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EDITIONS
Friday, 17 January, 2003, 13:54 GMT
Death row family play the British card
Robert and Dorothy Elliott at the House of Commons
Elliott's family want the UK Government to intervene

The family of Jackie Elliott, who is on death row in Texas for a murder he says he did not commit, came to Britain on Friday in a last bid to save his life.

After 16 years on death row Elliott is due to be executed by lethal injection on 4 February for the "heinous" rape and murder of a young mother, Joyce Munguia.

Elliott's mother, Dorothy, and his elder brother Robert, came to London from their homes in Austin, Texas to lobby the British Government.

Why?

Because Elliott spent the first four years of his life in Suffolk - while his father Robert Sr was stationed at the Bentwaters USAF base near Woodbridge - and has dual UK and US nationality.

The Elliotts visited 10 Downing Street and handed in a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking him to raise the matter when he meets US President George Bush later this month.

Media circus

Mrs Elliott, who brought up her five children on welfare after splitting up with their father, was clearly out of her depth when confronted with batteries of TV cameras and rows of questioning reporters.

She spent the day doing the media rounds - from Today programme to live press conference, to interviews with Sky and News 24.

Jackie Elliott as a child
As a young boy Jackie lived in Suffolk
The stress she was under showed through and she broke down while being interviewed by BBC Radio 4's James Naughtie.

Speaking barely audibly during the press conference, she said: "Something must be done to help my son. I love him very much and I don't want this to happen."

Asked what she would do if she got the opportunity to meet Mr Blair, she said: "I would ask if he would do anything for my son. The time is very near now. I'm thankful for all the help I'm getting."

Later she winced as Robert told me how Jackie's former girlfriend and their two teenage children, John John and Nelly, had moved to Iowa.

"I do write to them," she murmured.

Something must be done to help my son - I love him very much and I don't want this to happen

Dorothy Elliott
Mother

Robert Elliott told BBC News Online: "Nelly last saw her father when she was seven or eight when he was in Huntsville [prison].

"She got up on the counter and said 'Some day I am going to get some money and take you out of here'. It was a real heartbreaker."

He said the Texas media was not interested in his brother's plight.

"Nobody has been in contact with us since the trial. It's like out of sight, out of mind."

Earlier Mr Elliott said of his brother: "The involvement of the British people has really perked him up. He was downcast but when the folks here took an interest...he is just happy that somebody cares. I'm so grateful to y'all."

The family also has the backing of Tory MP John Gummer, whose constituency includes Bentwaters.

The involvement of the British people has really perked him up...he is just happy that somebody cares

Robert Elliott
Brother

Mr Gummer, straying into dangerously political waters, said it was a matter of "trust" and suggested the US was asking Britain to trust it over Iraq and maybe they should return a few favours.

But there are not great precedents for playing the British card.

In March last year Tracy Housel - whose British citizenship stemmed from his birth on the former UK territory of Bermuda - was executed in Georgia despite appeals by the UK Government.

Texas has only once granted a reprieve in a death penalty - in 1987 when the inmate, Eric Lucas, was dying anyway.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Andie Lambe, Reprieve UK
"His lawyers at trial were not criminal lawyers"
Robert Elliott, brother of John Elliott
"There are a lot of holes in the testimony of other witnesses"

Click here to go to BBC Suffolk
See also:

17 Jan 03 | England
13 Jan 03 | England
08 Jan 03 | England
24 Dec 02 | England
13 Mar 02 | Americas
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