[And yet another total bullshit article.]

The Times, November 07, 2003

Student died in terror of cult

By Carol Midgley

A young Jewish student set off for an anti-war conference organised by a right-wing group with a history of anti-semitism. Six days later he was dead, an apparent suicide. But this distraught parents say too many questions remain unanswered and they won't rest till they know the truth
ON HIS 60th BIRTHDAY this year Hugo Duggan opened a card from his son, featuring a brightly coloured picture of a door and a jolly message of love and optimism. “Your birthday is the first day of spring,” Jerry Duggan had written to his father. “The card’s meant to represent your new decade, the opening of a new door. Sorry I can’t be there to celebrate it with you but I’ll be back real soon for the Easter holidays.” It was signed with lots of love.

Five days later Jerry, 22, a British student at the Sorbonne in Paris, was dead. He had suffered catastrophic head injuries after being hit by three cars on a busy dual carriageway in Wiesbaden, western Germany. The German police insisted that Jerry had intended to take his own life, deliberately hurling himself in front of the speeding vehicles in the early hours of March 27 because he had “psychological problems”.

His parents simply could not believe what they were hearing. Jerry’s defining characteristic was his enthusiasm for life, his boundless energy, they say. He adored living in Paris and had a “lovely” girlfriend, Maya, a French music scholar.

He was excited about a job he had lined up writing reviews from a music festival later in the year. He had no history of mental illness. Certainly, the cheeriness of the birthday card he sent to his father did not suggest that this was a young man sliding into depression or paranoia. Nothing would or ever will convince them that their son committed suicide.

Hugo and Erica Duggan, from North London, have spent the past seven months trying to make sense of their son’s death. And the more they look into it, the more mysterious and fantastical it appears to be.

What they do know is that Jerry died after attending meetings organised by the Schiller Institute, an extreme rightwing political group, at its headquarters in Wiesbaden.

Jerry, who was passionately opposed to the war in Iraq, became interested in the group because of its fierce anti-war stance. The former public schoolboy became friendly with a group of young men who sold Nouvelle Solidarité, a French version of the Schiller newspaper, outside the British Institute in Paris, where he also studied. The newspaper is published by Lyndon LaRouche, an American rightwing extremist who served five years of a 15-year sentence for fraud and conspiracy in the 1980s, and who founded the institute.

Jerry agreed to accompany his new friends to a conference to hear more about their anti-war solutions. What the young student, who was Jewish, did not realise until he got to Wiesbaden was that the group has a history of anti-Semitism. He is known to have challenged one of the assertions made at the meetings that the Jews were to blame for the war in Iraq and for the problems of the world.

Jerry’s parents say their search for the truth has been hampered partly because the German police’s investigation was so superficial. There are no official witness statements from the drivers of the cars that killed Jerry, for instance, nor was a post-mortem examination held in Germany.

This week, however, they had a breakthrough. At an inquest into his death, the North London coroner, Dr William Dolman, rejected the German authorities’ view that “Jerry Duggan ran into the road with suicidal intent”. At Hornsey Coroner’s Court, Dr Dolman said: “Having weighed up all the evidence, I clearly reject that opinion.” Yesterday he was expected to adjourn the hearing and demand that the Germans investigate properly.

This is a victory for the Duggans, their first chance to find out what made Jerry behave so out of character and run into a busy road at six in the morning.

At the inquest hearing his family described the Schiller Institute as “a dangerous and political cult with strong anti-Semitic tendencies, known to have a history of intimidation and terror tactics”.

“I believe he was seduced by these people,” says Hugo, a property manager on whose tired face is etched the horror of the past few months. “It all happened in a very short period of time.” His ex-wife, a former teacher, nods her head in agreement. “Whatever happened to make him die happened during that week, during those five days at Wiesbaden,” she says. “No way was he a suicide case.”

Jerry, a former boarder at Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex and a talented tennis player, went to Paris in 2001 to study French. Soon afterwards he met Maya and returned home regularly bursting with tales about his new life. His mother is Jewish, his father Irish, and he embraced both sides of his cultural heritage. He followed Irish football and, after finishing his A levels, spent some time in Israel.

Early this year his parents noticed from his phone calls that he was becoming enthused by the ideas of his new acquaintances who were selling Nouvelle Solidarité, particularly Benoît Chalifoux, its editor, who Hugo says seemed to be a charismatic character.

The Duggan family had arranged a party to celebrate Hugo’s 60th birthday in London in March and were disappointed when Jerry said he wouldn’t be attending because it clashed with his trip to Wiesbaden. In an apologetic phone call he told his mother that he felt so strongly about the war that he had to go. She was supportive, telling him: “If you feel so strongly then you must do it.”

Jerry set out for Wiesbaden with several other people connected with Nouvelle Solidarité on March 21. Maya saw him off at the Gare du Nord and remembers thinking that she “had a bad feeling” about the trip.

At 4.24am on the morning of March 27 Erica received a chilling phone call from her son. In a hushed voice he said: “Mum, I am in deep trouble,” adding that he “wanted out”. She can hardly bear to talk about the call now but she remembers that he was speaking very quietly. “I thought perhaps he was being overheard,” she says.

