One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Soldier Jailed for Murdering Ex-Girlfriend
A soldier's been found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend at her flat in Gateshead after she ended their relationship.
Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry" Dhillon, 26, was convicted of murdering Alice Ruggles and leaving her to bleed to death on her bathroom floor last October.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that she was terrified of him and had got an official police warning to stop him from contacting her, but the obsessive and manipulative Special Forces hopeful ignored it, and drove from his Edinburgh barracks to Tyneside to kill her in a jealous tempe
Alice's flatmate Maxine McGill discovered Alice dead and made this 999 call.
Dhillon did not react when a jury at Newcastle Crown Court convicted him of murder.
Sentencing him to life with a minimum of 22 years, Judge Paul Sloan QC said: "Precisely what happened once you were in the flat only you now know, but you have never had the decency to say. Not a shred of remorse have you shown from first to last, indeed you were concentrating so hard on getting your story right when giving evidence, you forgot even to shed a crocodile tear.''
Dhillon fled without dialling 999, but remembered to take her phone and the murder weapon, disposing of them on the way back to Edinburgh.
The murder was aggravated by the way Dhillon had made Miss Ruggles, described as normally fun-loving and a ``ray of sunshine'', miserable over the last weeks of her life.
Dhillon, who had been serially unfaithful, knocked on her door at night and terrified her by tapping on her window and leaving flowers and chocolates on the sill.
That led her to complain to the police and gain an official PIN warning, telling him to leave her alone, which he ignored.
He had tried to hack her social media accounts and messaged the new man in her life, trying to make out Miss Ruggles was two-timing him.
During their intense relationship, jealous Dhillon had isolated her from her close circle of friends, manipulating and controlling her.
Dhillon stared intently ahead as moving victim statements were read on behalf of her father Clive, who is a professor, her mother Dr Sue Hills, sister Emma and brothers Nick and Patrick.
Dr Hills said she had "failed'' her daughter by teaching her to see the good in everyone, and also by not standing up to Dhillon herself after he contacted the mother on Facebook.
"This feeling of failure will stay with me forever,'' she said, adding she would never forgive herself for advising her daughter that if she ignored Dhillon, he would eventually stop contacting her.
Her father said: "We all share a sense of guilt. Rationally we know only one person is responsible. All of us feel we should have paid more attention to aspects of his personality that perhaps should have forewarned us.''
Jamie Hill QC, defending, said while there was no psychiatric illness or mental disorder, "the defendant's personality traits are clearly discernible from the evidence''.
Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Theaker from Northumbria Police led the investigation into Alice's murder.
She's been speaking to Heart and says despite the fact Alice had contacted police before, no one could have predicted what would happen to her:
UPDATED- 24th April 2017
Today, Lance Corporal Dhillon denied breaking into Alice Ruggles' flat, catching her unawares and stabbing her.
He asked the QC leading the cross-examination "if you are that confident, why not give me a lie detector".
The judge told him - "That is not how we conduct proceedings."
He told the court he felt heartbroken and devastated by the sight of her injuries, but panicked, and didn't call her an ambulance.
The prosecution said while Alice had 24 injuries - Dhillon didn't have a single one from the knife.
Dhillon claims that he had gone to retrieve some clothes from Alice, that they rowed and she attacked him with a carving knife, and that she died when she accidentally stabbed herself as he tried to disarm her.
Prosecutor Mr Wright asked: "Did you ever consider you had done the worst job ever at protecting somebody from themselves?''
Dhillon replied: "Yes, I have done the worst job, yes.''
Mr Wright said: "Alice wanted to live and she fought for her life that afternoon and you killed her.''
Dhillon replied: "No, I did not kill her.''
Jamie Hill QC, defending, asked: "You said you did not know how you felt afterwards. How do you feel now?''
Dhillon replied: " When I was in prison, sometimes I would sit up in the night time and you know when people say 'It's all a bad dream', it's all going to go away. I'm going to wake up one day and none of this will have happened.
