Saudi victim's brother waives right to insist on death penalty

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The Independent Online
Neither of the British nurses accused of murdering a colleague in Saudi Arabia will face public beheading after the victim's brother waived his right to demand the death penalty. Steve Boggan says it took almost a year - and pounds 770,000 - to reach this point.

Frank Gilford, the only man who could guarantee the lives of Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan, yesterday ended 10 months of speculation.

For Ms McLauchlan, 31, who has already been sentenced to eight years in prison and 500 lashes for involvement in the murder of Yvonne Gilford, his announcement was academic. But for Deborah Parry, who still awaits the verdict of a Saudi court, it came as a huge relief. Both families expressed "delight" last night.

In return for giving up his right, Mr Gilford, who lives in Jamestown, South Australia, was paid 1.7m Australian dollars (pounds 770,000), most of which will be spent on a new children's ward in his sister's name in Adelaide. The rest, he said, would go in legal fees, leaving $50,000 for his own pain and suffering.

It was not "blood money". It was "compensation." Disgusted at his treatment at the hands of the British press, most of which regarded his negotiations with distaste, he banned representatives of UK-based media organisations from a press conference attended by his Australian lawyers.

"I have agreed to waive the death penalty in consideration of sources, other than the nurses and their families, providing 1.7 million Australian dollars (pounds 770,000)," he said. "I would like to make it clear I have not accepted any `blood money' as that is a specified sum under Saudi Arabian law ... [I] have accepted compensation which is an alternative to `blood money' under Saudi Arabian law.

"From information that I have received I believe that the nurses are guilty of the murder of my sister but in the end I leave their guilt to the Saudi court to determine." Ms Gilford, 55, was found battered, stabbed and suffocated in her room at the King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dhahran last December. The Saudi authorities claim the women killed her during a row when she tried to end a lesbian relationship with Ms Parry, 38, something both nurses deny.

The Saudi court is now likely to hand down its verdict on Ms Parry. If its three judges decide she is guilty of "intentional murder", she would have been eligible for the death penalty without Mr Gilford's waiver.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said work was going on behind the scenes to ensure that neither woman would be flogged. He told ITN: "I did say our objective was to see that neither nurse was beheaded or flogged. We are half-way there and let us hope we can go the extra distance."

A statement issued on behalf of the women's families thanked all the lawyers involved and concluded: "We are pleased to note that the majority of the payment to Mr Gilford is to be used for charitable purposes as the girls have always found it difficult to appreciate the need under sharia law to compensate Mr Gilford and his family for a crime which they did not commit in order to avoid the possibility of the most terrible miscarriage of justice."