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Government bid to save death row convict

PUBLISHED: 17:39 12 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:31 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK-born carpenter who is on Death Row for murdering a teenager is at the centre of a historic move by the Government to try and save his life.

A SUFFOLK-born carpenter who is on Death Row for murdering a teenager is at the centre of an historic move by the Government to try and save his life.

The case involves 41-year-old John 'Jack' Elliott, son of an American airman born at the former Bentwaters air base near Woodbridge, who was found guilty of raping and killing an 18-year-old in 1986 after moving to the United States.

His American lawyers believe another man, who gave evidence against Elliott at the trial, was responsible for the murder and they are fighting to stop his execution. Joyce Munguia was beaten to death with a motorbike chain under an overpass. She was struck in the face and head at least 20 times.

The British Government has now become involved in the case because it involves someone with British nationality and, in an unprecedented move, the Foreign Office will instruct lawyers to intervene in an attempt to halt the execution.

However, the Washington government is understood to be angry that the Foreign Office should choose to act on a Death Row case involving an American citizen who acquired British nationality only by an accident of birth.

The legal challenge against America over its use of the death penalty also involves the case of Tracy Housel, 42, who was born a British subject in Bermuda. He was convicted of beating and strangling to death a woman in Georgia and he was sentenced to die in 1985. His lawyers argue that he was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the crime and Housel could have been badly advised by his lawyers about his guilty plea. He is due to die in the electric chair before the end of the year.

The Foreign Office says that former foreign secretary Robin Cook emphasised earlier this year that government policy was to express Britain's ''strong opposition to the death penalty and its imposition on British nationals.'' A spokeswoman said people either had the right to British nationality or they did not and there was no halfway position.

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