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paranoid theory of the week :: was jeremiah duggan murdered by a political cult?

jeremiah duggan
i think that one of the reasons we continue to be fascinated by politically-tinged homicide is that it's one of the only areas in which the there seems to be no upper limit on weird shit happening. a politician being beaten to death with chairs in parliament? a man injected with poison from the tip of an umbrella? bludgeoned to death by an axe-wielding man in a bear costume? these are things that have actually happened- there's documentation and everything. so when we're given a paranoid-sounding story of how someone who appeared to die of natural causes, or commit suicide, or by accident, was actually murdered by political opponents, it's a little difficult to shrug it off as too weird to be true.

this week's paranoid theory is such a case, although the accused perpetrator is not a government, or even an intelligence agency gone rogue, but a political organisation with a long history of questionable behaviour. the victim is a british student at school in france.

the theory ::

jeremiah "jerry" duggan was murdered by members of the worldwide larouche youth movement and his death was staged to look like a suicide.

the origin ::

immediately upon duggan's death in 2003 there were questions from his girlfriend and his family, as a result of phone calls they had had from him in the hours before.

the believers ::

duggan's family, critics of the larouche movement and most recently the british coroner.

the bad guys ::

ultimately, lyndon larouche and his wife helga zepp-larouche, but more directly, the organisations with which they're affiliated: the schiller institute, the worldwide larouche youth movement, nouvelle solidarité, their french-language publication; the german police, coroner's office and the office of the wiesbaden public prosecutor [the theory of conspiracy becomes untenable unless there is at least some degree of complicity from these offices, as we'll see]

jeremiah's body on the highway where he died
the evidence ::

picking apart the evidence in this case is a matter of reviewing the specifics of duggan's death, but also some circumstantial information on the group implicated in theories surrounding his death.

there's a caveat to evaluating evidence in the case for me, which is that everything that's available in english has generally been written by supporters of the conspiracy theory or by the british media, who have tended to take a more suspicious view on the official [german] inquest into duggan's death. furthermore, copies of the official german doucments aren't available on line, so the issue of exactly what was written, what evidence there was and what questions were asked at the time is not resolvable in my mind. that said, there is enough english-language information bouncing around to get a sense of the main points of contention.

the story of events that led up to duggan's death is undisputed, to a point: duggan connected with the publication nouvelle solidarité when he picked up a copy of the magazine in paris and spoke to its editor, benoit chalifoux. when he found out that duggan was opposed to the iraq war, he suggested that duggan join him and other youth who shared his views at a seminar just outside wiesbaden, where lyndon larouche, the head of the organisation behind nouvelle solidarité, among many other publications, was due to be the keynote speaker.

duggan went to the seminar and stayed at the home of a couple involved in the movement there with two other attendees. afterward, he decided to stay on and attend a school or camp for larouche youth members. information on what exactly happened next is sketchy to say the least, but jeremiah seemed to come unglued. he had planned to return to paris to see his girlfriend on 25 march, but had to delay until the following sunday when he could get a lift, since he lacked the funds for bus fare. the following day, he became agitated and placed very late night/ early morning calls to both his girlfriend and his mother, saying that he was frightened and mistrusted the larouche group. he also hinted to his girlfriend that there were serious things he had to tell her about his time in wiesbaden. minutes after the final call to his mother, he left the house where he was staying and ran out into the streets. he kept running five kilometres [over a period of 30-45 minutes], where he was clipped by a car. he recovered sufficiently to keep running for about ten more minutes, until he was struck by a second car, and knocked into the path of a third, which ran over him.

lyndon larouche
the german police investigation found that he had committed suicide, by jumping into the path of oncoming traffic, a verdict which has been upheld by two subsequent german courts. a british inquest found the same, indicating that he had clearly been extremely agitated and upset, possibly because he was suffering from a mental illness or possibly because of what he had gone through at the larouche seminar and school. two private inquests conducted at the family's behest raised questions about whether or not the even could have been staged and investigators focused particularly on crime scene photographs of the cars involved, which showed no apparent traces of skin or blood. these and other irregularities [such as the presence of possible "defensive wounds" on the backs of his arms] eventually resulted in a second inquest, which came back with a verdict late last month: jeremiah duggan did not commit suicide and the larouche group may have played a substantial part in the circumstances that lead to his death.

i cannot possibly give a full account of the larouche group in one or two paragraphs. they could keep me busy with paranoid theories for the rest of my life and i still wouldn't have provided a complete picture. behold the wikipedia for the man and his group. although characterised by the media surrounding the duggan case as a right wing extremist, larouche occupies a territory unto himself, a dark and terrifying world oppressed by conspiracies of government, business, religion and finance. they are activists on a range of political topics with an idealist philosophy that combines elements of plato, high art, extreme paranoia and a quasi-religious devotion not dissimilar to what one sees with members of the scientology movement. for the moment, i'll stick to the likelihood of their involvement in the death of jeremiah duggan, and whether or not there are reasons to believe they might have played a part.

