British diplomats' 11th-hour calls over Ingram



British diplomats in Washington confirmed yesterday that they made two last-minute telephone calls to Georgia to find out whether John Major could have secured clemency for Nick Ingram.

The admission came after a claim on Thursday night by a senior source within the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles that its five members had been waiting for the Prime Minister to make a plea for clemency. He said mercy would probably have been granted if Mr Major had intervened.

Last night, officials in Washington and Downing Street said the Prime Minister would not have asked for clemency even if the board had guaranteed it. The board's public stance was that a British intervention would have made no difference.

Thursday night's calls were made by a consular official and a senior embassy official in Washington, thought to have been Peter Westmacott, a counsellor for political and public affairs, after Downing Street had been given details of the source's claims by the Independent.

The Independent's source, who had access to details of the five-man board's deliberations, said its members were expecting Mr Major to appeal for clemency. They were also concerned about the message an execution might send to the world ahead of the Olympic Games in Atlanta next summer.

"We set up two lines of communication with Washington, one with the State Department and the other with the international section of the Justice Department," the source said. "We wanted to ensure that details of any call or fax did not go astray.

"We waited and waited, but the call never came."

In London, Mr Major had long ago taken advice on the possibility of intervening. It is understood Foreign Office officials were briefed on the case by the Department of Corrections and made a recommendation that intervention would not score any political points. The crime was too grisly and the evidence against Ingram was overwhelming.

The source said: "If John Major had written, that would have been viewed as an unprecedented and momentous intervention." And, in a clear reference to the forthcoming Olympic Games, he added: "Sometimes, and particularly at a time like this, we must consider Georgia's place in the family of nations."

Shortly after 7.30pm, the source's claims were passed to Downing Street, sparking a flurry of activity. At about 8.15pm, a consular official is understood to have contacted Christopher Hamilton, the board's director of legal services, to ask for clarification of its position.

At about 8.40pm, the Washington embassy call was made. Without confirming he made the call personally, Mr Westmacott said: "We were certainly in touch with the board. But at no stage were we suggesting to them that there was any likelihood at all of the Prime Minister's position on the Ingram case changing."

Within an hour of that call, J Wayne Garner, chairman of the board, denied that a British intervention could have made a difference. "John Major couldn't change this decision, the Governor couldn't change this decision, and Bill Clinton couldn't change this decision," he said.

However, the Independent's source elaborated: "After no intervention came, it was clear that we could not say that Mr Major would have made a difference. That would have appeared to have shifted the blame on him. It was decided to say he would have made no difference."

Once this pronouncement was made publicly, Ingram's fate was sealed. Quite simply, it would have been impossible for a stay to have been issued, even if Mr Major had intervened, because the board had already declared that his intervention would have made no difference at all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform