Searching for Justice for Jeremiah Duggan
A LONDON family's long search for truth and justice for the death of their son in Germany reached Barnet Coroner's Court this week, and reports of the case have brought to public notice the sinister international cult headed by Lyndon LaRouche, little known in Britain, but long notorious in the United States, where it began, before extending its activity to continental Europe.
Jeremiah Duggan was just 22, and studying at the Sorbonne in Paris in 2003 when, worried over the prospect of war on Iraq, he bought a paper called Nouvelle Solidarite, and was invited by the seller to attend a youth anti-war conference being organised in Wiesbaden, Germany, by the Schiller Institute.
What he was not to know was that Nouvelle Solidarite is produced by Lyndon LaRouche's supporters in France, and the cultural-sounding Institute (Friedrich Schiller was an 18th century philosopher and poet) was founded by LaRouche's German wife, Helga Zepp LaRouche.
At the conference, Jeremiah apparently disagreed with some of the things he heard, - some of the speakers seemed to blame Jews for the war - and he said so. But he agreed to attend a cadre school to continue discussion. He was not to make it. His body was found by the side of an autobahn on the outskirts of town. German police accepted that he had run out into the road, and been struck by two vehicles, and recorded it as "a suicide by means of a traffic accident".
The Duggan family and friends have never accepted this explanation. For one thing they say Jeremiah was a cheerful, healthy young man, happy with his studies and his girlfriend, and had no reason to end his life in the horrible way described. For another, his mother Erica Duggan received a 'phone call from Jeremiah on the night that he died, saying he was in serious trouble and sounding terrified. In May 2010 the High Court ordered a fresh UK inquest after judges said evidence of possible foul play must be investigated.
At the new inquest in Barnet, as well as hearing Erica Duggan retell that 'phone call, the court heard from Paul Canning, a forensic photographic expert Paul Canning who said that after examining pictures from the scene, "the only possible conclusion is that it must have been a set-up".
Mr Canning, who has over a decade of experience working with the Metropolitan Police, said there was no evidence of contact between Mr Duggan and two vehicles - a Peugeot 406 and a Volkswagen Golf - which the German investigation found had been involved in his death.
He said: "After making a lengthy examination of the photographs I conclude that, based on my experience of attending hundreds of fatal and very serious road traffic accidents, that in examining the scene of the accident, the road, Jeremiah's body and both vehicles involved, I could find no traces of blood, hair, tissue or clothing on the vehicles or road, except round the immediate vicinity of Jeremiah's body."
He added that both vehicles and Mr Duggan appeared to have traces of a wet sandy substance which was not present at the scene and therefore placed them elsewhere before the alleged accident - perhaps a builders yard or quarry. .
He said the damage to the Peugeot, which is claimed to have hit Mr Duggan, appeared to have been caused by a "heavy metallic instrument" or possibly another car rather than a person. He described damage on the Volkswagen, which is said to have run Mr Duggan over after he jumped out and hit the Peugeot, as "inconsistent".
Coroner for north London Andrew Walker asked: "Are you saying the damage to the vehicles is unlikely to have been caused by an impact with a person?"
"Yes sir, in my opinion," Mr Canning replied.
"Is it likely that damage to the vehicle has been placed there?"
"After looking at the photographs the only possible conclusion I could find was that it was placed there and further, that it looks like pre-existing damage that was undertaken prior to this incident."
"Are you saying this was a constructed road traffic collision?"
"It certainly looks that way, sir."
Written evidence from forensic pathologists said Mr Duggan’s body had not suffered from drag marks or head injuries consistent with being run over by a car, the inquest heard.
After Mr Duggan’s death on March 27, 2003, a witness told the family of the chaotic scenes at the LaRouche conference, the court heard. Jeremiah's father Hugh Duggan said: “All their members, 40 to 50 of them, were gathered into a room and addressed by Helga LaRouche, the wife of LaRouche, at this stage she said, ‘Jeremiah Duggan is dead. We believe he was a spy sent to harm the organisation and now we want you to pack up and go home right away. Don’t talk among yourselves about this and don’t talk to others.”
That summer Hugh Duggan arranged a meeting with the German ambassador in London to discuss his concerns over the far-right group’s involvement in the lead up to his son’s death, the inquest heard. Mr Duggan told the court: “The first thing he (the German ambassador) said was, ‘We know all about LaRouche. We have been after him for years’.”
If the authorities in Germany knew all about LaRouche they, and particularly the police in the State of Hesse where the Wiesbaden institute is situated, seem to have been quick to accept the "suicide" story which the LaRouchites proffered. British police have been slow to follow up the call for a new investigation, saying they were awaiting evidence from Germany. Most if not all the efforts to investigate what happened have been pursued by the Duggan family themselves.
I regret to say I never met young Jeremiah Duggan, nor knew the family, but as it happens I did know his grandfather Hans Freund, who died in 2007. Having left Germany as a refugee from the Nazis, Hans joined up to fight them in World War II, taking part in the campaigns in north Africa and in a daring prisoner of war escape. Later he was involved as a Communist Party member in the underground struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, a cause he continued to support after coming to Britain. Best-known and loved in London as a hearty Jewish choral singer, Hans also joined the Jewish Socialists' Group, which was how I came to know him. A good-humoured, even jovial man, modest about his own role and background, but a source of strength and encouragement.
I'm sure Jerry Duggan must have taken courage, intelligence and good humour from both the Jewish and Irish sides of his family.
