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Thursday, 21 May, 1998, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Nurses 'feared rape by police'
British nurses Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry believed they would be raped by Saudi police if they did not confess to the murder of colleague Yvonne Gilford.
Detailed statements by the women also allege that during a five-day interrogation they were sexually molested and beaten.
The Saudi authorities have dismissed claims the women were abused and insist their confessions matched despite being made separately. They also insist their trial was scrupulously fair.
In her diary about the interrogations, McLauchlan says the head of the investigation, a Major Hammed, "keeps pulling my hair and saying I will co-operate".
She later wrote: "Lieutenant Khalid, a young policeman, keeps asking if I have ever 'had' an Arab.
"I'm positive they are going to rape me. Hammed tells me 'Do you want to start writing or does the lieutenant take his trousers off?"'
She says she feared she was going to be gang-raped by her interrogators and for that reason signed a confession saying Parry stabbed Ms Gilford after a lover's quarrel.
McLauchlan said the Saudi police later told her she would have to admit being an accessory to the crime by suffocating Ms Gilford after Parry had stabbed her.
"Hammed just laughs saying 'Yes you will Lucy or you know what will happen. Either you write statement now or you will write it after we are finished with you'."
Parry, who was being interviewed in a separate room, said she thought she would be gang-raped unless she confessed.
"They were rubbing my thighs. I thought I would be raped by them all, I was so frightened ... then the hitting started. Kept on being struck across the throat, my face was slapped, was told that if I didn't start writing, it would be worse.
"I am informed that if I don't co-operate and write statement, the treatment would be even worse than before. Cigarette held so close to my eyes I could feel the heat."
Their claims that their confessions were extracted under duress are supported by two experts who analysed them.
'No money changed hands'
The programme also highlights some inconsistencies with McLauchlan's defence.
She has always denied being in a bank where the Saudis say she was arrested using her dead colleague's cash card.
However she says she was sending her own money home and not using Yvonne Gilford's cash card.
In her confession McLauchlan says she cannot remember how many times Yvonne was stabbed yet the same confession claims she managed to memorise the personal identification number of Ms Gilford's cash card. She also gives a detailed description of the alleged murder weapon.
Only way out
A forensic pyschologist, Dr Eric Shepherd, subjected the confessions to a line-by-line examination.
He commented: "It is odd that she can give centimetre descriptions for dimensions, she can memorise a pin number and yet she can't remember how many wounds were delivered to a woman who was extensively stabbed to the front, to the back and wounded about the head and the legs ... "
McLauchlan also says in her diary that the Saudi police offered her freedom if she named Parry as Yvonne Gilford's killer - which is what she did. She adds that, with the Saudi police, she convinced her colleague that the only way out was to confess.
In her diary, she says: "I'm so bloody scared I just want to get out of the police station. I practically beg her to get it together and write the bloody statement so it's done with ..."
A spokeswoman for Panorama said: "No money has changed hands between us and either the nurses or their families."
Saudis - no kangaroo court
But the Saudi ambassador to London insisted the nurses were not victims of a kangaroo court.
Dr Ghazi Algosaibi said even though the women had been pardoned they were still guilty of the "brutal" murder of Yvonne Gilford.
He slammed allegations by lawyers representing the pair that the nurses had been framed for the killing.
Defending the Saudi justice system, he told The Sun: "The trial was fair. There was a victim - and the victim was murdered in the most brutal way."
The ambassador said Prime Minister Tony Blair had been closely involved in the decision to free the nurses after meeting Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia last month.
The BBC's Panorama is broadcasting a special programme with exclusive access to the women's accounts, detailing their arrest, interview and time in jail. It can be seen on BBC1 at 2230 (BST) on Thursday. It can also be seen by clicking here.
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