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Malaysia Hangs Drug Trafficker : First Briton to Be Executed Under Stringent Law Spent Last Hours Clutching Photo of Daughter

July 21, 1989|From Associated Press

KAJANG, Malaysia — A Briton convicted of drug trafficking was hanged in prison today after spending his last hours clutching a photograph of his 7-year-old daughter, authorities said.

Derrick Gregory, arrested with more than a pound of heroin, was the first Briton to be executed under Malaysia's stringent 14-year-old drug law that deems a trafficker to be anyone carrying more than a half ounce of heroin.

Authorities ignored pleas from British diplomats that he be spared.

Gregory clutched the photo of his daughter, Tara, through the night until he was marched to the gallows early today, authorities said.

Gregory, 39, had not seen his daughter since she was an infant.

He was arrested in 1982 at a Malaysian airport with the heroin hidden in his boots and clothes. At the trial, the court in Penang was told Gregory had 14 packets of the drug in his boots and four packets in his underwear. He was arrested just before boarding a plane for Singapore en route to Los Angeles.

His wife divorced him soon after he was sentenced to death in 1987.

Gregory of Middlesex, England, was turned down in his final appeal for clemency by the Penang State's Pardons Board last week.

Gregory's parents, Kenneth and Mary Gregory, and his brother, Paul, visited him Thursday at the Kajang jail, 10 miles south of Kuala Lumpur. Reporters saw them come out in tears, and they went straight to the airport and flew home to England.

Prison officials said only an executioner, physician and magistrate were present at today's hanging.

Gregory had sent letters to Queen Elizabeth asking her to intercede, but British diplomats said it was not common practice for the queen to interfere in such matters.

However, the first secretary at the British Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Ashe Wyndham, said his government "had hoped that the representation made at all levels to the Malaysian authorities, making a plea for commutation of the death sentence on humanitarian grounds, would succeed."

Gregory was the first Briton sentenced to death and hanged under Malaysia's stringent 1975 drug law. Australians, Singaporeans, Filipinos, Thais and Indonesians have been among the 81 others hanged for drug trafficking.

The government has said Malaysia implemented the strict laws because the drug problem was the country's "No. 1 enemy." About 350,000 of Malaysia's 17 million people are thought to be drug addicts.

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