When it happened to Sue Hills and Clive Ruggles two years ago, they knew which of their four children the cops were bringing news of — and they feared the worst.
Alice was 24, on the cusp of a wonderful future, with a new love interest and embarking on a promising career.
But all that was snatched from her on October 12, 2016, when her obsessive ex, soldier Trimaan Dhillon, then 26, broke into her Gateshead home and slashed her throat.
Sue and Clive knew Dhillon had plagued Alice with threats.
Alice had reported him to the police twice, including one call just five days before she died, but she felt like she was “wasting police time”.
Sue, also mum to Nick, 29, Emma, 28, and Patrick, 22, had told Alice to ignore Dhillon until he gave up hassling her.
But the heartbroken mum, who lives near Leicester with Clive, 66, now knows that was bad advice and is backing The Sun’s Stop a Stalker campaign.
Sue, 57, says: “Rather than assuming a stalker will get bored and go away, I want all victims to think this person will not — and may harm you.
“Alice had called me on October 10 saying that Dhillon was never going to stop.
“Trying to reassure her, I said the police obviously didn’t think he was dangerous. I said, ‘You just have to ignore him and he’ll eventually go away.’ I now know that was bad advice.
“What victims should do is go to the police, make sure they do something, and phone the National Stalking Helpline. Ten minutes after I’d put the phone down to Alice that night Emma had called and told me I’d said the wrong thing.
“She said, ‘He’ll kill her. He’s a stalker.’ At that point, I thought stalking was just following people. But Emma said, ‘What about deer stalking — what happens to the deer?’
“When the police came, I knew what must have happened. I’ll always be plagued with guilt.
“Alice was an amazing person and at that point in her life where everything had just started going right for her.
"She loved Newcastle, her job at Sky was going well and she had just met someone.”
Two nights after that call, Dhillon went to Alice’s flat, climbed through a window and killed her with a kitchen knife, slashing her six times.
Alice had met the soldier, who lived in barracks in Penicuik, Midlothian, via Facebook after he saw a photo of her on a friend’s page.
They were together for seven months but she ended it after finding he was dating other women on Tinder.
Archaeology professor Clive says: “There was nothing that made me think ‘I don’t like this guy.’ That’s one of the scary things.”
Sue adds: “It was only when he joined us for our summer holiday in Devon we could see it was going wrong.
"Alice told me that he told her lies all the time. He’d make comments about her appearance, like she was lucky to be with him.”
Alice had more than 200 calls and threatening messages in the weeks prior to her murder. Dhillon visited her with gifts, sent packages and spied on her.
Maths tutor Sue says: “She was bombarded with phone calls and messages — alternating between him being aggressive, pleading with her and threatening to kill himself.”
Alice called police on the night of September 30 after Dhillon knocked on her bedroom window at midnight, put chocolate and flowers on the sill and then backed away.
Clive says: “He’d come all the way down from Edinburgh.
And on the way back he leaves a phone message and it’s horrendous. He says ‘I just wanted to leave the flowers to say I don’t want to kill you.’ It was a veiled threat.
“That’s when Alice first phoned the police. The call handler said there were two things she could do. The first was to get a solicitor and an injunction.
“The second was she could report it and he’d be issued with a Police Information Notice which meant if he came near her again he would be arrested.
“She took the second option and for the next few days she seemed happier.
"When Dhillon sent a package on October 7, with a message saying he knew she had phoned the police and that he would never go near her again, she called 101.
“We’ve heard the recording of her call. She was expecting him to be arrested because he had breached the PIN but you can hear her long hesitation when the call handler just says someone will call back.
In that pause she suddenly realises that she is not being protected after all.
“But then the officer who did call her back made her feel like she was wasting police time.
“PINs are just pieces of paper. It’s not a crime to breach them.”
Sue and Clive are backing a private member’s bill which would let police to go to magistrates at the first sign of stalking for an order warning the offender to stop or face up to five years in jail.
Clive said: “We are completely behind the Stalking Protection Bill. If a Stalking Protection Order could have been issued and if Dhillon breached it by contacting Alice he could have been arrested immediately.”
At Newcastle Crown Court, Dhillon, caught on the night of the murder, got a minimum of 22 years.
Sue says: “He has shown no remorse. We believe he will do eventually because it’s the only way he’ll get out of prison, but we believe when he does get out, he’ll do it again.”
Between 2015 and 2017, at least 49 women in the UK were killed by people they had reported to the police.
Around one million people are stalked every year. Last year just 806 stalkers were prosecuted. Clive, who runs the Alice Ruggles Trust with Sue, says: “It needs to be in the same category as domestic violence and rape. The victim doesn’t always know what danger they’re in.
“We found out Dhillon had previously had a restraining order against him in Kent from an ex-girlfriend but that hadn’t shown up because there is no stalking register.
“Nothing will bring Alice back. We miss her every day.
“We just don’t want any other families to have to go through what we have been through.”
- See alicerugglestrust.org/
Alice Ruggles' flatmate's 999 call after finding her covered in blood
WHERE TO FIND HELP
Are you being stalked?
If you are a victim of stalking, tell a friend, secure your social media sites, contact the police and call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.
To support The Sun’s Stop a Stalker campaign and back the Stalking Protection Bill, please sign our petition at change.org/stopastalker.
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