Saudis to free British nurses

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The Independent Online
THE British nurses accused of murdering a colleague in Saudi Arabia are to be freed by the Saudi ruler, King Fahd.

Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry will be on their way home "very soon" according to their lawyers. Yesterday, Grant Ferrie, who married Ms McLauchlan in prison last year, and Jonathan Ashbee, brother-in-law of Ms Parry, flew to Saudi saying they hoped "something" would happen while they were there.

Ms McLauchlan, 32, was sentenced to 500 lashes and eight years in prison for being an accessory in the murder of fellow nurse Yvonne Gilford. The 55-year-old Australian was stabbed, beaten and suffocated at the King Fahd Military Medical Centre in Dammam in December 1996. Her British colleagues, who have always denied killing her, were arrested days later.

Ms Parry, 40, has yet to hear a verdict in her case. She was only saved from a possible sentence of death by beheading on the promise of payment of pounds 730,000 in "blood money" to the victim's brother, Frank Gilford.

Salah al-Hejailan, the nurses' lawyer, said yesterday: "I understand that because of the unusual circumstances of the case, because they are women, because Ms Parry is unwell and because no Saudis were involved, the sentence on both will be around one year." That would be covered by time already served. "They will be going home very soon."

Surprisingly, the expected outcome has been achieved without paying the blood money. Mr Hejailan has refused to authorise its release, arguing that the amount is too high. Mr Gilford has offered to donate much of it to the building of a hospital department in his sister's name.

But, said Mr Hejailan: "He should get no more than half. The rest should go to the welfare of the girls. They have suffered too."