Josephine Ogundipe, the mother of 26-year-old Alanis who committed suicide in the United Kingdom on May 29 after being allegedly blackmailed by her boyfriend, Ryan Leggetts, in this interview with Dayo Oyewo speaks on what transpired in the last 48 hours she spent with her deceased daughter
What do you miss about your daughter since her death?
I miss everything about my daughter, her beautiful smile, infectious laugh, lovely personality and more than anything speaking to her and feeling so proud of the strong, confident and independent woman she had become. She was very charismatic and intelligent, with so much to give the world, and was fun to be with, she was also very kind-hearted and generous and I miss her more than words can express.
Since her dad returned to Nigeria in 2012, how did you relate with her as a mother to daughter in the UK?
My children are my world and Alanis was my only daughter who I loved unconditionally. Alanis and I were extremely close and over the years I was her confidant and supported her through the many obstacles and challenges she faced. Alanis was not someone who accepted the mundane; she was an achiever and exceptionally gifted from a very early age and became someone who knew exactly what she wanted in life. I’ve lost count of the number of times my heart has burst with pride at the ambitious, determined and highly motivated woman she was.
Could you let me know when you knew about her relationship with Ryan Leggetts?
Alanis told me on 30th May 2022, whilst she was working for KPMG and working towards completion of her professional accounting qualifications that she was introduced to Ryan Leggett via a blind date set up by her alleged best friend, Serena Gate. Gate later became an accessory to Ryan in his attempt to hide his behaviour towards Alanis to mislead and blatantly lie; not only to us but to subsequent investigation into her death.
Did you sense anything untoward during this period?
By August 1, 2022, I got a very distressed call from Alanis because he had infected her with Herpes. Alanis told me he had ruined her life. I supported her over the following weeks through numerous calls and messages and through the treatment she had to undertake. It was at this point I began to sense that she had resigned herself to being with him, he had essentially trapped her – for life. More importantly, he must have been aware that he was a carrier. From then on I was concerned that her acceptance of something like that was so out of character for her. I knew she was under immense pressure working and studying to a very high level and began to think he was an unnecessary distraction from what I knew she wanted to achieve. However, over the following months, it became increasingly obvious that something was not right but by this point, he had manipulated her into believing he was the only one who could help her; slowly but surely isolating her from her friends and family, imposing what he wanted her to do, to know where she was and what she was doing at all times. For me, as her mother, fearing that she was being controlled by this person I regularly attempted to ask if everything was ok. She appeared fearful to criticise him and over the next few months, her calls and messages gradually tailed off. Alanis appeared to be in increasing financial distress when previously she prided herself on her ability to manage and save at the same time, having no financial issues before she met Ryan, something he has since been unable to disprove or deny. In the case of someone who previously had ultimate control of her own life, it’s important to remember she was about to achieve exactly what she set out to do. As much as parents would love to believe they can protect their children it is clear that there are manipulative and controlling people who prey on their victims’ vulnerability and go to great lengths to hide their behaviour that you don’t know about. A significant reason for his behaviour was to exert control over her, eventually “helping her” to decide to leave KPMG and take a job ten minutes away from home. He stole our daughter’s life and we will not stop until we have justice for Alanis. I will always maintain that if Alanis had not met him she would not be in the mindset she was to take her own life and would be here today. Alanis had the world at her feet, highly educated and successful, popular and confident.
How did you receive her distress call?
On May 28, 2023, I received a call from Alanis saying Ryan woke her up that morning, shouting at her and insulting her and also stating he was giving her “one last chance to save the relationship” and it became obvious to her that he had broken into her phone. She told me the veins were bulging on his forehead and his face was turned bright red and he told her “Get the f*ck out of my flat b*tch!”. Alanis was kicked out with just her phone and car keys and without her passport or work ID she needed to collect money and go to work on May 30.
How would you describe your last 48 hours with her?
