October 19, 2017

Agony of Alice Ruggles’ parents who did not spot warnings


When the police told teacher Dr Sue Hills and her husband Professor Clive Ruggles that their 24-year-old daughter Alice had been murdered, they instinctively knew the name of her killer.

Although they had no inkling that Alice’s ex-boyfriend, soldier Trimaan Dhillon, would brutally slit her throat in her own home, they had watched in despair as he spiralled out of control, blackmailing her, threatening her and hacking into her Facebook page.

Now, in an interview with MailOnline, the grieving parents recall the moment they were told Alice had died and how they have tried to create something positive from her death.

‘As soon as the police told us, we knew that it was Dhillon,’ said Dr Hills, 56, sitting at a table in their homely kitchen.

Sue Hills and Clive Ruggles, the grieving parents of Alice (above), recall the moment they were told their daughter had died and how they have tried to create something positive from her death

Sue Hills and Clive Ruggles, the grieving parents of Alice (above), recall the moment they were told their daughter had died and how they have tried to create something positive from her death

Sue Hills and Clive Ruggles, the grieving parents of Alice (above), recall the moment they were told their daughter had died and how they have tried to create something positive from her death

When the police told them that 24-year-old daughter Alice had been murdered, Dr Hills (above with Alice) and her husband instinctively knew the name of her killer

When the police told them that 24-year-old daughter Alice had been murdered, Dr Hills (above with Alice) and her husband instinctively knew the name of her killer

When the police told them that 24-year-old daughter Alice had been murdered, Dr Hills (above with Alice) and her husband instinctively knew the name of her killer

Although they had no inkling that Alice¿s ex-boyfriend, soldier Trimaan Dhillon, would brutally slit her throat in her own home, they had watched in despair as he spiralled out of control, blackmailing her, threatening her and hacking into her Facebook page

Although they had no inkling that Alice¿s ex-boyfriend, soldier Trimaan Dhillon, would brutally slit her throat in her own home, they had watched in despair as he spiralled out of control, blackmailing her, threatening her and hacking into her Facebook page

Although they had no inkling that Alice’s ex-boyfriend, soldier Trimaan Dhillon, would brutally slit her throat in her own home, they had watched in despair as he spiralled out of control, blackmailing her, threatening her and hacking into her Facebook page

The couple feels feel so regretful that they did not spot the ¿warning signals¿ that they have set up a trust in their daughter¿s name to educate other young people and their families about the dangers of coercive behaviour

The couple feels feel so regretful that they did not spot the ¿warning signals¿ that they have set up a trust in their daughter¿s name to educate other young people and their families about the dangers of coercive behaviour

The couple feels feel so regretful that they did not spot the ‘warning signals’ that they have set up a trust in their daughter’s name to educate other young people and their families about the dangers of coercive behaviour

‘No other thought crossed our minds. He had been stalking our daughter and wouldn’t leave her alone.’

Now they rue the day that they welcomed Dhillon, a Lance Corporal and signaller with the 2 Scots regiment, into their home, inviting him to spend a week on holiday with them in a cottage off the coast of Cornwall in the week before the break-up.

They feel so regretful that they did not spot the ‘warning signals’ that they have set up a trust in their daughter’s name to educate other young people and their families about the dangers of coercive behaviour.

‘We had no idea that he was dangerous – that the coercive behaviour he displayed before they split up and the stalking afterwards – were warning signs,’ said Dr Hills. ‘That is why we set up The Alice Ruggles Trust, to prevent this happening to anybody else.’ 

The Alice Ruggles Trust aims to ‘provide education and training, lobby for legal measures and support relevant research’ into stalking as well as raise money for charities such as Women’s Aid and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

At first glance this mild-mannered middle-class couple, who live in the quintessentially-British village of Tur Langton, on the outskirts of Market Harborough, in Leicestershire, are not the obvious figureheads for such a gritty campaign.

But it is precisely their ordinariness which makes their appeal – launched to coincide with the anniversary of Alice’s death today and a pioneering ITV documentary tonight – so compelling.

While others craved fame and fortune, the Ruggles were content with the simple pleasures in life; walking their golden retriever, holidaying in Ireland and Scotland, sailing on the Norfolk Broads, cooking and watching Bake Off.