"On that day I didn't know what I was doing. That was the shortest drive from Newcastle to my camp. I don't even remember that drive.''
The trial continues
UPDATED- 21st April 2017
A soldier accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend's flat and stabbing her to death has admitted he was obsessive, but denied stalking her.
Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry'' Dhillon denies murdering Alice Ruggles and leaving her to bleed to death in the bathroom of her Gateshead flat last October.
The Edinburgh based soldier told Newcastle Crown Court he loved the 24-year-old, telling the jury they shared a sense of humour, that she made him feel special and he liked how she looked.
From the witness box, Dhillon appeared upset when he said: "We used to share the craziest sense of humour together and I knew everything about her - all her friends, what she liked to eat, what she liked to drink, what make up brand she loved, what clothes she loved. That's not because I stalked her, that's because I used to care and listen every time.''
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, listed the numerous attempts Dhillon made to contact his ex-girlfriend in the weeks before she died, which included making three 240-mile round trips from his barracks to Tyneside "to hang around her house at night''.
Dhillon, under cross-examination, admitted it was `"not a nice thing to do''.
Mr Wright said: "Hanging around in the dark, scaring the women you tell the jury you loved?''
Dhillon said: `"I have no justification.'' He agreed with Mr Wright that it was obsessive behaviour.
Later, Mr Wright asked the defendant how he asked a woman he knew from Tinder whether he was better looking than a man he heard Miss Ruggles was thinking of dating.
Dhillon replied: "It's not the best behaviour, I will accept.''
Mr Wright asked: "Is it the sort of thing a stalker might do, Mr Dhillon?''
The 26-year-old defendant replied: "I never at any point considered myself to be stalking her. The intention was not there."
Mr Wright said: "You plagued the last few weeks of this poor girl's life and made it miserable.''
Dhillon replied: "I'm not going to say my actions were right.
Dhillon agreed with Mr Wright's suggestion that his case was that Miss Ruggles' death was a "terrible accident''.
He also agreed with the prosecution's suggestion that he believed the trial was a `"terrible misunderstanding''.
Mr Wright said: "I'm going to be suggesting to this jury that you are a liar, that you tell lies whenever it suits you and you tell them to help yourself.''
Dhillon replied: "Yes, I have lied in the past, yes.''
Mr Wright said: "I'm going to suggest that you set out to manipulate and control Alice during your relationship.''
The accused replied: "I don't accept that.''
Mr Wright said: "I'm going to suggest you were utterly and dangerously obsessed with Alice - do you accept that?''
Dhillon said: "No, I don't.''
Mr Wright said: "I'm going to suggest when you realised she did not want to be with you and she found a far better man who was going to make her happy, you reached boiling point. Do you accept that?''
Dhillon said: "No, I don't.''
Mr Wright said: "I'm going to suggest your version of events is a constructed, lying account because you are trying to get away with the fact you murdered her. Do you accept that?''
Dhillon replied: "No, I don't.''
The exchange ended with Mr Wright asking: ``I'm going to suggest you had a knife and you killed her in a jealous temper. Do you accept that?''
Again, Dhillon replied: "No, I don't.''
The trial continues.
UPDATED- 20th April 2017
A soldier accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend has told a court she stabbed herself in the neck, as she lunged at him with a carving knife at the same moment he tried to disarm her.
Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry'' Dhillon described a lengthy struggle through Alice Ruggles' Gateshead flat in October last year, that ended with her bleeding to death and him "panicking'' rather than ringing 999.
The 26-year-old denies murdering his ex-girlfriend after he turned up at her home, despite her getting an official police warning telling him to stay away.
The trial continues.
UPDATED - 13th April 2017
A soldier accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend is claiming a combination of "self-defence and accident'', a court has heard.
But a Home Office pathologist said her findings were "inconsistent'' with Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry'' Dhillon's explanation of how Alice Ruggles died during an unexpected visit to her Gateshead flat last October.