Suddenly the line went dead but he rang back immediately, from where exactly Erica still does not know. This time he said: “I’m frightened. I want to see you now.” As he tried to tell her where he was, the line cut off again. Forty minutes later he was dead, although Erica didn’t discover this until 12 hours later.

The next few hours passed in a frenzy of dread and panic as Erica tried to get help for her son, though she had no address for him in Wiesbaden and he did not own a mobile. She phoned her ex-husband and the police, who gave her the number of Special Branch. Nobody seemed willing to help in contacting the German police.

“I still kept hoping he might walk through the door,” says Erica. “That he would have got a flight back from Germany.” As time ticked on they contacted Maya. It emerged that Jerry had called her shortly before his mother, in a similar state of distress. He said he had pains in his arms and legs, which his family believe indicates that he was racked with fear and anxiety, and asked her to tell him that she loved him. He told her he had discovered some “ very grave things” and was returning to Paris the next day. Maya is now so frightened that the Duggans asked that her surname not be used in this article. She attended the inquest briefly but has returned to France.

Meanwhile Erica had managed to find a mobile number for a man who had been sharing a room with Jerry in Germany. He could not understand English, so he passed the phone to a woman named Ortrum Cramer, whom the Duggans understood to be a manager of the Schiller Institute. Erica, who knows a little German, heard her say: “It’s the mother.” There followed a strained conversation in which Cramer allegedly said that Nouvelle Solidarité was a news agency and “did not take responsibility for an individual’s actions”. More recently Cramer has insisted that the Institute “played no part in his death”.

Erica was baffled. But at 4pm that afternoon, all became horribly clear. A police car pulled up outside Erica’s home, where the family was gathered waiting for news. Hugo assumed thay they had come to obtain more details about Jerry. In fact, the officer had come to tell them that Jerry’s body had been recovered from the B455 in Wiesbaden, 5km from the flat where he had been staying with friends from Nouvelle Solidarité. “I’m afraid Jerry is dead,” he told them. “We believe he committed suicide.”

Erica remembers shouting: “No! No way would he commit suicide.” The shock, she says, was “indescribable”.

The Duggans went out on the first flight to Frankfurt. At Wiesbaden police station officers told them that Jerry had run in front of a car and knocked off the wing mirror. He had then kept running, they said, and was hit by another car 10 minutes later and killed. A third vehicle then ran over his body.

The police told the distraught couple that hundreds of people committed suicide this way. They said he had not been pushed so it had to be deliberate.

The young people with whom he had been staying had said that Jerry had become disturbed in his last days. One young man who shared a room with Jerry said he had become a “control freak”, obsessively switching off lights.

It was the first his parents had heard of it. Jerry had exhibited no such signs to his girlfriend and they had detected nothing wrong when Jerry had called his father on March 22 to wish him happy birthday.

“We wanted to know why, why he would run into the road,” says Erica. “If we knew what he was frightened of when he made those phone calls then we would know why he died. But there are too many unknowns. He could have been threatened, he could have been chased, been frightened out of his mind, we don’t know. It is all supposition until there is a proper investigation. That is why we need this investigation reopened. Who was with him in the last 24 hours? What goes on at these conferences?”

Even the expert reports on the road incident are inconsistent, she says, not corresponding to the marks found on Jerry’s body. Hugo adds quietly: “Judging by the phone calls he made to Erica, I believe he was running for his life from something * we need to find out what.”

Looking back, they wonder whether Jerry’s decision not to attend his father’s birthday party was a first sign of the group’s growing influence over him. “Maybe they had filled his head with ‘Your family doesn’t matter any more’,” says Erica.

After his death, as an experiment, she sent an e-mail to an anti-cult organisation saying that her son was attending a Schiller lecture and what should she do. The reply that came back was sobering. It advised that she should not try to stop him going or to challenge the institute’s views herself, but involve a trained interventionist as soon as possible.

The Duggans, who also have two daughters, now say they will not rest until they find the truth. You know that they mean it. Erica and her mother have set up a memorial fund to help to pay for the legal fight to find what happened to their son in his final days. His funeral was held at the synagogue close to their home.

Erica reflects on the bitter irony of the fact that her father, a German Jew, escaped from Hitler’s regime. “It is ironic that my father fled the Holocaust and my son ended up dying on Berliner Strasse,” she says.

Meanwhile Hugo treasures his birthday card and another piece of correspondence that he cannot bring himself to open. When he last visited home early last year Jerry was so worried that he might forget to send a card from Paris for his father’s 60th that he gave his sister a reserve card just in case. “I can’t open it just yet,” says Hugo. “Maybe I will next year.

“Jerry was a grand lad. He was so inquisitive about life; it was one of the reasons he was in Paris in the first place. It’s hard to believe that this might all have started from buying a newspaper.”

The couple live in hope that a new investigation might give them the answers they need, no matter how unpleasant. The German authorities have a moral responsibility to find the truth, they say.

They have known for months the terrible way in which their son died. What they want to know now is why.

Jeremiah Duggan Memorial Fund, PO Box 159, Harrow HA1 2ZL.