Like Jeremiah Duggan, and I suppose many other people, I started my acquaintance and active involvement in politics through buying a paper off someone in the street, though thankfully it was not Nouvelle Solidarite but Newsletter, the paper of the Socialist Labour League, when I was 17, and though neither still exist I'm alive to tell the tale.
From 1976-8 I was employed as a poorly-paid hack on the daily News Line. One morning my colleague the late Jack Gale took a 'phone call, and hand over the mouthpiece, turned to ask me whether the reformist party in Sweden was called the Social Democrats? Which I confirmed.
Jack had taken a call from someone saying they spoke for the "Swedish Labour Party", asking for information about a former British soldier who had turned up in Sweden. This was a man who had testified about torture used by British forces on prisoners in South Yemen. But I also recognised the name "Swedish Labour Party" as one used by an organisation which Lyndon LaRouche had established in Sweden. We did not ring them back with any information.
Lyndon LaRouche, often using the name "Lyn Marcus", had been among a group of left-wing dissidents around the US Socialist Workers Party, America's original Trotskyist organisation, who opposed its leadership and made contact with the Socialist Labour League, led by Gerry Healy in Britain. Unable to remain long in any group that he was not leading, LaRouche/Marcus (Tim Wohlforth recalls his "gargantuan ego") soon broke with the rest and set off on his own direction.
Still posing as some kind of left-wing revolutionary, setting up the National Caucus of Labor Committees, while concentrating on recruiting students, LaRouche began to systematically inculcate violent hostility to other groups among his followers, going well beyond ordinary sectarianism. They turned to organised violence and thuggery.
Armed with chains, bats, and martial-art nunchuk sticks, NCLC members assaulted Communist Party, SWP, and Progressive Labor Party members and Black Power activists, on the streets and during meetings. At least 60 assaults were reported. The operation ended when police arrested several of LaRouche's followers; there were no convictions, and LaRouche maintained they had acted in self-defense. Journalist and LaRouche expert Dennis King writes that the FBI may have tried to aggravate the strife, using measures such as anonymous mailings, to keep the groups at each other's throats.[46
Opponents doubted whether LaRouche's organisation could operate in the way it did without some complicity from state forces. Although he did serve a prison sentence for fraud, LaRouche seems to have led a charmed life, and his organisation and publications have had no shortage of funds or prestigious contacts as they expanded their activities to Europe. Former members describe the organisation as functioning like a cult, while the LaRouchite Executive Intelligence Review, circulating among business and political circles, combines often well-informed analysis with bold conspiracy theory.
Among other things the LaRouche movement has claimed the British Royal Family heads a global drug smuggling racket, the Tavistock Institute in London is a British intelligence front for brainwashing subjects, and that Jessica Duggan's quest for truth about her son's death is part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the British Foreign Office.
Back in 1977, when we got that 'phone call from the LaRouchites to News Line, little or nothing had been published about them in Britain. But there had been plenty in the left-wing press in the United States, including The Bulletin published by our co-thinkers in the US Workers League. They were also starting to get attention in Germany. Thinking we ought to publish something about this organisation and its expansion to Europe, I gathered what material we had and wrote an article.
To my surprise, our editor Alex Mitchell, who was away much of the time working on a project and series of articles called Security and the Fourth International, assisted by Dave North of the Workers League (nowadays Socialist Equality Party), came into the office looking worried, after a meeting with Gerry Healy, and said there was no way we could publish anything about Lyndon LaRouche and his organisation. By way of an explanation, he remarked that the last thing we wanted was some "LaRouchite nutter throwing a bomb into the printshop".
That made me feel I'd been irresponsible, instead of conscientious, and I did not argue. All the same, and though it was not the only time I was told something could not go in the paper, there was something odd about this. Much of what I had written had come straight from our US comrades. What's more, as part of the Security and the Fourth International campaign we had not only accused the Socialist Workers Party in the United States of harbouring FBI agents, which it did, but implied that it had a hand in the murder of Trotskyists, including Tom Henehan in the United States and even a Sri Lankan comrade. If all this was true - and I never questioned it - we were being brave and bold in publishing it, but apparently could not do the same with what we knew about the LaRouchite movement.
Anyway, my article never saw the light of day, and within a year -albeit for other reasons - I was exiled from the News Line office, ostensibly to cover the firefighters' strike in the West Midlands, and then sacked by Gerry Healy. Thus ended my brief career as a professional journalist.
In the Autumn of 1985, Gerry Healy exited the Clapham centre in somewhat greater haste than I had, and public disgrace over his treatment of party members, particularly young women comrades. According to Alex Mitchell, and others who went with Healy, he was still a great revolutionary and the victim of an MI5 conspiracy. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone endorsed this line. Alex Mitchell returned to his native Australia to resume his journalistic career, and in a memoir published in 2012 he recalls hearing that Healy had denounced him too as an intelligence agent; but this does not seem to have inspired him to re-examine his own previous accusations.
In 1986, the Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme was assassinated, and a former member of the LaRouche organisation in Sweden, renamed European Workers Party, was arrested though later discharged as a suspect. The LaRouchites denounced efforts to throw suspicion their way, but their Swedish organisation seems to have undergone a crisis after this.
In recent years, despite its increasingly right-wing image and reputation for extremism, the LaRouche organisation seems to have continued acquiring wealthy and influential friends, including some in Russia and eastwards. Perhaps the investigation of Jeremiah Duggan's death will threaten to uncover a real and bigger conspiracy.
Who's your friend?