Newcastle Crown Court was told the 2 Scots signaller is claiming in his defence statement that the 24-year-old had scratched him and that he tried to restrain her in a headlock before she came at him with a carving knife and it ended up lodged in her neck.
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said Dhillon, 26, had first told police he had not gone into the flat, but his story changed when it was disclosed that Miss Ruggles' blood had been found on his Help For Heroes wristband and the steering wheel of his BMW.
In the defence statement, Dhillon denies murder but admits he was the only person with her when she died, the jury heard.
Mr Wright said Dhillon claims it was a "combination of self-defence and accident''.
The defendant claims they had a row in the yard, that he climbed through a window to get into the flat and tried to find clothes belonging to him, and that Miss Ruggles came at him with a carving knife.
Dhillon says he put her in a headlock and she collapsed in the bathroom, falling on some scales and cutting her nose.
Later, he claims she grabbed the knife again when he told her he was going to meet a woman in Durham.
And she lunged at him, hitting her head on the sink, he claims.
In the struggle, Dhillon claims she suffered a loss of balance and, as they came together, the momentum pushed the knife into the side of her throat.
As she fell, it was pushed further in, his defence case states.
By this stage, she was bleeding heavily, and the Special Forces hopeful then says he suffered a flashback to a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
He tried to pull the knife out, but it was stuck at first, he claims.
His statement says Dhillon drove back to his barracks near Edinburgh, contemplating suicide.
Pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton found Miss Ruggles' had at least six injuries to her neck.
Miss Ruggles also suffered a deep cut to the tip of her nose, and there was evidence that she had been knelt on.
There were also cuts to her hands which appeared to be defence injuries.
Dr Bolton told the court her injuries were "unsurvivable''.
The pathologist said Dhillon's defence statement claims were "broadly inconsistent'' with her findings.
The jury has heard how the pair had an intense relationship which Miss Ruggles, who was from Leicestershire, ended after she discovered evidence of his infidelity.
Dhillon visited her home despite her contacting police and gaining an official warning for him to keep away.
After he was arrested in Edinburgh, Mr Wright said Dhillon told police: "She was concerned about guys like him killing their girlfriends.''
The trial continues.
UPDATED- 12th April 2017
A court's heard a woman feared police would only respond to her complaints about her ex-boyfriend, once he'd stabbed her.
24-year-old Alice Ruggles had first reported Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry'' Dhillon to police 10 days before she was found dead in the bathroom of her flat in Gateshead last October.
He ignored an official warning to cease contact and sent his ex a parcel through the post.
She informed Northumbria Police, Newcastle Crown Court heard, but while the initial response to her first complaint was "brilliant'', she was unhappy with what happened following the second call.
In a statement, her sister Emma, a British Army officer, told the court she advised Ms Ruggles to contact the police, but she replied she already had.
The statement said the Sky employee told her sister: "They will respond once he has stabbed me.''
The court heard how Dhillon, who was born in India, started an intense relationship over the internet with Ms Ruggles while he was serving in Afghanistan.
She split with him after she found out he had been messaging other women on the dating site Tinder, jurors were told.
She said she was frightened when he travelled to Tyneside from his barracks near Edinburgh and repeatedly knocked on her door late at night, then tapped on her bedroom window and left flowers and chocolates on the sill.
The court has heard a phone message he then left her, repeatedly saying he did not want to kill her.
Ms Ruggles, who grew up in Leicestershire and stayed in Newcastle after studying at Northumbria University, made a police statement on October 2 in which she said he sounded "crazy'' on voicemails, and described him as obsessed.
"I feel harassed, alarmed and distressed by this male. I want him to leave me alone. I want nothing more to do with him. I am terrified of his actions. I am being stalked and I want it to stop.''
She said it was affecting her concentration and work, adding: "I don't feel safe in my own home.''
The court has heard Dhillon was given an official police warning to stay away from his ex as a result.
A friend of the defendant and Ms Ruggles told the jury that when they were going out with each other, Dhillon made his girlfriend feel self-conscious.
