How Could They Be Found Guilty? AS NURSES AWAIT A CRUEL FATE, MAIL ANALYSIS OF THE SAUDI JUSTICE FLAWED EVIDENCE AND THE BRUTAL INTERROGATION the Prosecution Case Was Riddled with Inconsistencies and Downright Lies

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THERE must have been hope in the hearts of Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan that, despite everything, they might still be cleared of any involvement in the murder of Yvonne Gilford.

Last night, as they faced the most terrible of punishments in a country where they had sought wealth and refuge, that hope seemed to have slipped away.

In Britain they would have walked free from prison long before they learned the full details of their fate, in a fashion of final humiliation, on transistor radios in their cells.

Saudi justice is of course very different to the British system, working on principles handed down by Islamic religious law. Defendants' rights are negligible and they are granted minimal representation in court.

But even allowing for such contrasting approaches, the case was riddled with inconsistencies, assumptions and downright lies and even on the strength of the evidence considered by the court any right-thinking jury would surely have acquitted.

The case hinged on confessions which the women insist were fabricated after days of sexual and physical assault by their interrogators.

It failed to mention that potentially vital witnesses or suspects, including a guard at the military hospital where all three women worked, 'disappeared' immediately after the murder.

Nor did the court seem to think it strange that despite the fact that Miss Gilford was smashed over the head with a teapot, suffocated, stabbed 21 times, and had clearly struggled with her assailant so ferociously that furniture was strewn over her room, there was not a single piece of forensic evidence presented to link the two women to her killing.

Not even a trace of blood on their clothes or hands, not even a single fingerprint.

And if the women were having some kind of lesbian affair which exploded into violent argument (the sole explanation of motive offered by the prosecution) it might have seemed relevant to test the following facts: that one of the accused women had enjoyed two long-term relationships with boyfriends, the other was engaged to be married, and the victim had conducted a lengthy affair with a South African businessman.

Who owned a cheap gold chain which was found at the scene but never linked to any of the three women? Why, in a society which is scrupulous about the disclosure of information, did leaked details that bolstered the prosecution case start appearing in the Saudi press in what diplomats described as 'an extraordinary fashion'?

But if Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan didn't kill Yvonne Gil-ford, then who did?

That is a question which any fair and rational court might have liked to put to the security guard who had pestered Yvonne Gilford for weeks before she was killed. Or to any of the guards who were

claimed to have wanted to stop her messing up their profits from a prostitution racket involving Filipino nurses (the girls used to borrow money from her to avoid having to sell their bodies).

The fact that the two accused also had sworn alibis from two fellow nurses seems to have carried no weight.

But there are many other strands of the case which appear not to have convinced a court which has conducted a series of closed-doors hearings over the past nine months.

One of the main planks of the prosecution was that the women used a credit card stolen from Miss Gilford to draw out cash from her account. It was claimed that a security video had filmed them doing so. Compelling evidence if true, yet no video was ever produced. Why anyway, if the women had carried out a murder only days earlier, would they be so stupid as to start using the victim's credit card?

But it is the 'confessions' on which the prosecution relied that cast the most uncomfortable shadow.

Each page carries fingerprints of the suspect and each statement is signed. …