Was British student killed by a sinister political cult?

One terrified phone call to his mother.. then Jerry was found dead on a German motorway

The Mirror, UK/December 9, 2006
By Victoria Bone

When Erica Duggan picked up the phone, her blood ran cold to hear her terrified son crying: "I'm in deep trouble... I'm frightened."

Hours later, Jeremiah Duggan was found dead on the hard shoulder of a busy dual carriageway in Germany.

Police concluded he had committed suicide. But his family refuse to accept that verdict, insisting the talented 22-year-old student was hounded to death - or even murdered - by a sinister cult.

Almost four years after Jeremiah's death Germany's highest court looks set to order a fresh investigation, a breakthrough for Erica's campaign to find the truth behind her son's death.

The cost has been enormous. Erica's home was sold to pay for private investigators and legal bills and she has endured personal attacks by the group she holds responsible for her son's death.

From her elderly parents' semi in North London, Erica, 60, a retired teacher, told the Mirror: "I have lost my son but I have also lost justice. It is terrible having to fight like this, but if I don't this could happen to another young person."

Jeremiah's fall into the clutches of a cult started with a trip to Germany to take part in an anti-war rally to protest over the impending bombardment of Iraq. In late January 2003 outside the British Institute in Paris, where Jeremiah was studying, he bought a newspaper called Nouvelle SolidaritŽ which appealed to his belief that war in Iraq would be misguided.

Unknown to him at the time, the paper is published by an organisation, run by US millionaire and anti-semitic conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, with whom Jerry would spent his final days.

Described as "sinister and dangerous" by British police, the LaRouche network targets the young and disillusioned, loitering outside universities across Europe.

"It was just before the invasion of Iraq. Jerry was terribly upset about it and he wanted to do something," says Erica. "Then he came across this newspaper that was full of anti-war stuff and he believed in it totally."

Jerry was studying for two degrees and lived life to the full. "He loved learning," says Erica. "He was into art, music, poetry, literature. He was learning the guitar. He was very much in love with his French girlfriend, Maya - they had big plans. He was interested in everything. The only thing he wasn't into was politics."

But when a recruiter offered Jerry the chance to write for Nouvelle SolidaritŽ it seemed the perfect opportunity. All he had to do was join the group at an anti-war rally in Wiesbaden, Germany.

"I was proud that he felt so passionate about it," says Erica. "He left Paris with the best intentions, with the idea he was going to change the world."

Erica has since discovered that when he arrived, Jerry found that instead of an anti-war rally, he was in the midst of a conference called How To Reconstruct A Bankrupt World. Organised by the LaRouche youth movement, which critics claim uses brainwashing to bend people to its theories, its speakers included LaRouche himself.

After years of research into the LaRouche network, Erica talks confidently of its methods and aims. "LaRouche wants recruits to change their whole identity," she says.

"They have to accept that everything they have learned is wrong, that the world is evil and that their parents have lied to them."

LaRouche's rants against Judaism must have left Jerry feeling terribly confused, says Erica, who believes her son was marked out because he was Jewish. She explains: "I believe they saw him as a danger. At first they wanted to recruit him, but then they turned against him. LaRouche is always convinced someone is trying to kill him and I think his people saw Jerry as an assassin. He was raising the alarm, asking questions, he was very critical and he wanted to leave."

Jerry spent just five days with the cult. In this time, Erica has been told, he went from a young man with everything to live for to one intent on suicide. The first she and her ex-husband Hugo - they divorced when Jerry was seven - knew of this transformation was when Erica received a call from her son at 4.24am on March 27, 2003.

"He said, 'Mum I'm in deep trouble. I'm under too much pressure. You know this Nouvelle SolidaritŽ? I'm not strong enough for this. I can't do this. I'm frightened'."

Then the line went silent. Within hours Jerry was dead. In Erica's eyes, those last calls were a cry for help.

She was given a boost in November 2003 when a British coroner found there was nothing in the German evidence to suggest suicide and said Jerry was in a "state of terror" when he died.

But after the German authorities rejected her requests to investigate further, Erica hired Paul Canning, a former Metropolitan Police forensics photographer, to look at 79 pictures taken at the roadside.

He concluded that Jerry was not killed by cars and could have died elsewhere before his body was planted at the scene.

Erica has taken this evidence to the Attorney General in the hope of a new inquest. And news this week that Germany's Constitutional Court could order a full investigation as early as January has brought fresh hope.

Erica has even spoken to LaRouche insiders in the hope of finding answers, but this has made her a target for their attacks. In the group's daily briefings they even blame her for causing Jerry's death. They wrote: "What did his mother say which drove him to suicide? What ugly secret did she know about his past which drove him to suicide?"

Despite such personal attacks, Erica will not rest until she has answers. Why would Jerry run more than five kilometres to kill himself? Was he being chased? Why did other cult members have his passport?

But the biggest question remains - even if it was suicide, why did a happy, intelligent young man with everything to live for kill himself in such a bizarre way?

"It doesn't make sense. You don't call your mother saying I want help. You don't alert people that you're frightened, beg to get out and then go and kill yourself.

"I have to get answers for other young people. Right at this moment another one could be picking up a newspaper just like Jerry did."

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