Saudi nurses say they were tortured into confessing

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The Independent Online
THE two British nurses freed from a murder sentence in Saudi Arabia arrived home yesterday as details emerged of their interrogation and incarceration by "corrupt" police officers.

Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry vowed to clear their names, and told how fake confessions were extracted over five days of physical and sexual abuse. In an interview screened last night on BBC Panorama, Ms Parry said she confessed "because of the

Ms McLauchlan told the Mirror: "They were disrespectful. They were enjoying having me in their power. `British trash, Islam rules,' they shouted at me. By the end, I would have confessed to anything - even killing the Queen."

Ms McLauchlan, 32, and Ms Parry, 39, arrived at Gatwick Airport early yesterday from Dhahran. Ms McLauchlan was whisked away by helicopter as part of a deal with the Mirror.

Ms Parry was driven away by executives from the Express, to which she has sold her story, sparking a media scrum, during which she was repeatedly asked: "Debbie - did you kill her?" There was no reply and she never emerged from a black cloth thrown over her head.

The Panorama documentary contained statements from the women and diaries kept in their cells. They said police used threats and force to extract concocted confessions, which experts dismissed as "forensic twaddle". It was also revealed there was no evidence Yvonne Gilford, the victim, had been suffocated, as the nurses had been forced to admit. Ms Gilford, 55, was murdered at King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dhahran in December 1996. Ms Parry, asked how it felt to be home, replied: "It's like a dream. I can't say how pleased I am to see everyone again ... but it's very hard as well, because reality is setting in. I've been safe in a way in prison [and now] all of a sudden I've got to come back to England and face all these questions.''

Her lawyer, Rodger Pannone, said earlier: "She does have an abhorrence of the treatment she and Lucille McLauchlan received at the hands of certain of the Saudi Arabian police and her inability to have a full and open trial."

Ms McLauchlan's lawyer, Peter Watson, thanked the media and Foreign Office officials but, unlike Ms Parry, his client offered no thanks to King Fahd, who on Tuesday reduced their sentences to time served.

There was hostile reaction in Australia to news that the women had sold their stories. Frank Gilford, the victim's brother, who accepted - but has yet to receive - pounds 750,000 for waiving his right to demand the death penalty, told Australian radio: "If anything is classed as blood money, I'd say that is blood money - cashing in on Yvonne's death."

The Mirror last night reported that The Daily Mail had tried unsuccessfully to "gazump" the paper by offering pounds 175,000 for exclusive access to Ms McLauchlan on her return to Britain.