Did shadowy cult murder my boy?

The Sun Times, UK/April 1, 2010

In the middle of the night the phone rang. Half-asleep, Erica Duggan picked it up and was jolted wide awake at the sound of her son's voice.

In hushed tones Jeremiah, 22, said: "Mum, I'm in big, big trouble."

As Erica tried to find out what was wrong, the line cut out.

It was 4.24am. Moments later Jeremiah rang back, sounding even more panicked.

He said: "Mum, I'm frightened. I need your help."

In desperation Erica asked where he was. But before he could finish the call cut off a second time.

Just 45 minutes later Jeremiah's bloodied body was found at the side of the B455 road in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Erica, 64, has been trying to get to the bottom of his death ever since.

The gifted north London Jewish lad had been a French student at the British Institute in Paris.

He travelled from there to Germany seven years ago last week with a group of men he had chatted to after they sold him a political newspaper.

Unknown to him they had links with the controversial LaRouche organisation.

Accused of being a political cult with anti-Semitic leanings - something it denies - the Right-wing sect is headed by US multi-millionaire Lyndon LaRouche, 87.

Generally ignored in his homeland as a crank, he harbours a twisted and bitter hatred for Britain.

LaRouche has called the British more evil than Hitler and said that the Queen supported drug dealing.

The LaRouche movement has been described in an internal Scotland Yard memo as a "political cult with sinister and dangerous connections".

Former members have accused it of brainwashing and being anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynist.

LaRouche claims the Iraq conflict was started by Jewish bankers controlling the US Government. Under the banner of an anti-Iraq war conference, the organisation was recruiting young activists to its ranks in Wiesbaden when Jeremiah went missing.

Although German authorities claimed their boy committed suicide, Erica and her ex-husband, Hugo, 67, fear their son was murdered.

Erica, a retired teacher, says: "I've no doubt if Jerry hadn't gone with that group to Wiesbaden he would be alive today. He was a positive young man who loved life and his beautiful French girlfriend, Maya.

"That phone call was the most terrible experience anyone could get.

"I knew immediately something was terribly wrong and Jerry was in danger. When he said he was in Wiesbaden he began to spell it, but only reached S before the line went dead.

"I immediately called 999, the local police station and even Scotland Yard, but no one could help me. At 4pm two officers knocked on the door and told me Jerry had committed suicide at 6.10am German time.

"I screamed at them it couldn't be. I'd been trying to alert the authorities to the danger my son was in - even before he was dead."

The Duggans, from Golders Green, north London, are among 70 British families fighting for investigations into a child's death abroad.

The day after Jeremiah's death, Erica and Hugo flew to Wiesbaden, convinced their son's terrified phone call would prove vitally important. But from the outset the German authorities showed little interest in the growing questions over Jeremiah's death.

Four days after he died the case was closed and cops stuck rigidly to the original verdict of suicide.

Since then Erica has been back to Germany 30 times and has pieced together crucial details of Jerry's final hours. She says: "When he left for Wiesbaden Maya went to see him off.

She had immediate reservations about the men he was with. None seemed particularly friendly.

"At the alleged two-day conference Jeremiah made friends with a French sociology student who was there under false pretences to examine how people are recruited to political groups.

"Participants were being bombarded with propaganda and given little time to rest or reflect on what was going on.

"He was extremely frightened by these methods and left early for fear he was losing his mind. He advised Jerry to leave but my son decided to remain."

According to German cops, Jeremiah ran into the path of up to four cars. One of the drivers said he had never seen anyone with a look of such "deep distress" on their face as Jeremiah.

But none of the motorists were kept at the death scene on March 27, 2003, and the Duggans have raised doubts over whether their son died at the roadside at all.

Because it was viewed as suicide, German investigators did not conduct a postmortem examination.

At a British inquest in November 2003, London coroner William Dolman rejected the suicide conclusion. He also said Jeremiah "died in a state of terror".

In January, Erica and Hugo's battle for answers was boosted when Attorney General Baroness Scotland agreed they could apply to the High Court for a second inquest.

Erica says: "We need it to establish not only how Jeremiah died, but also the events leading to his death. What occurred in the hours and days beforehand must be considered.

"If he was running away from something, what was it? That's my nightmare, what haunts me.

"Any questions raised by an inquest would be put to the German police."

Tonight at 9pm the Duggans' fight for answers features on gripping C4 documentary Cutting Edge: Lost Abroad - The Parents' Story. It also follows the case of Tokyo English teacher Lindsay Hawker, who was found dead in a bath of sand at the apartment of a man to whom she had given a lesson.

Erica vows: "My son is dead. He has no voice, so we have to be his voice.

"People say about needing the will to fight on. That's exactly what I have because I don't have the will to give up. I've tried to find the answer to what happened to Jerry. In my own way it's like I'm coming to him."

Let's hope for Erica's sake that one day she will find out the truth about her son.

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