as you peruse the wikipedia links above, you'll note that the larouche movement have faced allegations of violence, threats and aggressive behaviour before. larouche wrote himself about the need to strip away the ego in order to free oneself from societal programming and the organisation's own recordings indicate that such deprogramming sessions can be extremely traumatic. the allegations of brainwashing date back to the seventies, but it's unclear whether or not "ego-stripping" practices are still employed and there's no evidence that jeremiah duggan was subjected to any kind of deprogramming, either alone or as part of a youth school group activity. [his breakdown isn't causal evidence one way or the other.]

what is undisputed is that larouche has always reserved a special brand of vitriol for the british, zionists [which he personally differentiates from jews generally, although the anti-defamation league has criticised him for propagating anti-semitic views] and large parts of the psychiatric field, who he believes are implicated in mass brainwashing. duggan was both british and jewish and had had psychological counseling after his parents were divorced. all of this seems to have been divulged during his time at the larouche school, which does seem like it could have been a source of conflict with other members.

likewise, it's clear that, whatever their other views, the larouche group operates with an extreme suspicion of others and a fear of being infiltrated. their leader has put forward a massive number of theories of efforts to assassinate him, which has to effect the mindset of his followers. 

larouche poster
in such cases, it's always best to fall back on science for an answer, but in this case, science can't agree either. german forensic scientists came to one conclusion based on first-hand evidence collection [after which they destroyed some evidence, including the victim's clothes, which has been a bone of contention in the debate]. british forensic scientists have looked at the remaining records of the evidence and come to a different conclusion. and neither of them seems to be willing to open up as to why. both agree that duggan suffered blunt force trauma to the head, most likely fatal. but why does one group find it was consistent with a car accident and the other does not? did the body have injuries commonly associated with car accidents, such as the common "pedestrian fracture" of the tibia and/ or fibula- a break in the leg bone caused by the impact of the front end of a car?  was there any evidence [aside from the fact that he had received counseling when he was a child] that duggan suffered from a mental disorder? had he had previous episodes of extreme anxiety? not information that is publicly accessible at the moment. [side note :: one larouche group member said that duggan had confided to members that he had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and that he had wanted to find a pharmacy to refill his prescription shortly before his death. however, no drugs were found in his bloodstream post mortem. we know a little about this subject here on more like space, don't we? the most common prescriptions for ocd are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. the former can be cleared from the bloodstream in anywhere from two to four days, while the latter take three to ten. the bottom line is that, in order to have had his blood test "clean", jeremiah duggan would have had to have stopped taking his medication at least a few days before he died. probative? maybe. he did stay in germany longer than he intended and withdrawal from these drugs could absolutely have triggered anxiety in someone who already suffered from ocd. but other than the comment from the larouche group member, there's no evidence any of this is true.]

both the larouche group and the duggan family have web sites that present their side of the story.

the likelihood :: 5/10

i'm split down the middle on this one. on the one hand, i absolutely believe that the larouche group, with their paranoid world view and animus to perceived enemies could have precipitated the death of jeremiah duggan. their record of "deprogramming" sessions clearly shows that they were capable of inducing a mental breakdown and if they did nothing more than this, then they are at least partially responsible for his death. [morally if not legally: i am not familiar with the specific laws at issue.]

jeremiah and his girlfriend, maya villanueva
furthermore, the deprogramming sessions in which they engaged are evidence that the group is capable of doing some pretty vile things to people whom they feel represent a threat. 

on the other hand, if there is a conspiracy here, it is massive in scope. three separate drivers would have to be agents of the larouche group, but quietly enough that three german courts were unable to come up with any evidence of a connection. they would have to have been either clever enough to fool a team of forensic experts or those experts would have to have been in on the plot.

and why? whatever jeremiah could have said about the larouche group, it's unlikely to have been substantially different or more damaging than things that have been said before. larouche is a former convict, who spent nearly fifteen years in prison for fraud: it's already clear that he's a questionable character. did larouche's followers truly believe that duggan represented a serious threat if he were allowed to leave? [or did they possibly believe that he was a british agent sent to kill their leader, since larouche had so frequently accused the government of plotting his demise?]

as a personal observation- an amateur one: jeremiah's descent into fear and panic is not dissimilar to the initial onset of schizophrenia. this condition can present seemingly out of nowhere, and while it's most common in adolescence, jeremiah still would have been within the age group where first episodes are often seen. sometimes, episodes are precipitated by extreme stress [along with drug use, sudden changes in living situation, etc.], but that doesn't mean that the agent of stress causes the disorder. so i'd be tempted to argue that there's a third path that no one has investigated [and that couldn't be proven anyway]: that jeremiah duggan neither willfully committed suicide nor was murdered, but died in the throes of psychosis.

i wish his family luck in finding closure and i hope that some of the people who were present at the seminar and camp that jeremiah attended speak up about what exactly happened there- whether to condemn or to exonerate the larouche group.

this is really the most paranoid of the paranoid theories we've examined here, because it seems that paranoia itself is responsible for a tragedy: somewhere along the line, someone became irrationally afraid of something and it cost a young man his life.

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