German Court Considers Investigation Into Student Death

Jeremiah Duggan was a young British student who met a mysterious death in Germany in 2003. The Constitutional Court is currently considering whether to order a new investigation into what happened.

Deutsche Welle/December 5, 2006
By Jane Paulick

In the early hours of March 27, 2003, the body of a young man was found on the B455 freeway outside Wiesbaden. After questioning motorists, local police concluded Jeremiah Duggan had committed suicide by running into traffic, and the case was closed.

But in the last three and a half years, Jeremiah's mother has amassed evidence which she says proves her son did not take his own life -- and also suggests that the perfunctory police investigation was badly flawed. Even so, despite the fact that the coroner at the British inquest in November 2003 said there was nothing in the German police evidence to suggest Jeremiah's death could be suicide, German courts have refused to reopen the case.

"The police investigation was incomplete," argues Erica Duggan's lawyer Hans-Eberhard Schultz. "No autopsy was performed on the body, and no witness statements were taken from the drivers of the cars. At the very least, these people need to be questioned again thoroughly."

Erica Duggan is haunted by questions no one seems willing to help her answer. "Why doesn't Germany want to investigate the full circumstances of his death?" she asks.

A search for clues

One report she commissioned from former Scotland Yard forensics expert Paul Canning earlier this year suggests that nothing less than a cover-up may have taken place.

According to his findings, the tracks on the road did not match the police version of how the accident happened, and there were no signs of glass, tire marks or crushing of the body to prove it had been run over.

After examining photographs of the scene of the accident taken by German police, Canning concluded: "I do not believe that the images depict how Jerry came to meet his premature death. It is possible that Jerry lost his life elsewhere, prior to being placed at this scene."

In November, Erica Duggan filed the case with the German Constitutional Court. "I lost my son, but unless the Constitutional Court supports my rights, I have the added trauma of having lost justice," she says.

With her fresh information all pointing to an unsolved mystery, it is now up to the court in Karlsruhe to decide the next move.

"Who knows why the investigation was so inadequate, but it was, and it's high time it was reopened," says Schultz.

The facts

Jeremiah was a 22-year-old British student who had been studying in Paris. In early 2003, he fell in with a group of young people who sold Nouvelle Solidarité, a newspaper published by controversial US millionaire and political campaigner Lyndon LaRouche.

The group invited Jeremiah to Wiesbaden to attend a conference organized by the LaRouche Youth Movement and the related Schiller Institute run by LaRouche's German wife Helga Zepp, which has been described by Britain's Metropolitan Police as "a political cult with sinister and dangerous connections."

But Jeremiah knew nothing of this. Believing he would be attending a seminar critical of the imminent war against Iraq, he left for Wiesbaden on March 21.

On March 27 he rang his mother in London in the middle of the night sounding terrified. "I am in terrible trouble...I'm frightened," he managed to say before being cut off. Minutes later, he was dead. To the German police, the call indicated he was suicidal. To his mother, it sounded as though he feared for his life.

LaRouche and BüSo woo idealistic youths

According to Pastor Thomas Gandow, Sect Commissioner of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg, Jeremiah's involvement with the Schiller Institute might well have taken a sinister turn, especially after he revealed he was Jewish.

Lyndon LaRouche's group and its political German wing, BüSo (Civil Rights Movement Solidarity), have long been accused of propagating a virulent brand of anti-Semitism.

Lecture notes found in Jeremiah's bag after his death apparently pointed to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to explain the background to the Iraq war and other global problems.

"We know very little about this institute," says Gandow. "It appears to operate as an intelligence service as well as a youth religion. Opposing the Iraq war is one of the ways it recruits idealistic young people.

"Despite being known to operate like a cult, for some reason it is not monitored by the government – even though other sects such as Scientology are," he points out. "Basically, the fact that the Institute has not been investigated is a scandal."


The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is equally alarmed by the LaRouche Youth Movement and the Schiller Institute.

Last month, its director for international relations Shimon Samuels wrote to German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries urging her to "reopen the public investigation of this case at the highest Federal level, to hold an inquiry as to whether Jeremiah Duggan's Jewish identity played any role in his death, and to impose the full application of German law to the supervision of the LaRouche Youth Movement and its network of affiliates."

In 2004, a former member of the Schiller Institute told the BBC that "people tend to be drawn into it who did not want to be drawn into it -- who did not want to join a cult or sect." She added that conferences entailed immense psychological duress.

"I was freaked out and I experienced that other people were freaked out. I saw people who went out of their mind," she said.

Jeremiah might have experienced similar pressure.

"Perhaps these people exerted such psychological pressure on Jeremiah that he panicked," says sect commissioner Gandow. "Perhaps they wanted to make an example of him. Who knows?"

Standard practice

Even though Jeremiah's passport was found to have been in the possession of the Schiller Institute when he died, police failed to question any of its staff.

Hartmut Ferse, press spokesperson for the Public Prosecutors' Office in Wiesbaden, still insists there was nothing amiss with the way the case was handled.

Then as now, police insisted the activities of the Schiller Institute played "no role" in the investigation. "This was a cut and dried suicide," said Ferse. "It is not our job to explore the motives for why someone should take their own life."

"There was simply no evidence of any third party involvement which would have necessitated further investigation. Clearly, no one pushed this young man onto the road."

He argues that it is standard practice not to take formal witness statements in a case in which the facts are unequivocal. "The drivers were questioned and let go, because there was nothing unusual in their statements," he insists.

Lyndon LaRouche, meanwhile, has dismissed the case as a "hoax" masterminded by his sworn enemy Dick Cheney.

"London sources tied intimately to Dick Cheney have once again launched a press campaign on behalf of a repeatedly discredited hoax," he wrote recently in his newspaper The Executive Intelligence Review. "This concerns the causes and circumstances of the suicide by a young, emotionally troubled British national, Jeremy Duggan, who, as the official forensic evidence showed beyond doubt, threw himself repeatedly against moving automobiles on a highway near Wiesbaden."

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