LONDON, ENGLAND — Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu scoffed when a Romanian military tribunal sentenced them to death, and even as they faced their executioners they believed that state security police would rescue them at the last minute, their attorney said in a published report yesterday.

Nicu Teodorescu, in an interview printed in the Times newspaper, said he tried to prevent the Christmas Day execution of the Ceausescus by advising them to plead mental instability to charges of corruption, embezzlement and murder.

The dictator told the prosecutor "When this is all over, I'll have you put on trial." We all laughed.

"When I suggested it, Elena in particular said it was an outrageous setup," said Teodorescu, who was hastily-summoned to a military barracks to conduct the Ceausescus' defense. "They felt deeply insulted, unable or unwilling to grasp their only lifeline. They rejected my help after that."

Teodorescu, one of Bucharest's most prominent lawyers, told the Times that Nicolae Ceausescu showed "absolutely nothing but contempt" when the tribunal delivered its verdict of death, telling the prosecutor, "'When this is all over, I'll have you put on trial.' We all laughed."

About 15 minutes after sentencing, soldiers marched the couple out of the barracks and into a yard, he said. The Ceausescus believed that they were being taken to a cell but instead were hastily gunned down by a rabble of soldiers, and not an organized firing squad, he said.

"The first they knew they were about to die was when the bullets hit them."

"The first they knew they were about to die was when the bullets hit them," said Teodorescu, who said he was about 90 feet from the site. "Elena and Nicolae fell head to head. As they fell their bodies spun slightly around and they fell close to each other, about 30 centimeters apart."

His account differed from that of film shown on state-run television, which showed the blood-splattered couple propped up against a wall.

The newspaper said it was possible that the bodies were moved for the benefit of the camera.

"Ceausescu was convinced all along his Securitate [secret police] would rescue him," Teodorescu was quoted as saying. "I always thought that Elena was the dominant force in the partnership, but I soon came to realize Nicolae was in command. They complemented each other perfectly, like a monster with two heads."

The lawyer said he agreed to defend the Ceausescus because "it seemed an interesting challenge." The tribunal comprised three civilians, five judges and assessors, two prosecutors, two defense lawyers and a cameraman, reported Teodorescu, the only member to give a public account.

"When I saw [them] dead ... it was the most beautiful Christmas in my whole life."

"When I saw [the Ceausescus] dead, as a lawyer I didn't feel anything at all," he said. "But as a citizen, I, like everybody, rejoiced. It was the most beautiful Christmas in my whole life."