Parry's brother-in-law, Jonathan Ashbee, said last year.

"And the police told Debs that if she confessed, as she and the victims were both Westerners, it would be all over in a couple of weeks and she could go free."

Ms Parry's sister, Sandra, also told the Daily Mail: "Lucille has a lot to answer for. But for her, I don't think my sister would ever have been in prison."

In her interview with the Express, Ms Parry said she had been held for several days, with her captors interrogating her for up to 12 hours a day, repeatedly telling her that she was guilty. She said that Ms McLauchlan then entered her cell with the police. "I did not know Lucille was there until she walked in and said, 'Debbie stabbed Yvonne in the chest, neck and back,' " she had written in her diary. "After this I was slapped across the face, my hair was pulled and my feet stood on. I was shocked, distraught."

In her account of what happened, Ms McLauchlan admitted she had been forced to accuse her friend. "I just parroted it. Repeated what I had been told to say like a puppet because what else could I do," she said.

Ms Parry's friends have also said that had it not been for Ms McLauchlan, Deborah may not have ever been arrested. She had been persuaded to go shopping with Ms McLauchlan when she was arrested on suspicion of stealing Ms Gilford's bank card. Ms Parry was arrested at the same time.

Despite what they may have been told, the full confessions of the two nurses did not lead to their immediate release. Instead, Ms Parry was sentenced to death while Ms McLauchlan was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and 500 lashes.

Although both women claimed they had been tortured into their confession by the threat of sexual abuse, the Saudi authorities last night dismissed the allegations as "laughable".

The Saudi ambassador in London, Ghazi Algosaibi, said his country did not regret the decision to send the two nurses home, but rejected claims that they were innocent. "If you go around any prison in the world and ask inmates whether they committed the crime of which they are convicted, I suspect the vast majority of them will deny the charges. I think human nature works that way," he said.

"I think anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Saudi society, its deeply religious and conservative nature, will realise that any allegations of sexual abuse are laughable. Saudi Arabia is convinced that its judicial system is capable of delivering justice."

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