Family of Alice Ruggles take stalking awareness campaign into North East schools

Helen Ford meets the family of Alice Ruggles who hope to prevent others suffering at the hands of a stalker

Parents on a mission to prevent the horror and heartache they suffered at losing their child to her stalker ex-boyfriend are taking their campaign of awareness into secondary schools.

Clive Ruggles and Sue Hills' daughter Alice Ruggles was murdered in October 2016 at her Gateshead flat following a crusade of stalking by her former partner.

Since the death of the 24-year-old's, originally from Leicestershire, her family have been educating people about the dangers of stalking.

Now the charity set up in Alice's name has joined forces with Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner to offer education sessions in each of the county's secondary schools.

The aim is to help teenagers recognise the signs of stalking - and how to respond.

Professor Ruggles said he wants people to know how serious stalking is. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Professor Ruggles, who founded the Alice Ruggles Trust with Alice's mother and family, told ITV Tyne Tees: "We want people to understand how serious stalking is and how serious the consequences can be.

"But of course not all stalking escalates to the terrible end we had in Alice's case and if the right things are done at the right time you can prevent it getting wore and that 's what we have to do.

"It's not all about protecting the victim, though that's an important part, it's also about dealing with the perpetrator."

The short sessions will be delivered during school assemblies across Durham and Darlington, largely to students from fourteen to sixteen years old.

They will raise awareness of stalking and coercive behaviour - and offering practical tools to deal with it.

And while they are just 20 minutes long, those behind the project hope it will sow the seeds in helping teenagers to recognise unhealthy behaviours in others and themselves.

Professor Ruggles said the main message for youngsters was that those who recognise the signs should act on it - "don't just sit on it and let it happen".

He continued: "The key message is if you think some of these things are happening to you or your friend and if it doesn't feel right it probably isn't right and you need to do something about it and there is a lot of help out there."

Alice Ruggles was murdered in October 2016 at her Gateshead flat following a crusade of stalking by her former partner. Credit: Family photo given to ITV News Tyne Tees

The initiative is supported by Joy Allen, Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner, who told ITV Tyne Tees how the force would respond to concerns of stalking.

"We've just had a dedicated stalking lead put into the force," she said. "One person can't achieve everything.

"We do, obviously, initial training on the stalking side so the information that they get as a new police officer, new PCSO coming into the force, [is] really, really important but then you've got people who've been in the organisation many, many years so we need to cascade this training.

"We need to train champions across the organisation."

Are you concerned about stalking? Here is where you can find help:

- The Alice Ruggles Trust has a number of resources and services that can offer support and raise awareness.

- The Suzy Lamplugh Trust operates a National Stalking Helpline

- Paladin Service provided support, advice and advocacy for anyone at high risk of serious harm from a stalker.

- The Cyber Helpline has free, expert help for victims of cybercrime and online harm.

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