The Chief Executive of a charity has applauded a court's decision to jail a soldier for life who mercilessly stalked his former girlfriend before killing her in her own home.  

Rachel Griffin, who fronts Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, said the conviction, today of Lance Corporal Trimaan “Harry” Dhillon, is a tragic reminder of how law enforcers need to be better trained to recognise stalking when reported. 

The Trust is using National Stalking Awareness Week to highlight cases such as Alice's as an example of how stalking ought to be considered as an indicator of risk.  Alice was reluctant to report Dhillon's behaviour to the police in the run-up to her murder and felt "palmed-off" by officers when she did, according to her flat mate, who discovered her body.  

The charity is also promoting the work of a renowned criminologist whose research has drawn a shocking link between stalking and the murders of hundreds of women. 

But despite the torment Alice Ruggles was subjected to in the weeks before she was murdered, her killer did not face the specific charge of stalking, which now carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence. 

Dhillon, 26, who was serving with Royal Highland Fusiliers based at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland, put 24-year-old office worker Alice through a relentless campaign of abuse spanning several months, leaving her distraught and scared before her murder at her Gateshead home on Wednesday, 12th October. 

Alice's family are working with leading stalking charity, Suzy Lamplugh Trust to highlight the risks associated with stalking behaviour. 

The guilty verdict in Clive Ruggles and Sue Hills' daughter's murder case falls during National Stalking Awareness Week, when organisations around the UK are holding events to raise the profile of the devastating crime that will see 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men becoming victims at some point in their lifetime. 

During National Stalking Awareness Week, the charity has unveiled new research which links murder cases to stalking. 

The lead researcher, Dr Jane Monckton Smith, a former police officer, now a senior lecturer in criminology at University of Gloucestershire, found that in almost every case the killer displayed the obsessive, fixated behaviour associated with stalking. The academic has teamed up with Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the UK's longest-standing personal safety charity, to call on the professionals across the Criminal Justice System to review their approach to assessing risk, so that the 1.1 million people that are victims of stalking every year can be offered greater protection.  

A copy of Dr Monckton Smith's report can be found here 

Alice's case has thrown a spotlight on just how devastating the aftermath of stalking can be on victims, their friends and family members. 

Northumbria University graduate Alice, was well-loved at media giant Sky's Newcastle hub, where bosses quickly raised her up the ranks, to become site coordinator and PA to the head of sales. She loved the job and was looking forward to sharing a flat with workmate Christina Campbell when she met Dhillon 

Alice had been on the fencing 1st team during her time at Northumbria University, finishing in fifth place at the British University and College Sports championships in 2013. She was outgoing and made friends easily.  

But her friends and colleagues told Newcastle Crown Court that she had become withdrawn and distracted and had lost weight and stopped socialising because of Dhillon's obsessive and fixated bullying.  

Dhillon decided to pursue Alice, based only on holiday photographs of her he had seen on a mutual friend’s Facebook page.  

Bypassing the mutual friend, he began an online relationship with the Northumbria University graduate and briefly dated Alice in the spring of 2016.  

They chatted for hours daily and briefly became a couple offline on his return from Afghanistan to the UK.  

But Alice confided in her sister that he was increasingly arrogant, controlling and manipulative. 

He hacked into her account on Facebook to spy on her, eventually changing the password to try to stop her accessing it and sent her resentful messages and threats.  

She eventually closed the page and shied away from friends, many of whom Dhillon had ordered her to ditch in the short stretch of time the pair were a couple.   

Her family noticed how withdrawn and unhappy Alice was during a family holiday to a cottage in Cornwall last Summer, which Dhillon described as "perfect" while making his defence case in court. 

They were relieved when, in August, Alice ended the relationship. She had done this when she was contacted by another woman whom Dhillon had befriended on a dating website. 

But he would not accept her decision and bombarded her with texts and emails at times pleading and at times aggressive and threatening. 

Dhillon became utterly obsessed with his former girlfriend and hacked into her social media accounts to monitor her developing relationship with another soldier. 

In one message he told her he was not used to being denied what belonged to him.  

Terrified Alice was reluctant to call police and get Dhillon into trouble, but sister Emma persuaded her to do so after Dhillon turned up unannounced at her flat one night and, after repeatedly knocking on the door and window, left flowers and chocolates on the windowsill of her ground-floor bedroom. Following this he left two phone messages as he drove home, one where he cried down the phone and a second in which he kept repeating that he wouldn't kill her. 

Alice was now scared that he really would kill her. In a 101 call she made on 30th September, which was replayed for jurors, Alice was reassured by a police officer that Dhillon could be warned off and agreed to a Police Information Notice (PIN) - which carries no legal weight – being issued to him. 

In the following days Dhillon repeatedly breached the PIN and ignored orders from his superior officers and an army GP's advice to break off all contact with Alice.  

In a second call to police Alice was asked by another police officer whether she wanted Dhillon arrested. But all she wanted was for Dhillon to leave her alone, and she felt this was too big a decision for her to make, and she said no. 

In a string of emails he reproached her for going to the police and would later say Alice attacked him with the knife before accidentally impaling herself with it. He then fled the scene without calling an ambulance. 

Maxine McGill sobbed in court as she recounted how she found her friend's body in a pool of blood in the bathroom of the flat they shared in Rawling Road at around 6.30pm. 

