Golders Green student Jeremiah Duggan did not commit suicide and far-right cult ‘may have had bearing on his death’ rules coroner
- Credit: Archant
A Golders Green student who died in Germany in 2003 after attending a youth conference organised by a far-right wing “cult” did not commit suicide, a coroner ruled today, after his family’s decade-long campaign for justice.
Coroner for north London Andrew Walker said 22-year-old Jeremiah Duggan had died in a road traffic accident on an autobahn in Wiesbaden on March 27, 2003, but said “I totally reject that this is suicide”.
He added that revelations by Jeremiah that he was a British Jew to members of far-right organisation LaRouche “may have had a bearing on his death”.
Jeremiah was found dead after he travelled from Paris, where he was a student, to attend a youth conference hosted by extremist group LaRouche in the city of Wiesbaden, Germany.
His family have campaigned for 12 years to overturn the original findings by the German authorities that Jeremiah had taken his own life by jumping in front of a car.
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He had called his mother about 40 minutes before his death in a highly agitated state to say that he was in “deep deep trouble”.
His family has always believed Jeremiah was trying to get away from LaRouche in the days and hours before he died and that the organisation believed Jeremiah was “a spy and a traitor” because he was Jewish and British, the court heard.
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A new UK inquest into the death at Barnet Coroner’s Court heard evidence from expert witnesses who testified that LaRouche was likely to have exerted “psychological violence” on Jeremiah during the five-day youth conference.
Cults expert Prof Matthew Feldman told the court the conference would have taken place in an “apocalyptic atmosphere with a fear of Armageddon” six days after the start of the Iraq war.
He said: “The LaRouche movement, if anything, is an apocalyptic movement. Their belief is that World War Three has been around the corner for decades.”
The court heard that because Jeremiah was a British Jew, and had briefly had family counselling as a child following his parent’s divorce at the Tavistock Clinic in Hampstead - which the LaRouche organisation regarded as “the clearing house of British Zionist control” - he would have been seen as a threat.
Prof Feldman described this as a “triple whammy” and said it “would have raised a series of red flags” for LaRouche about Jeremiah’s loyalty.
After a three-day inquest hearing, coroner Mr Walker today recorded a narrative verdict which said Jeremiah’s presence at the LaRouche youth conference “may have had a bearing on his death”.
The verdict said: “The fact that he (Jeremiah) attended a conference run by this far-right wing organisation, and the method that the organisation used to recruit young persons at that time, against the background of the start of the Iraq war, together with Mr Duggan expressing that he was a Jew, British and questioning the material put before him, may have had a bearing on Mr Duggan’s death in the sense that it may have put Mr Duggan at risk from members of the organisation and caused Mr Duggan to become distressed and seek to leave.”
There were also a “number of unexplained injuries” suggesting there might have ben an “altercation at some stage before his death”, the verdict said.
The court had heard evidence from forensic scientist Alan Bayle, based on photographs of the crash scene, that Jeremiah had defence wounds on his hands.
Testimony from expert witnesses that Jeremiah’s death had been “staged” were also dismissed by Mr Walker, who confirmed driver testimony that the student tried to run in front of traffic on the night of his death.
Addressing the family, Mr Walker said: “This is a case where I have been impressed by members of the family’s continued determination to get to the truth of what has happened.
“And it seems to me that without that determination we would not have been in the position we were today.
“So I’m hugely grateful to members of the family. Can I offer my deepest sympathies.”
He was interrupted by Jeremiah’s mother Erica Duggan, clearly upset, who said: “Justice. We just wanted justice.”
Mr Walker continued: “I appreciate that the answers I have reached may not have been the answers that you wanted.”
The family’s legal team had asked the coroner to consider a verdict of unlawful killing.
In May 2010 the High Court ordered a fresh UK inquest after judges said evidence of possible foul play must be investigated.
The family won a victory in December 2012 when the German Higher Court ruled that the Wiesbaden authorities’ original investigation had been flawed and opened a new inquiry, which is still ongoing.
A statement from the family read outside court said: “We are disappointed that in the face of six separate British and European independent experts covering the fields of pathology and forensic analysis, the coroner preferred the disputed evidence relied upon by the German authorities.
“The pressure should now be put upon the German authorities to ensure this powerful and dramatic narrative verdict leads to deeper investigation in the country where Jeremiah was killed, including the role played of the LaRouche organisation.
“We hope Jeremiah’s legacy will be that the strong message that such extremist organisations exist which target university students for recruitment has been heard, so that the dangers they pose can be avoided.”