Alice Ruggles murder: Trimaan Dhillon to serve minimum of 22 years

Image source, Northumbria Police
Image caption,
Trimaan Dhillon claimed Alice Ruggles' death was an accident

A soldier has been jailed for life for breaking into his ex-girlfriend's flat and cutting her throat from ear to ear.

Alice Ruggles, 24, was found fatally injured at her home in Rawling Road, Gateshead, in October.

Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry" Dhillon, 26, denied murder at Newcastle Crown Court, saying she had fallen on a carving knife during an argument.

Sentencing him to a minimum of 22 years, judge Paul Sloan QC said the murder was an act of "utter barbarism".

The court heard the Edinburgh-based signaller with 2 Scots became obsessed with graduate Miss Ruggles - originally from Leicestershire - and stalked her when he realised she was moving on after their intense relationship ended.

Dhillon claimed she died as a result of an accident when she leapt at him with a carving knife.

He told the jury they had been struggling, that he had tried to disarm her and she cut herself when he blocked a lunge, and the knife stuck in her neck when she fell to the floor.

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Alice Ruggles grew up in Leicestershire but stayed in the Newcastle area after studying at Northumbria University

The court was told Miss Ruggles, who had complained to police about Dhillon's behaviour, was found on her bathroom floor on 12 October and had bled to death.

Dhillon had climbed into Miss Ruggles' flat through an open window and set about murdering her, probably kneeling on her back and holding her head up to slash her throat at least six times, cutting through to the spine.

She suffered 24 injuries, including defensive wounds, while 6ft 1in Dhillon suffered none.

The jury was played a frantic 999 call by Miss Ruggle's friend Maxine McGill in which she described finding the 24-year-old "covered in blood" and named Dhillon as the killer, calling him an "absolute psychopath".

Media caption,
A short clip from the 999 call made by Alice Ruggles' housemate

In evidence, Ms McGill claimed her friend had complained to police about Dhillon's obsessive behaviour but that she felt she had been "palmed off".

Northumbria Police said at the time no-one knew the level of threat Dhillon posed, but added it had referred their actions to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Alice Ruggles was working in Newcastle at the time of her murder

Miss Ruggles and Dhillon developed an intense relationship over the internet while he was serving in Afghanistan and she was working for Sky in Newcastle.

The jury were told Dhillon soon set about alienating her from her friends, knocked her self-confidence and demanded her constant attention.

His previous partner suffered similarly and her ordeal only ended after she took out a restraining order.

The court heard when the relationship ended Dhillon stalked her ground-floor flat at night, knocking on her bedroom window and "terrifying" her.

He was told to stay away from her by police, but the Indian-born soldier ignored the warning.

Sentencing, Dhillon Judge Sloan told him: "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."

Image caption,
Alice Ruggles' mother, Sue Hills, said none of her friends or family "will ever be the same again"

After the verdict Miss Ruggles' family released a statement through the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which helps people avoid becoming victims of violence, in which they said her loss would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Her mother Sue Hills said: "I just wish we had identified those signs of stalking which, with hindsight, are so obvious.

"I would like what happened to Alice to encourage others to seek support if they are worried about someone's behaviour."

Speaking outside court, Dr Hills said there were "important lessons to be learned".

"We welcomed Trimaan Dhillon into our family and he came across as a normal person," she said.

"Unfortunately he was a cruel, manipulative bully who made Alice miserable and took her away from us."

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