¿As soon as the police told us, we knew that it was Dhillon,' said Dr Hills. No other thought crossed our minds. He had been stalking our daughter and wouldn¿t leave her alone.' Pictured: Alice on CCTV leaving work shortly before her murder

¿As soon as the police told us, we knew that it was Dhillon,' said Dr Hills. No other thought crossed our minds. He had been stalking our daughter and wouldn¿t leave her alone.' Pictured: Alice on CCTV leaving work shortly before her murder

‘As soon as the police told us, we knew that it was Dhillon,’ said Dr Hills. No other thought crossed our minds. He had been stalking our daughter and wouldn’t leave her alone.’ Pictured: Alice on CCTV leaving work shortly before her murder

The couple rue the day that they metaphorically welcomed Dhillon, a Lance Corporal and signaller with the 2 Scots regiment, into their home, inviting him to spend a week on holiday  in the week before the break-up. Pictured: Dhillon on his way to confront Alice

The couple rue the day that they metaphorically welcomed Dhillon, a Lance Corporal and signaller with the 2 Scots regiment, into their home, inviting him to spend a week on holiday  in the week before the break-up. Pictured: Dhillon on his way to confront Alice

The couple rue the day that they metaphorically welcomed Dhillon, a Lance Corporal and signaller with the 2 Scots regiment, into their home, inviting him to spend a week on holiday in the week before the break-up. Pictured: Dhillon on his way to confront Alice

This mild-mannered middle-class couple, from Leicestershire, have set up a trust to highlight stalking and have spoken out to coincide with the anniversary of Alice¿s death and a pioneering ITV documentary about her murder being screened tonight

This mild-mannered middle-class couple, from Leicestershire, have set up a trust to highlight stalking and have spoken out to coincide with the anniversary of Alice¿s death and a pioneering ITV documentary about her murder being screened tonight

This mild-mannered middle-class couple, from Leicestershire, have set up a trust to highlight stalking and have spoken out to coincide with the anniversary of Alice’s death and a pioneering ITV documentary about her murder being screened tonight

The Alice Ruggles Trust aims to ¿provide education and training, lobby for legal measures and support relevant research¿ into stalking as well as raise money for charities such as Women¿s Aid and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Pictured: Alice (left) with two school friends

The Alice Ruggles Trust aims to ¿provide education and training, lobby for legal measures and support relevant research¿ into stalking as well as raise money for charities such as Women¿s Aid and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Pictured: Alice (left) with two school friends

The Alice Ruggles Trust aims to ‘provide education and training, lobby for legal measures and support relevant research’ into stalking as well as raise money for charities such as Women’s Aid and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Pictured: Alice (left) with two school friends

‘I wouldn’t have said Alice was a keen cook,’ smiled her mother, ‘but she loved cookery. She was really into healthy meals. 

‘I remember the best thing she made was a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe. It was an amazing chocolate mousse made from avocado, honey and cocoa powder.’

Everything changed the moment that Alice was murdered. She was the glue that cemented the family together. ‘It has been really difficult for the family because Alice was such a central point,’ said her mother.

‘We kept in touch a lot by social media and she would post something funny every other day. We have all got a good sense of humour but she was a natural.

‘She was very quick-witted and humorous – she was one of the few people at school who ever did a stand-up routine.

‘But she never made fun of people. She was very empathetic and concerned about people’s feelings. She was very popular and had a massive circle of friends dating from nursery school to university. She collected friends wherever she went.

‘She was the peacemaker in our family: if there was an argument she would be the go-between. We didn’t realise that until she wasn’t there anymore.

‘Now nobody is around to make the jokes and lighten the mood. Our life has changed completely. We can never go back.’

Born on Christmas Eve, 1991, Alice was the third of four children of Professor Clive Ruggles, 65, an expert in archaeoastronomy (prehistoric knowledge of the skies) and his teacher wife Dr Sue Hills, who is head of maths at the £11,600-a-year Leicester High School for Girls.

¿It has been really difficult for the family because Alice was such a central point,¿ said her mother.  ¿She was the peacemaker in our family: if there was an argument she would be the go-between. We didn¿t realise that until she wasn¿t there anymore'

¿It has been really difficult for the family because Alice was such a central point,¿ said her mother.  ¿She was the peacemaker in our family: if there was an argument she would be the go-between. We didn¿t realise that until she wasn¿t there anymore'

‘It has been really difficult for the family because Alice was such a central point,’ said her mother. ‘She was the peacemaker in our family: if there was an argument she would be the go-between. We didn’t realise that until she wasn’t there anymore’

Popular: ‘Alice was very quick-witted and humorous,’ said her mother. ‘She was very popular and had a massive circle of friends dating from nursery school to university. She collected friends wherever she went.’

Born on Christmas Eve, 1991, Alice was the third of four children of Professor Clive Ruggles, 65, an expert in archaeoastronomy (prehistoric knowledge of the skies) and his teacher wife Dr Sue Hills, who is head of maths at the £11,600-a-year Leicester High School for Girls

Born on Christmas Eve, 1991, Alice was the third of four children of Professor Clive Ruggles, 65, an expert in archaeoastronomy (prehistoric knowledge of the skies) and his teacher wife Dr Sue Hills, who is head of maths at the £11,600-a-year Leicester High School for Girls

Born on Christmas Eve, 1991, Alice was the third of four children of Professor Clive Ruggles, 65, an expert in archaeoastronomy (prehistoric knowledge of the skies) and his teacher wife Dr Sue Hills, who is head of maths at the £11,600-a-year Leicester High School for Girls

It was a typical middle-class upbringing going to Brownies, having ballet and swimming lessons, learning to fence at a PGL ¿Parents Get Lost¿ holiday and enjoying singing and drama. Pictured at the age of six with her older brother Nick

It was a typical middle-class upbringing going to Brownies, having ballet and swimming lessons, learning to fence at a PGL ¿Parents Get Lost¿ holiday and enjoying singing and drama. Pictured at the age of six with her older brother Nick

It was a typical middle-class upbringing going to Brownies, having ballet and swimming lessons, learning to fence at a PGL ‘Parents Get Lost’ holiday and enjoying singing and drama. Pictured at the age of six with her older brother Nick

After gaining A levels in maths, physics and chemistry ¿ she inherited her skill in maths from her parents ¿ Alice went up to Northumbria University to study product design and engineering

After gaining A levels in maths, physics and chemistry ¿ she inherited her skill in maths from her parents ¿ Alice went up to Northumbria University to study product design and engineering

After gaining A levels in maths, physics and chemistry – she inherited her skill in maths from her parents – Alice went up to Northumbria University to study product design and engineering

Like her siblings, Emma, 29, who is in the British Army, Nick, 28, a software developer, and Patrick, 21, who is at university, she went to Church Langton primary school and Kibworth High School before she joined her mother at Leicester High.

It was a typical middle-class upbringing going to Brownies, having ballet and swimming lessons, learning to fence at a PGL ‘Parents Get Lost’ holiday and enjoying singing and drama.

‘I remember her singing the Snowman one year and it was absolutely beautiful,’ said Dr Hills. ‘That’s the first time I really heard her sing. 

Another year she and a friend sang Fairy Tales from New York. When she suddenly came out with: “You scumbag, you maggot,” I thought: “Oh my God. What is she doing?” But she was really good.’

After gaining A levels in maths, physics and chemistry – she inherited her skill in maths from her parents – Alice went up to Northumbria University to study product design and engineering.

There she became an accomplished fencer, captaining the university fencing club and winning the 2012 Leeds Open Fencing Tournament. She even had two boyfriends who were fellow fencers. 

Her love of the sport has been recognised by Leicester University which is holding an Alice Ruggles Memorial Fencing tournament in December.

However, Alice’s life began to unravel the moment she came across Dhillon in November 2015. Then working as an office co-ordinator at Sky Television in Newcastle, she went on holiday with a friend to Sri Lanka.

Dhillon spotted a holiday photograph of her on Facebook and noted: ‘She is the most naturally beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.’ Flattered by the compliment, and letting her guard down because he was a friend of her friend, Alice responded to his comment and the couple began to exchange messages and video chat.

‘She was really careful about Facebook,’ said Dr Hills. ‘She and her sister used to sit here together, stop being friends with each other, and then have a look at each other’s profiles to ensure they were private.’

Alice¿s life began to unravel the moment she came across Dhillon in November 2015, via a friend's Facebook account. Flattered by a compliment he wrote about her, Alice responded to his comment and the couple began to exchange messages and video chat

Alice¿s life began to unravel the moment she came across Dhillon in November 2015, via a friend's Facebook account. Flattered by a compliment he wrote about her, Alice responded to his comment and the couple began to exchange messages and video chat

Alice’s life began to unravel the moment she came across Dhillon in November 2015, via a friend’s Facebook account. Flattered by a compliment he wrote about her, Alice responded to his comment and the couple began to exchange messages and video chat

The couple finally met in January last year but their relationship was fraught from the start as Dhillon tried to alienate her from her friends. Alice white water rafting with her mother

The couple finally met in January last year but their relationship was fraught from the start as Dhillon tried to alienate her from her friends. Alice white water rafting with her mother

The couple finally met in January last year but their relationship was fraught from the start as Dhillon tried to alienate her from her friends. Alice white water rafting with her mother

By the time he went on holiday with the Ruggles that August, the writing was on the wall. 'We look at photographs of that holiday now and she was clearly unhappy. She wasn¿t her normal self. She looks as if she were haunted.' Pictured: Alice celebrating her fencing success

By the time he went on holiday with the Ruggles that August, the writing was on the wall. 'We look at photographs of that holiday now and she was clearly unhappy. She wasn¿t her normal self. She looks as if she were haunted.' Pictured: Alice celebrating her fencing success

By the time he went on holiday with the Ruggles that August, the writing was on the wall. ‘We look at photographs of that holiday now and she was clearly unhappy. She wasn’t her normal self. She looks as if she were haunted.’ Pictured: Alice celebrating her fencing success

The couple finally met in January last year but their relationship was fraught from the start as Dhillon tried to alienate her from her friends. By the time he went on holiday with the Ruggles that August, the writing was on the wall.

‘She did ring me up prior to the holiday and say: “Mum I’ve got no friends anymore,” recalled Dr Hills.

‘When you think back to what a popular happy girl she was, you realise there was something really wrong then. But I didn’t really see it at the time.

‘I just thought that it was normal angst. Now I would know immediately that it was a warning sign.

‘Even when he came on holiday with us we wouldn’t have said he was a potential murderer. He was a bit immature and self-centred and kept saying what he thought we wanted to hear, that he was going to look after Alice.

‘It is only in retrospect that we realised that was weird. We look at photographs of that holiday now and she was clearly unhappy. She wasn’t her normal self. She looks as if she were haunted.’

After they returned from Cornwall, Alice discovered that Dhillon had been messaging other women on Tinder. ‘A woman had looked up his name, found his Facebook profile and discovered he was in a relationship with Alice,’ said Dr Hills. 

‘So, she messaged Alice saying: “Do you know what your boyfriend is doing?” When Alice spoke to him about it, he completely denied it, but she didn’t believe it and ended the relationship.

Three months after they broke up, Dhillon (pictured in custody),  relentlessly pursued Alice, blackmailing her over intimate photographs, bombarding her with phone calls and hacking into her social media accounts. She complained about him twice to the police

Three months after they broke up, Dhillon (pictured in custody),  relentlessly pursued Alice, blackmailing her over intimate photographs, bombarding her with phone calls and hacking into her social media accounts. She complained about him twice to the police

Three months after they broke up, Dhillon (pictured in custody), relentlessly pursued Alice, blackmailing her over intimate photographs, bombarding her with phone calls and hacking into her social media accounts. She complained about him twice to the police

Dr Hills has relived the moths leading up to her daughter's death: ¿When you think back to what a popular happy girl she was, you realise there was something really wrong then. But I didn¿t really see it at the time. Now I would know immediately that it was a warning sign'

Dr Hills has relived the moths leading up to her daughter's death: ¿When you think back to what a popular happy girl she was, you realise there was something really wrong then. But I didn¿t really see it at the time. Now I would know immediately that it was a warning sign'

Dr Hills has relived the moths leading up to her daughter’s death: ‘When you think back to what a popular happy girl she was, you realise there was something really wrong then. But I didn’t really see it at the time. Now I would know immediately that it was a warning sign’

Eleven days before her murder Alice phoned police and the haunting call can be heard in the ITV documentary, An Hour to Catch a Killer, which followed the officers and detectives in their initial response to the killing

Eleven days before her murder Alice phoned police and the haunting call can be heard in the ITV documentary, An Hour to Catch a Killer, which followed the officers and detectives in their initial response to the killing

Eleven days before her murder Alice phoned police and the haunting call can be heard in the ITV documentary, An Hour to Catch a Killer, which followed the officers and detectives in their initial response to the killing

‘She knew underneath that things weren’t right. At one stage, she told me: “I don’t even think he knows what the truth is.” He would change his story every time he got found out.’

For the next three months, Dhillon, who was in training for the SAS, relentlessly pursued their daughter, blackmailing her over intimate photographs, bombarding her with phone calls and hacking into her social media accounts. 

He even sent a rambling message to her mother, asking her to persuade Alice to take him back.

When she got a new boyfriend, Mike Thaibsyah, who was an army colleague of her sister, Dhillon was infuriated. He hacked into Alice’s Facebook page and sent Mike messages claiming that she was unfaithful.

Finally, 11 days before her murder, Alice telephoned police after Dhillon made a 240-mile round trip from his barracks in Edinburgh and knocked on her window.

The call, which can be heard in the ITV documentary, An Hour to Catch a Killer, is haunting because of Alice’s reticence.

‘Hi there,’ she said. ‘I just need a bit of advice really more than anything. I split up with my boyfriend about three months ago and since then I know that he has hacked into my Facebook and also my phone.

