Saudi nurse weds in `unforgettable' ceremony

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The Independent Online
British nurse Lucille McLauchlan, held for nearly a year in a Saudi jail over the killing of a fellow nurse, yesterday married her fiance in an unprecedented and "unforgettable" ceremony.

The Foreign Office confirmed that McLauchlan married her long-time boyfriend Grant Ferrie in a courthouse in Damman. The wedding was conducted by a Saudi judge, and witnessed by a British consular official. The nurse's brother, John, travelled to Saudi Arabia for the event but her parents did not attend.

The bride is reported to have worn traditional Arabian dress and veil at the ceremony. After the 20-minute ceremony the newlyweds went on the Damman police station for a wedding reception and fruit juice and a cake and flowers provided by consular officials. McLauchlan later returned to prison, where, according to defence lawyer Sala al-Hejailan, she took some of the wedding cake for her co- defendant Deborah Parry.

Mr Hejailan said the fact that the "unprecedented" ceremony was taking place showed Saudi officials could be flexible and understanding.

"There are many unprecedented elements in this case and this is one of them, for a female foreign prisoner to get married," he said.

The lawyer said that visits by her husband would be allowed by the authorities after the marriage, in line with Saudi practice, and these would take place in "specific premises" within the jail.

Family friends have said that the couple, who knew each other before the former Dundee nurse travelled to the Arab kingdom, had planned to marry in June, and both had decided they did not want the year to go by without showing their commitment to each other.

"Even under the nightmare when she was facing the death penalty they were adamant to get married and were seeking permission," Mr Hejailan said.

The go-ahead for the wedding came after lengthy negotiations between Saudis and British diplomats. McLauchlan, 32, is facing an eight-year jail term and 500 lashes, and the sentence on Parry, 39, of Alton, Hampshire, has yet to be confirmed.

The threat of a possible death sentence for Parry was lifted after the family of Yvonne Gilford, the dead nurse, waived their right to demand the death penalty.

McLauchlan was convicted of the lesser crime of being an accomplice in the death, and Saudi lawyers say they are optimistic that both women will serve only a short term and that Saudi authorities will allow the sentence to be served in Britain.