1. ITV Report

Family of murdered Alice Ruggles say Army 'could have prevented killing'

The family of a 24-year-old who was murdered by a jealous and obsessed soldier said the Army could have done more to protect her from her controlling ex-partner.

Alice Ruggles had contacted Northumbria Police about Trimaan Dhillon’s stalking in the days before he broke into her Gateshead, Tyneside home and repeatedly cut her throat.

Her parents Sue and Clive said: “We believe that her death was preventable.

“We find it difficult to comprehend that, although Alice described in her first phone call to the police that she was being stalked and provided ample evidence, the police and the army were unable to support and protect her.”

A Northumbria Police officer contacted Dhillon's barracks in Edinburgh and spoke to a superior, but not Military Police or Police Scotland, and Dhillon was then told to stop contacting her or face arrest.

But he ignored the warning from within the regiment, continued to contact her and eventually drove 120 miles to Tyneside to murder the bubbly and popular Sky TV employee in October 2016.

Trimaan “Harry” Dhillon was obsessed with Ms Ruggles. Credit: Northumbria Police/PA

Dhillon, a Lance Corporal at the time who trained with the Special Reconnaissance Service, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court in April 2017.

After the trial, Gateshead Council conducted a domestic homicide review (DHR) and the findings were published on Tuesday.

It has made 20 recommendations for local authorities, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence to act upon.

Miss Ruggles’s sister Emma, herself a serving soldier, said she was “frustrated” by the Army’s response to the murder.

She has had no contact from Dhillon’s unit, no response to questions she posed to the Royal Military Police nor a sense that lessons had been learned.

The 2 Scots soldier had a history of offending against ex-partners and Emma Ruggles could not believe the Army was unaware as he was serving at the time. She said: “Similar situations need to be taken far more seriously in the future by both the police and the Army.

“Failure to do so would show a blatant lack of regard for my sister, the nightmare she lived in her last few months and the sustained, painful, violent last few minutes of her life.”

Trimaan Dhillon at a petrol station during his journey from Edinburgh to Tyneside to kill Alice. Credit: Northumbria Police/PA

The DHR has recommended that it becomes an offence to threaten to release intimate photos of an ex-partner, as Dhillon had done once Ms Ruggles had called off their relationship.

In a second call to Northumbria Police, as Dhillon’s stalking continued, a call handler asked Ms Ruggles if she wanted him to be arrested.

The DHR found the police should have made the decision, and it should not have been left to the victim, who declined.

Northumbria Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon said changes have been made nationally regarding the response to stalking and harassment in the light of this horrific case.

She said: “With the help of Alice’s family we are now leading the way in training officers in the best way to deal with these types of offences, with their input vital in developing a video which is now also used by other forces and partners.

“Their continued determination to change the law to better protect victims of stalking is commendable.”

Commenting on the case, Brigadier Christopher Coles, Head of Army Personnel Services Group, said: “Our thoughts remain with Alice’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“We are committed to tacking domestic abuse and last year launched a strategy to help prevent domestic abuse in all its forms.

“This includes prevention of abuse in the home and providing support to the families of service personnel who may be affected.”

The Army further insisted that service personnel would not be posted to avoid prosecution.

It also said there was "no evidence to suggest that the problem of domestic abuse is prolific across defence", adding that the Armed Forces, their families and MoD civil servants are reflection of society and so "we should assume that those within this community experience domestic abuse to at least the same extent".