When I arrived in Manchester that evening, I found my daughter in a fragile and highly traumatised state, she appeared underweight compared with the last time I had physically seen her a few weeks earlier, sobbing uncontrollably. I comforted her and she told me he had so far refused to speak to her and would not answer her calls or messages and that he had broken into her phone while she was asleep. I slept in her bed with her that night and she gripped my arm so tightly I had fingerprint bruises on my arm the next day. Alanis and I woke up at 9 am the next day and she messaged and rang him for hours but he would not pick up or reply. I offered to collect her passport and ID she needed for work and she said she would ask Jakob (her brother who also lived in Manchester) to collect them and messaged Ryan with this request.
He finally replied to Alanis, who read the messages aloud and put him on the phone speaker several times. During the conversation, Ryan was crying and sobbing about how they could never be together again and how people would need to know why they broke up, he said she had betrayed him and his morals and principles meant the relationship was over. For want of a better term, he was milking it. This went on for hours and Alanis was devastated, terrified as she didn’t know what and how much information he had copied to himself, or who he might pass this information to, she was completely at his mercy, even agreeing to keep to their arrangement to pay back money he had given her and telling me he was expecting £600 from her May salary.
At approximately 6.20 pm on May 29, Alanis sat down to talk to me saying everything was her fault. She had hidden things from him as she was ashamed and scared to tell him and critically; that he had told her he had already told people why they broke up having copied and sent to himself private and confidential information from her phone.
Alanis told me: “It’s tough Mum to find a friendship group, I will have to move away on my own, everyone will know everything about me, and everyone will hate me”. For Alanis, the fact that she didn’t know what he was telling people or the extent of the information he stole. This fact terrified her, who would he tell, would he send information to her family? Could he tell her new employer? Would she lose her job? I tried to reassure her that I would support her 100% and that we would make a plan to sort everything out. Alanis then said around 6.45 pm that she wanted to go for a walk to clear her head, she was aware I had been cooking dinner and told me not to worry as she had her phone, refusing all my requests to go with her. She had already asked me if I would be there the next day and so I reluctantly stayed in her apartment. Alanis never came back.
What did you deduce from her conversation with Ryan while you were with her?
My worst fears were confirmed, he was utterly controlling, had preyed on her vulnerability, being under so much pressure at work and her genuinely kind nature. He was demanding money from her regularly and had even created a spreadsheet to this effect. Nothing was for free and he made it obvious that he wanted the money he said he gave her to help the situation she was in repaid. This included pressure to fund a 6 month holiday around the world that he wanted them to do.
Have you got any invitations from the police since your daughter died?
In short, no, to date, British Transport Police and Greater Manchester Police have failed to take a statement from me despite being a physical primary witness to events immediately before she took her own life. They instead chose to rely on a statement from Ryan – her ex-partner to conduct and conclude an investigation that they didn’t have the authority to do. The same conclusion was reached by GMP because they reviewed a report that BTP had no jurisdiction to conduct. This is an ongoing situation that my family and I desperately need support for to continue fighting for justice for our beloved Alanis. The allegations I made to attending officers who arrived at her apartment to inform me of her death, appear not to be recorded or followed up and should have been passed directly to Greater Manchester Police who have the authority to conduct a criminal investigation. Instead, British Transport Police chose to investigate something they should have passed to the appropriate authority such as GMP and have since persisted with their claim that there is no evidence of third-party involvement. This, in turn, has led GMP to review something that should not have been investigated by BTP which comprised only the statement given to British Transport Police about the circumstances surrounding Alanis’ death. The authorities who are paid to uphold the law and protect their citizens failed up to date to take a statement from me. We have been forced to fight for something we are entitled to which is justice as well as appropriate investigation. It is no wonder we start to ask why the police are so reticent to take appropriate steps.
As a psychologist who has worked with organisations that partner with the police on domestic abuse cases, do you feel the police are doing enough in your case as it relates to Ryan and Alanis?
I am a psychology graduate and lecturer in further education and currently support people with enduring mental health problems to integrate within the local community. I also have experience in the area of Domestic Abuse. As a former Domestic Violence worker, I worked alongside the police and other statutory agencies to support victims in our refuges and within the community. I was not aware of the extent of the abuse my daughter suffered until May 28 and truly did not expect what followed particularly since my daughter showed great interest in my work at that time and was well-versed in tactics used by perpetrators in all forms of domestic abuse.
Coercive control is central to the abuse Alanis suffered and presented as a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse.