John Major came under increasing pressure yesterday to make a plea for clemency in the case of Nick Ingram, the Briton due to be executed in America next Thursday.
Ingram's mother, Ann, made a personal plea begging for the Prime Minister's intervention, while in the Commons, the Labour MP Anne Campbell demanded that he make the "strongest possible representations" to President Bill Clinton.
Downing Street said last night that it had not formulated a reply to Mrs Ingram's letter, sent from her home near the Georgia correctional centre where her son awaits death. However, it is already becoming clear that the issue could prove an embarrassment to Mr Major during his visit to America next week.
The District Attorney who prosecuted Ingram for a brutal murder 11 years ago warned him in yesterday's Independent not to get involved, but the Prime Minister, who has voted against the death penalty in Parliament, is certain to be asked by the travelling British media next week what he intends to do to save the Briton's life.
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles has received pleas for clemency from people in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Japan, America and Norway. It may leave Mr Major open to criticism if he fails to make representations of his own.
In her letter to Mr Major, Mrs Ingram said: "Obviously, I do not want my son to die by any means. But to think that in a few days, as the sun goes down here in Georgia, Nicky will be strapped into the electric chair is more than a mother can bear. I have read that people suffer agony in the electric chair and that one person put to death in Georgia suffered particularly long because `he was just not a good conductor of electricity'. It was some Georgia prison official who said that. How in the name of all that is holy can they do this? How can they methodically plan to shave my Nicky's head, shave his leg, and see how good a conductor of electricity he is?"
Cambridge-born Ingram, 31, was convicted 11 years ago of murdering 55- year-old JC Sawyer and wounding his wife, Mary, by lashing them to a tree and shooting them in the head after robbing them of $70.
His defence team says he had a blackout during the crime, they say Mrs Sawyer's identification evidence is not sound, and they argue that another man, who gave evidence against him, may have been an accomplice. Tom Charron, the DA, said he is satisfied the conviction is safe.
In her letter to Mr Major, Ms Campbell said she was concerned that doubt had been cast on Ingram's conviction and she added: "The intended method of his execution is abhorrent by any civilised standards and is contrary to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.''