There are surely few horrors to compare with learning that your child is dead, but yet more horror can – and for the families at the heart of this film, it was – be heaped upon the surviving family members as the bigger picture emerges.
This intensely emotive Cutting Edge film followed the living nightmare of two families as they concurrently tried to cope with the knowledge that their child was dead, and that foul play was behind that tragedy.
Bill Hawker and Erica Duggan are the parents of grown-up children who’d died abroad. Bill’s daughter Lindsay had been murdered in Tokyo and Erica’s son Jeremiah had died in Germany.
For the Hawker family, they’ve always known who they’re looking for. The prime suspect in the case ran from – and successfully continued to elude – the police, but ultimately, thanks to Bill’s persistence in handing out flyers with a picture of the suspect, Tatsuya Ichihashi, on them, he was apprehended after a plastic surgeon recognised him.
For Erica though, circumstances were different. Her peace-loving son Jeremiah had joined an group called the LaRouche Organisation, believing them to be – like him – staunch advocates of peace, but it seems that his association with the organisation had a part – albeit arguably indirectly – to play in the events that culminated in Jeremiah’s death.
He had called his mum, and, crying and terrified, but his call was cut short before Erica could establish where he was or what was wrong. Hours later, Erica received the news that Jeremiah had been killed while running on the autobahn. He’d been hit by several cars.
Here’s what a statement on the website, Justice for Jeremiah reads regarding the circumstances immediately before his death.
“Jeremiah Duggan, a 22 year old British Student studying in Paris, travelled to Germany on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, to participate in a “peace conference” run by a political organisation called the Schiller Institute (a part of the LaRouche Organization).
“During the conference Jeremiah discovered that much of the polemic was directed against Israel and the Jews for their supposed role in instigating the war. According to eyewitness reports, Jeremiah rose during one such diatribe to say ‘But I’m a Jew!’
“Six days after his arrival in Germany, in the early hours of 27th March 2003, he called his mother in London and said ‘Mum I’m in deep trouble. You know this Nouvelle Solidarity [the name of the French branch of LaRouche Organization] – I want out!’
“Then he made it clear he was in terror and wanted to get away and said: ‘I’m frightened! I WANT TO SEE YOU NOW!’
“I asked him where he was but in the middle of spelling Wiesbaden the line was cut.”
Erica’s tireless battles to get to the heart of what had so terrified her son – and ultimately, she believes, led to his death – have been met with hostility, pity and in some cases, sympathy, but as the public prosecutor in Weisbaden coldly told Cutting Edge researchers, “It is not the business of this office to restore the mother’s peace of mind.”
For the Hawker family, one might assume they can take some comfort from knowing that the man who killed their daughter will now pay for his crime, but of course at the end of the day, it won’t bring their daughter back.
While for Erica and the Duggan family, the fight goes on. I pray they find answers.
This was – though very harrowing to watch – a deeply moving film, and if you missed it, you can catch it here on 4oD.