Nurses to escape death claim Saudis

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The Independent Online
The two British nurses accused of murder in Saudi Arabia will not be beheaded even if found guilty of killing their colleague, Yvonne Gilford, according to senior Saudi officials.

Two Saudi diplomatic sources have separately told The Independent that Lucille McLauchlan, 31, and Deborah Parry, 41, are unlikely to be given the death penalty. Even if they were it would not be carried out while there was a chance that the victim's family could be persuaded to ask for mercy.

Under Saudi law, the victim's family may demand the death penalty or grant mercy, sometimes in return for "blood money" amounting to about pounds 20,000. Miss Gilford's family in Australia have made it clear that they are in no mood to ask for mercy, but one Saudi diplomat told The Independent: "There are people on death row in Saudi who have been there for years while attempts are made to persuade the families of their victims to call for mercy. In this case, there would be no hurry. No-one wants to see these women executed." Both sources said independently that Saudi Arabia was in no hurry to provide a lurid side-show for the West.

Despite their anxiousness to be seen to be fair and merciful, Saudi officials say they are standing by their allegations against the nurses. Miss Gilford was found beaten, stabbed and smothered in her room at the King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dhahran before Christmas. The Saudis allege that the British women subsequently withdrew money from her bank account.

It quickly emerged that Miss Parry and Miss McLauchlan had made confessions, although colleagues said they had been made under duress and they were later withdrawn.