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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 11:23 GMT
Briton executed in US
Lethal injection chamber in Texas
Housel died by lethal injection
Tracy Housel has become the first British man to be executed in America for seven years.

The 43-year-old was given a lethal injection and certified dead at 0028GMT on Wednesday (1928 local time) in prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Housel had been on Death Row for 16 years after he admitted raping and strangling 46-year-old Jeanne Drew during a two-week homicidal spree in 1985.

Tracy Housel
Housel admitted rape and murder
Before he died, Housel said: "To the family of Jeanne Drew, I am sorry from the very centre of my heart. To my family, friends, to my brothers, you take care of yourselves and may God be with you all."

Efforts by his lawyers to delay the execution backed by the UK Government, failed earlier in the day.

Housel's last hopes of a stay of execution had rested on an appeal by his defence team that he had been denied access to a British consul after his arrest.

That was rejected by a Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The day before, he lost his plea for clemency despite representations from the British Government, MPs and European diplomats.

'Poorly advised'

Housel was allowed to spend his last morning with close family.

And his final hours were spent in a holding cell beside the execution chamber.

Human rights campaigners with a poster showing a gagged Tony Blair
Human rights campaigners urged the UK to act
His last meal was steak, baked potato, corn, salad, a milk shake and ice cream.

Michael Light - of the Georgia Department of Corrections - said Housel ate most of his last meal and was offered a sedative which he refused.

Mr Light said Housel had the prison chaplain with him in the holding cell, and was "very nervous, very edgy" as the time of his death approached.

News of Housel's fate will come as a bitter disappointment to those in Britain who have fought for a reprieve.

His legal team argued he was poorly represented at the original trial and because he suffers from a psychotic brain disorder, he should never have been advised to plead guilty for murder.

Prime Minister Tony Blair restated his opposition to the death penalty, although he stopped short of making a direct intervention - something Housel's legal team had hoped for.

Efforts made

Donald Anderson, Labour's chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said the British Government had done everything it could to stop the execution.

"Clearly the UK Government did as much as they could in terms of making representations on his behalf," Mr Anderson, the MP for Swansea East, said.

Tracy Housel was a serial killer who got what he deserved

David Porter, Georgia District Attorney
"Our general policy on capital punishment is well known."

But Danny Porter, the Georgia District Attorney who helped to prosecute Housel's case, described Britain's efforts as "misguided".

"Tracy Housel got off easier than (his victim) Jeanne Drew did," Mr Porter, who witnessed the execution, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There was a sterility to it, and almost a dignity that he was afforded that Jeanne Drew never really got.

"Based on my belief that his connection with Britain is so tenuous... it makes me wonder why the British Government expended so much effort."

He added: "Misguided as it (the plea) was, it did surprise me.

"Tracy Housel was a serial killer who got what he deserved."

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Tracey Housel sang the Lord's Prayer"

Time runs out

Key stories

The death penalty: Is it ever legitimate?



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See also:

12 Mar 02 | Americas
Death-row Briton denied clemency
12 Mar 02 | Americas
Hopes fade for death row Briton
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