Lesbian British Nurses Sentenced in Saudi Arabia

British Nurses Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry have been sentenced to 500 lashes with a whip and eight years in prison in Saudi Arabia for the murder of fellow nurse Yvonne Gilford, an Australian. Some accounts say that Gilford’s family has reached a $1.2 settlement with Parry. If they do not reach a settlement, Parry and McLcuhlan face death by beheading. They would be the first Western women to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

The Western press has harshly criticized Islamic law for being unnecessarily barbaric. The Saudi law says that the family of the victim can take “blood money” from people sentenced to death in exchange for granting them clemency.

The details of the murder are unclear, with several confusing accounts regarding the exact nature of the relationships between the three women and the circumstances of her death, which occured during a fight between Parry and Gilford. McLauchlan said Parry and Gilford were in a lesbian relationship, but Parry denied it in one confession and admitted to it in another. She said Gilford had fallen on the knife she had intended to attack Parry with, but McLauchlan said Parry stabbed Gilford intentionally. McLauchlan claims innocence, but Parry says McLauchlan was the one to stab Gilford.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the 500 lashes were “wholly unacceptable in the modern world.” Fouad Nahdi, editor-in-chief of the Islamic publication Q-News, said while he was critical of the Saudi regime, the British press was being unfair to Moslems. “Beheading is barbaric in Saudi Arabia but the death penalty and the electric chair in the U.S. is not?” he said.

The AFP offered several contradictory reports, some saying that a financial settlement had been reached, others saying it had not. Some articles said only Parry faced beheading, while others said McLachlan was the one. Gilford’s family has apparently released several confusing statements regarding whether or not they had waived the right to demand the death penalty. The full details on the situation are currently unknown.


AP - September 25, 1997

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