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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Abigail Nicholson

Family 'destroyed' by daughter's murder slam decison to free her killer

The family of a teenager, who was strangled to death by a man who offered to walk her home, have slammed her murderer's release.

James Duggan was convicted of murdering Rebecca Ryle in 2006 after meeting her at a pub in Perth, Australia when he was a teenager. Duggan, who emigrated to Australia from Liverpool, offered to walk Rebecca, another ex-pat, home on May 5, 2004, and then strangled her for more than three minutes in a park just metres away from her home.

Duggan, now in his 30s, left his victim's half-naked body in a field which was found by police a few hours later. During the court case, Western Australian Supreme Court, Justice Lindy Jenkins described the crime as "bizarre" when she jailed him for a minimum of 11 years and six months.

READ MORE: Face of strangling murderer being deported to UK this month

Justice Jenkins said the murder was every parent's worst nightmare, adding Rebecca had died "alone and degraded". Duggan never fully explained why he killed her.

After spending almost 20 years in prison, Duggan was released on March 11, 2022, and is now in an Australian detention centre getting ready to be deported back to the UK.

Rebecca's family have slammed the Attorney General's ruling to let Duggan out of prison. Her brother, Andy, told The ECHO : "It’s not an exaggeration to say that the loss of Rebecca destroyed our family. Our lives were utterly shattered, where so much happiness had once been.

"We had come to Australia to start a new life, and within six months, it had been completely decimated. It had really gone from our dream life to a nightmare.

"There’s no way of knowing the extent of the damage that the trauma has caused us and still continues to do so. The kind of effects that such a heinous and destructive crime has on your mental health is often overwhelming – especially when it’s clear that the person responsible continues to show no remorse or motive, nearly 20 years after the fact."

Andy described Rebecca as "incredibly caring" and "a natural caregiver". He continued: "Rebecca Louise Ryle, or Becky to us, was a wonderful and caring sister to me and my brothers – even though we wound her up constantly.

"In the UK, she had a close group of friends and enjoyed pretty normal teenage girl stuff. She acted out a bit while we still lived in England, but she never got into serious trouble. She was incredibly caring, even as a young girl.

"She was very family-oriented, and she was a natural caregiver."

Andy says he remembers the morning after his sister was murdered and police setting up tape around the front of his family home.

He said: "I remember getting ready for school – I was going to go and sit an exam to get into a high school. Dad had already left for work – he was working at a shipyard on the other side of the city, so had to leave at the crack of dawn.

"There were police cars out the front of our house, and I remember mum standing out the front of the house, and they were setting up police tape around the school. Mum was stressed out of her mind – Becky had gone out for some drinks with her friends and hadn’t returned home."

"Despite the heartbreak, my parents have remained together through it all, which is testament to their love and commitment to keeping our family as whole as they can. They’re the two strongest people I know, and they continue to find reasons to to laugh and smile, even in the face of so much tragedy."

When asked about how they felt hearing Duggan was released from prison, Andy said: "Anger. Sadness. Anxiety. Fury. The worst emotions possible really, and all the energy that has to be spent going through them. I find some small comfort in knowing this man will never set foot in Australia ever again, and my parents can rest easy knowing that they’ll never have to bump into him in the street.

"However, I find it horrific that the alternative is that the British public is subjected to him, and that he can start afresh. I hope that by writing this, at least some people are made aware that this monster will be around. He doesn’t deserve the opportunity to start again. He stole a life."

A parole board in Australia reviewed Duggan's case on November 19, 2019 and the Attorney General decided not to release him due to his behaviour in prison, a return to substance abuse and offending. He said: "Given the serious nature of the offence, Mr Duggan’s poor prison behaviour, uncertainty around the level of professional support that he would receive in England, lack of acknowledgement of wrong doing and apparent lack of remorse, I am not convinced Mr Duggan’s release to parole is appropriate at this time."

The board reviewed Duggan's case again in September 2021 and the Attorney General recommended his release from prison, along with two years on parole. The new case included a psychological report, dated June 23 2021, where a senior forensic psychologist said Duggan had "engaged in a considerable amount of treatment" and identified him as having a "moderate risk of violent reoffending".

A report from the community corrections officer dated July 19, 2021, said Duggan "imparted remorse and regret towards the offence as well as acknowledging the victim".

As part of his parole Duggan must have no direct or indirect contact with Rebecca's family, be deported back to the UK from Australia, and to comply with any and all directions and restrictions now or in the future, made, issued or imposed by the Federal Government or Government of Western Australia.

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