Nurses release `blood money'

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THE two British nurses last week freed from a murder sentence in Saudi Arabia gave the go-ahead yesterday for "blood money" to be released to the brother of their alleged victim.

Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan have instructed their lawyers to give Frank Gilford the pounds 740,000 he has claimed for waiving his right for them to receive death penalty.

The move to free the money came as it emerged that the Australian Foreign Secretary had expressed his concern to the British government about the delay in payment, and about reports that the nurses plan to sue Mr Gilford.

Rodger Pannone, Miss Parry's lawyer, said yesterday: "Miss Parry has given instructions that the money should be released. The instruction has to be sent to the trustee in charge of the bank account where the money is and should be with Mr Gilford within a few days."

He added: "I understand that Lucille McLauchlan has issued similar instructions."

Michael Burnett, the nurses' Australian lawyer, said yesterday: "I have just received a fax with instructions for the money to be released ... the money should be released in the next day or two."

Mr Pannone dismissed speculation, fuelled by the nurses' Saudi lawyer, Salah al-Hejailan, that they could sue Mr Gilford for more than pounds 1m because his demands for the blood money amounted to "mental torture" and "blackmail".

Mr Pannone said: "I think it would be very unlikely that Miss Parry would sue Mr Gilford. Mr Hejailan is like any other lawyer in the world. He can give advice to his client, but it is up to the client to decide and instruct the lawyer. The lawyer cannot take action without the instructions of his client."

William Boyle, the Scottish lawyer representing Miss McLauchlan, said yesterday: "Lucille's position at the moment is simply getting herself settled in this country and no one is considering any other action, not even for pounds 1m.

"The only action she would be taking would be to establish her innocence and I am considering my position on that."

Speaking before it was revealed that the money would be payed, the Australian Foreign Secretary, Alexander Downer, said: "We are very angry that the money still hasn't been released despite the fact that the British nurses have gone back to the UK."

A spokesman for the Australian High Commission in London said last night: "The minister [Mr Downer] indicated that he had asked the British High Commissioner to pursue the matter in Australia. He also asked the High Commissioner here to pursue it in London."

Mr Gilford agreed to waive his right to demand the death penalty imposed on Miss Parry last year by a Saudi court, which found her guilty of stabbing Miss Gilford to death in December 1996.

He is expected to keep only pounds 22,839 of the money which was raised by British companies in Saudi Arabia. His mother will receive pounds 3,700 and the rest will be used to pay legal bills and build a surgery in his sister's memory.

Miss McLauchlan and Miss Parry arrived home last week after King Fahd of Saudi Arabia commuted their sentences to the time they had already served in jail.

Both women have denied the murder and claim that they confessed only after being beaten and threatened with rape by the Saudi police.

On hearing that the two nurses had sold their stories to national newspapers Mr Gilford said: "If anything is classed as blood money, I'd say that is blood money - cashing in on Yvonne's death."