Saudi nurse retracts confession

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The Independent Online
Steve Boggan

One of the two British nurses charged with murdering a fellow nurse in Saudi Arabia has withdrawn the confession that her colleagues claim was made under duress.

Deborah Parry, 41, told the British consul, Tim Lamb, to inform the Saudis that she did not stand by her confession when he visited her in prison on Monday, according to the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat. It also emerged yesterday that the Saudi police considered charging a third British nurse in connection with the murder of Yvonne Gilford, 55, an Australian. She was found stabbed, battered and smothered in her room at the King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dhahran on 10 December.

So far, Lucille McLauchlan, 31, from Dundee, and Ms Parry, from Hampshire, are the only people charged with the killing. Saudi sources have said they were arrested after money was taken from a cash machine with Ms Gilford's bank card.

However, Al-Hayat quoted security sources as saying they had considered charging a third woman. The Saudis believe she was present on two shopping trips when money was taken from Ms Gilford's account.

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Saudi, which have been strained by the affair, are likely to be put under more pressure by the article. The newspaper related details of the consul's visit to the jail, telling how the women broke down when told that they were likely to be detained for a long time.

"Deborah Parry told the consul that she wanted to withdraw her confession," said one of the paper's editors.

The fact that the paper is regarded as a direct channel to the Saudi government, coupled with the fact that details of the meeting could have been passed on only by one of two Saudi officials present, is likely to anger British diplomats. The newspaper said a Saudi religious police officer and an Interior Ministry official were present.

Last night, the Foreign Office refused to comment. A senior source at Al-Hayat said: "You are always accusing us of not having freedom of the press and yet when we try to publish the facts ... we are criticised."

The first details of Ms Parry's troubled life emerged yesterday when her sister, Sandra Ashbee, gave an interview to the Express.

She said Ms Parry's mother had drowned while on holiday, her brother had died in a motorcycle accident and her father had died from a heart attack.

Islam and the West, page 11

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