‘Then tonight I had a knock at my door and there was no one there. Then it happened again two or three times and he had like left some flowers and chocolates on the outside window sill and I’m concerned. 

Dhillon (pictured above with David Cameron) was infuriated when Alice got a new boyfriend, Mike Thaibsyah, who was an army colleague of her sister. He hacked into her Facebook page and sent Mike messages claiming that she was unfaithful

Dhillon (pictured above with David Cameron) was infuriated when Alice got a new boyfriend, Mike Thaibsyah, who was an army colleague of her sister. He hacked into her Facebook page and sent Mike messages claiming that she was unfaithful

Dhillon (pictured above with David Cameron) was infuriated when Alice got a new boyfriend, Mike Thaibsyah, who was an army colleague of her sister. He hacked into her Facebook page and sent Mike messages claiming that she was unfaithful

Alice felt ¿palmed off¿ by the police, telling her sister: ¿They¿ll respond when (Dhillon) stabs me.¿ Her words proved tragically prophetic.

Alice felt ¿palmed off¿ by the police, telling her sister: ¿They¿ll respond when (Dhillon) stabs me.¿ Her words proved tragically prophetic.

Alice felt ‘palmed off’ by the police, telling her sister: ‘They’ll respond when (Dhillon) stabs me.’ Her words proved tragically prophetic.

‘My friends have been telling me to call the police. I feel a bit shaken up tonight.’

Tragically, although officers warned Dhillon, who had an existing restraining order for harassing his ex Eniko Nemeth, to leave Alice alone, the fact that she had called the police exacerbated his rage.

The following day, he posted her a package containing letters and photographs of them together. Again, she called the police, saying she felt ‘harassed, alarmed and distressed’. 

Again, they failed to arrest him, leaving Alice to choose their course of action, which her family bitterly resents.

‘If you ask someone who is vulnerable and scared, to decide whether to arrest someone who is scaring them, it is very different from saying: “We are going to arrest him”,’ said Dr Hills. ‘I imagine she felt as if she were wasting their time.’

Certainly, Alice felt ‘palmed off’, telling her sister: ‘They’ll respond when he stabs me.’ Her words proved tragically prophetic. At 6.01pm on October 12 she had a final text message conversation with her boyfriend Mike.

‘What were you thinking of doing on Friday?’ he wrote. ‘Anything alcohol related?’ ‘Well is anything in life really not alcohol related?’ Alice replied.

Thirty minutes later she was dead. The Ruggles found out in the early hours of the following morning. 

They arranged for Emma, who was in Germany, to be notified, drove to Nick’s house to let him know, then to Sheffield University to tell Patrick and finally to Birmingham Airport to pick up Emma.

Dhillon was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years¿ jail in April but the Ruggle family (pictured outside court after Dhillon was convicted) said they will never recover emotionally

Dhillon was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years¿ jail in April but the Ruggle family (pictured outside court after Dhillon was convicted) said they will never recover emotionally

Dhillon was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years’ jail in April but the Ruggle family (pictured outside court after Dhillon was convicted) said they will never recover emotionally

¿I still haven¿t had time to grieve properly,¿ said Dr Hills. ¿The trouble is that every time I think I can¿t cope with this and want to cry, somebody else needs to cry more. So, I have to be the tough one. Once a mother, always a mother.¿ Pictured: Outside court after the trial

¿I still haven¿t had time to grieve properly,¿ said Dr Hills. ¿The trouble is that every time I think I can¿t cope with this and want to cry, somebody else needs to cry more. So, I have to be the tough one. Once a mother, always a mother.¿ Pictured: Outside court after the trial

‘I still haven’t had time to grieve properly,’ said Dr Hills. ‘The trouble is that every time I think I can’t cope with this and want to cry, somebody else needs to cry more. So, I have to be the tough one. Once a mother, always a mother.’ Pictured: Outside court after the trial

‘We were concerned for the safety of the rest of the family because we knew that Dhillon had sent covertly threatening messages to or about both Emma and me,’ said Dr Hills.

However, while they are now physically safe – Dhillon was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years’ jail in April – the Ruggles will never recover emotionally.

‘I still haven’t had time to grieve properly,’ said Dr Hills, who does not like to appear vulnerable. ‘I’ve felt that I had to be quite strong throughout – not that I haven’t felt like crying inside.

‘The trouble is that every time I think I can’t cope with this and want to cry, somebody else needs to cry more. So, I have to be the tough one. Once a mother, always a mother.’

:: An Hour to Catch a Killer is screened at 9pm on Thursday on ITV1. For the trust go to www.aliceruggles.trust.org

 



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