When police arrested Dhillon later that evening, he initially denied all knowledge of Alice's death but overwhelming evidence quickly placed him at the scene and in the frame. 

The court heard how a restraining order had been taken out against Dhillon in 2013 by an ex-girlfriend after she split with him on Skype and he tracked her down to her home town in Kent and spat in her face in the street. 

Dhillon denied murder but his account of events was not believed and he was found guilty following a three-week trial. He was sentenced to life in jail and will serve at least 25 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole. 

Alice's Facebook page has now become a forum where friends and family can leave tributes.   

Her bosses at Sky had to lay on a coach because so many members of staff wanted to make the trip to her funeral from Newcastle to the small village in Leicestershire where she grew up with siblings Emma, Nick and Patrick. They joined around 400 friends and family members wanting to pay their last respects. 

Rachel Griffin, Chief Executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: "This is a very difficult time for the Ruggles family.  

"We welcome the life sentence given to Dhillon, who took away the life of a young woman after leaving her scared and withdrawn from her friends. 

"However, stalking should have been on his charge sheet to properly reflect the gravity of this dreadful crime. It was clearly a huge feature of Alice's case. 

"Stalking has been described as ‘murder in slow motion’. Alice's murder demonstrates the need for police to understand the seriousness of stalking behaviour. Dhillon had been in trouble with the law for stalking another woman. He had sent hundreds of texts to Alice and was also pestering other family members.   

"It shouldn't have been down to Alice to decide whether Dhillon was arrested – that was the job of the police. 

"Sadly, Alice's case is not unique. One in five women will be stalked in their lifetimes. Research by a leading criminologist into more than 350 murder cases found that the obsessive and fixated behaviour that stalkers exhibit was present in virtually every case.  

"This month National Stalking Awareness Week highlights the need for specialist training for police officers to recognise the obsession and fixation that motivates stalkers, which can cause such devastation to victims and their families."  

Speaking from the Ruggles family home ahead of Dhillon's trial, dad Clive said: "The effects of losing Alice will be with all of us, every day, for our entire lives. Alice could cheer anyone up in an instant, with her infectious and mischievous sense of humour and her sheer love of life. She had reached a high point in her life, had a big circle of friends, a job she loved and lived in a city she had come to love. 

There is only one place to point the finger of blame for what happened but there are important lessons to be learned in order to help prevent this happening to others." 

Mum Sue added: "I just wish we had identified those signs of stalking which, with hindsight, are so obvious.  

"Unfortunately when Alice reported it to the police she was very reluctant and told them she didn't want to get him into any trouble. He hadn't been violent, just very arrogant and controlling. In fact he told her several times 'I don't want to hurt you'. He texted me saying he wouldn't hurt her but implying that it was my duty to stop her being 'disrespectful' to him. And he sent me messages in the early hours. 

“I would like what happened to Alice to encourage others to seek support if they are worried about someone’s behaviour. We hope to work with Suzy Lamplugh Trust to raise awareness of the danger signs of stalking.”    

Alice's sister Emma added: "I pleaded with her to go to the police from the moment we became aware he was hacking into her Facebook, but she was too concerned about getting him into trouble at work. People need to understand that the victim may not be able to see the potential danger they are in."  


Notes to editors  

National Stalking Awareness week this year begins on Monday 24th April. Conferences are being held across the country to help raise awareness of stalking, which will affect 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 me at some point in their lives.  

Suzy Lamplugh Trust is campaigning to have in-depth, specialist training given to frontline police so they can spot the obsessive behaviour and not treat minor offences as isolated crimes and misdemeanors.   

  • This research study looked at 358 cases of criminal homicide which occurred in the UK in the years 2012, 2013, and 2014. The aim of the study was to explore the relationship between stalking and homicide by tracking the frequency of certain characteristics in the antecedent histories.   
  • All cases included a female victim and male perpetrator. However, it is important to note that men and children can also be victims, and women can be perpetrators.  
  • Risk is currently assessed using the risk identification checklist (sometimes referred to as a screening tool or VS DASH) which can be found here    
  • A nationwide survey in 2016 - The Stalker In Your Pocket – showed nearly a fifth of all British adult women (18%) and 8% of all British adult men had been stalked.  20% of people are stalked by someone they don’t know.  Despite this high prevalence, the police recorded only 4,168 stalking offences in the 12 months to June 2016. Even fewer – 1,102 cases – were prosecuted in the courts in 2015-16.  
  • On average by the time they report it to police, victims will have experienced 100 incidents of stalking behaviour over months or even years, according to a study by researchers at the University of Leicester carried out in 2005.  
  • In the 12 months to June 2016 the Office for National Statistics tells us that 1,136,000 people experienced stalking in England and Wales but only 4,156 cases of stalking were recorded by police  
  • One in 10 victims of stalking relocate to try and escape their stalker and between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of victims report physical or sexual violence  
  • In January the maximum jail sentence for stalking was doubled to 10 years – the same as fraud – after judges in several cases complained that they were unable to hand down a sentence to match the gravity of the crime  

The events surrounding Alice's death, and the Police murder inquiry which followed, will be the subject of a television documentary, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, to be aired later this year on ITV.  

The Ruggles family asked for donations in Alice's memory to be made to Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, set up in 2010 to support victims of stalking. They are now working with the charity to highlight the risks associated with stalking behaviour.