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Money, not death, sought in murdered nurse case

Frank Gilford

Deal would have 'compensation' going to charity

October 15, 1997
Web posted at: 10:07 a.m. EDT (1407 GMT)
In this story:

ADELAIDE, Australia (CNN) -- Australian Frank Gilford had the right to request the death penalty in the case of two nurses convicted in Saudi Arabia of killing his sister. On Wednesday, Gilford said he would waive that right in exchange for $1.7 Australian dollars ($1.24 million U.S.), with most of the money going to charity.

The deal is allowable under Saudi law.

At a news conference in Adelaide, Gilford read from a prepared statement on the agreement, reached after weeks of talks between lawyers representing his family and the nurses.

He told reporters he believed British nurses Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan were guilty of murdering his sister Yvonne in December 1996, but that he had decided to accept what he said was compensation, not "blood money," for her murder. icon 170 K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Death sentence still possible

In September, a Saudi court found McLauchlan, 31, guilty of playing a part in the murder and sentenced her to 500 lashes and eight years jail. Parry, 38, awaits sentencing and, despite Frank Gilford's decision, still faces the possibility of the death penalty.


Gilford said it was possible Parry could now be released from prison, but his lawyers said he had no influence over what punishments the Saudi court might impose on either nurse.

Saudi lawyers say convicts usually spend no more than five years in prison once the victim's family commutes the death sentence.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law, a guilty verdict carries a death sentence, generally by public beheading. But the family of the victim can have the sentence commuted to a prison term by seeking clemency, generally in exchange for financial compensation.

Who gets the money

News reports in Australia say the money is being paid by British businesses that trade with Saudi Arabia. Gilford's lawyer, Michael Abbott, said the companies had no connection with the nurses.

The compensation package includes payment of more than $720,000 (U.S.) to build a day surgery center at Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, to be named after Yvonne Gilford; a cash payment in excess of $6,000 (U.S.) to Gilford's mother, and "a nominal sum" of more than $37,000 (U.S.) to Frank Gilford.

The rest of the money would go to paying legal costs.

Theft viewed as possible motive

The body of Yvonne Gilford, 55, was discovered bludgeoned and stabbed at the King Fahd Military Medical Center in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran last December.

McLauchlan and Parry reportedly were detained after they were seen in a video store using Gilford's cash cards, indicating that theft was a possible motive.

Gilford denied the compensation he's getting for his own personal suffering was "blood money," but that's how one of the lawyers defending the British nurses views it.

"He calls it compensation. Compensation for what?" asked Salah al-Hejailan. "Compensation for the sensation, perhaps, that has taken place as a result of the way he has responded to this case?"

Another of the nurses' lawyers, Michael Burnett, said Parry and McLauchlan "are very pleased to have this threat removed but at the same time they have always maintained, and continue to maintain, their innocence."

The nurses say a confession was beaten out of them.

Correspondent Margaret Lowrie, Reporter John Raedler and Reuters contributed to this report.


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