Gen Crozier told the court:
"He said some stuff about the size of her nose, hair on her forearms. He just made her feel really self-conscious - just not the person she really was.''
Ms Ruggles told people Dhillon had hacked into her Facebook account while they were together and Ms Crozier said that led her friend to immediately delete messages she received or sent.
Ms Crozier said Ms Ruggles told her that on her first date with Dhillon, he had claimed a Nando's waitress was "trying to hit on him''.
She later told Ms Crozier she thought he had been trying to put his date on edge.
Court also heard from Alice Ruggles' mother, who said she thought Dhillon was immature and insincere when she met him.
Susan Hills said, in a statement read out at Newcastle Crown Court, how Dhillon had seemed ``polite enough'' when he was introduced to the family last May.
The mother-of-four said: "He seemed to say all the things he thought we wanted to hear from him. He did come across as rather insincere.''
After Ms Ruggles broke up with him, Dhillon messaged her mother on Facebook, calling her "mum'' and begging for her help in reuniting them, the court heard.
Ms Hills said she found it "totally bizarre'', "inappropriate'' and "very creepy''.
Dhillon, a signaller with the 2 Scots, denies murder.
UPDATED- 11th April 2017
An office co-ordinator who complained to police about her ex-boyfriend harassing her five days before she was murdered told her flat-mate the call was ``palmed off'' and that it had been a "waste of time'', a court heard.
26-year-old Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry'' Dhillon, is accused of murdering Alice Ruggles, leaving her with "horrendous" injuries to her neck in her flat in Gateshead last October.
Police found an Oriental tribal mask in her bedroom, after her housemate Maxine McGill came home to discover her horrifically injured, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
The jury has heard how Ms Ruggles contacted police after she split up with the 2 Scots soldier and he continued to contact her, including travelling to Tyneside from barracks outside Edinburgh to knock on her door, tap on her window and leave flowers and chocolates on the sill late at night.
On his drive back he insisted in a voicemail message he did not intend to kill her, jurors were told.
He received an official warning and was told by his commanding officer to stay away, the court heard.
But five days before she was allegedly murdered, Dhillon sent her a parcel containing a letter, photos and a notebook.
Ms Ruggles rang 101, Ms McGill said, but was unable to speak to the first officer who had originally dealt with her, and discussed it with an operator instead.
Ms McGill told the court:
"She said she felt as if it was palmed off. She was asked the question 'what do you want us to do about it?' She said 'I don't know, that's why I am phoning you. I was asked to get back in touch if I had any further contact'. She basically says it was just a waste of time.''
The court has heard she was asked if she wanted Dhillon arrested but she decided not to take that step.
Dhillon denies murder. The trial continues.
First published 10th April 2017
Alice Ruggles was found dead at her home by her flatmate Maxine McGill in October 2016. The court heard the door was locked and she initially couldn't get into their home on Rawling Road in Bensham.
She shouted for Alice to let her in, before climbing a wall into their back yard and climbing through an open window. Jurors were told Maxine found the 24-year-old lying dead on the bathroom floor with "horrendous injuries" to her throat.
The prosecuting lawyer told the court she bled to death.
The court was played the 999 call Maxine made, where she told the caller it "looks like she's been attacked - please help."
In that call, she named Alice's ex-boyfriend Lance Corporal Trimaan Dhillon, known as Harry, as the suspect and told the call handler Alice had reported having trouble with him, claiming she had called 101 in the past.
The court heard the couple first got together in October 2015 after meeting on Facebook, but their relationship quickly became intense.
The prosecution claim Dhillon would check her messages and question why she was trying to look nice when she went out.
He was also described as "jealous" - and having a "manipulative and obsessive" manner. The soldier is also accused of harassing and stalking Alice in the weeks and months before her death.
The prosecution claims Dhillon was unfaithful - and would use dating sites. Jurors were told this was partly caused Alice's "happy, bubbly demeanour" to change over time.
Dhillon, who served in the Royal Regiment of Scotland, denies murder.
The trial continues.
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