Emily took her own life months into university. Then the screenshots and photos of her abuse came out
For three years, Emily’s family have been fighting for the truth to come out. This is her story
Emily Drouet was getting ready in her halls bedroom on the night of St Patrick’s Day 2016. She’d been persuaded to go out last minute, and her friends expected to see her out later, dressed up in green like everyone else, drinking vodka mixers and Guinness. Emily did dress up; she’d done her make-up with added green eyeshadow, and put on a black top and black leggings. But Emily never made it out that night.
At around midnight, Emily’s close friend Blake Herriot was still out with his friend, who got a phone call from another student back at their halls. They were told to come back quickly, but no one said why. “I knew something was wrong with Emily the moment I got there”, he remembers. He was right: Emily had been found dead in her room by her flatmates.
Emily Drouet was a fresher studying Law and French Law at Aberdeen University. It was her back-up choice, but she was still excited and decorated her room with fairy lights as soon as she arrived in freshers’ week. 17 at the time, with dark brown hair and eyes to match, Emily was pretty, quiet at times, but always up for doing things.
Blake and Emily met on a night out in their first few weeks there, and they lived just a few flats away from each other. The pair became part of a group from halls who could always be relied on for a night out. They went to the Freshers’ events with wristbands and cheesy music. Emily wore boots, not trainers, when she went out, usually with a black top and perfect make-up.
“That first term was just club after club after club pretty much”, says Blake. At first it was Garage – a club that’s now closed, but hosted acts like Joey Essex and the Vengaboys. They moved onto Institute once they got their bearings in the city. Vanity Fridays at Institute became a favourite, and on her 18th birthday Emily celebrated there in a shiny pink sash.
It’s been two years since Emily’s death when I first speak to Fiona, Emily’s mum, on the phone, and she still sounds shaken about the events of that night. She’s been raising awareness of Emily’s case for quite some time now, but it’s clear this conversation isn’t easy for her. By now Emily would have been 20, and in her final year of uni, having done the year abroad in France she always wanted to. Fiona ran baby clothing boutiques and her Dad, Germain, is a pilot for Easyjet. They lived in a south Glasgow suburb with Emily’s younger brother and sister, and she’d often spend her weekends babysitting them or taking them to the cinema.
“Emily was quite reserved, and a bit self conscious, which was surprising,” says Blake. “It was as if she hadn’t really had that opportunity yet in her life to go out and have that fun”.
One night out in Freshers’, introduced through a mutual friend, Emily met Angus Milligan, who studied Psychology and played rugby. Coming from a family of lawyers, and a million pound house in Edinburgh, Angus was 20, older than Emily, still 17. Slightly built, confident, with a dark blonde tuft of hair clipped short on the back and sides, he’d been around a string of private schools before uni. At Aberdeen, some described him as the “alpha male on campus”. And he went out a lot, getting featured in a Clubbers of the Week.
He lived in New Carnegie Court, across the courtyard from Emily, the kind of halls where everyone knew each other a bit, even if they hadn’t been directly introduced. New Carnegie Court has a reputation as the poshest of the halls in Aberdeen’s Hillhead student village. At £142 a week, the rooms have en-suite bathrooms and three-quarter beds, and flats are shared between five people. Everywhere in Carnegie was open for pre-drinks, and Emily’s flat was a popular one for people before a night out.
The name Carnegie is in fact hard to escape at Aberdeen University. It’s written into the history. Andrew Carnegie was a steel baron in America in the late 1800s, and is said to be one of the richest men ever to have ever lived. Towards the end of his life he served as rector of Aberdeen University where there’s now an annual lecture named after him.
It made a lot of sense then, for Andrew Carnegie’s great-great-great-grandson to go to Aberdeen Uni. He wound up in room 1A New Carnegie Court, just opposite Emily Drouet, and his name was Angus Milligan.
Towards the end of first term, Emily and Angus started sleeping together. According to evidence given to prosecutors by Emily’s friends, it was mostly a physical relationship and they spent most of their time together in each others’ rooms.
“Initially I didn’t really take much interest in it. She seemed happy,” says Blake. “He had his friends and she had hers so they only ever spent time together alone,” another friend told me. It was intense when they were together, but they were never really “coupley” in front of people. Things between Angus and Emily weren’t official, but she had begun to fall for him.
‘There was so much drama going on, girls crying, folks scared’
After the Christmas break the relationship became more complicated. When Emily found out Angus had been sleeping with other girls over Christmas, she was devastated and called things off. But by February, they were back in an on-off relationship – not really together, but still seeing each other. Friends weren’t sure of their official status.
Around this time Angus’ behaviour started to change. At Emily’s 18th birthday party on 28th January, Angus was alleged to have poured a pint over her after a row – a charge that was brought to court, but eventually dropped due to lack of evidence. According to court documents seen by The Tab, he had been pressuring her into a threesome with him and one of his rugby friends. On one occasion Angus said he would never sleep with Emily again unless she agreed to the threesome. She confided in friends, telling them she didn’t want to do it and that she found it creepy.
A month later, Emily did have a threesome, but without Angus. It happened after a night out with one of Angus’ close female family members, and one of Angus’ rugby friends – the same one Angus had initially suggested the threesome with.
In Facebook messages sent to a friend, Emily said she was too drunk to remember what happened. She was nervous about Angus finding out, as he was supposed to be moving into a flat with this friend from rugby in second year. This friend of Angus told Emily to keep the threesome a secret, and she decided not to tell him.
But Angus soon found out. The boy involved in the threesome told him. Only, Emily said to friends, he didn’t remember being told or react to it. Then a week later, Angus was reminded of it and discovered other people in New Carnegie Court and the rugby team knew. “He was so horrified that his girlfriend had entered into a threesome with his family member that he lost it”, was Angus’ defence, prosecutor Christopher Macintosh tells me, “but he couldn’t have been that shocked by the threesome because he had tried to persuade her to do likewise”.
Angus forgave the rugby teammate but ended the relationship with Emily and demanded she came to collect her stuff from his flat. Emily was worried about going over, so asked a friend to go instead. While her friend was in Angus’ room, she said Angus punched a mirror which shattered and went in her arm, and Emily took her to A&E. This charge was also brought to court, but it was dropped due to lack of evidence.
The Facebook messages below were sent from Emily to Blake in the days after Angus found out. The other people mentioned here have been referred to as Person A, Person B and Person C to protect their identities.
This is when the barrage of WhatsApp messages began. In some of these messages, Angus repeatedly calls Emily a “fucking slut”, “liar”, “bitch”, “cunt”, a “hooker”, and “a freak”. In one conversation, on 3rd March, Angus called Emily a “whore”, and “the worst person in Aberdeen” whilst she begged for forgiveness. This carried on for the next 24 hours.
These messages have been given to The Tab. Warning: the following messages are distressing.
Despite these messages, Emily insisted to friends that she was to blame for Angus’ behaviour. In a message to Blake she says: “I fucked it up for myself. I have honestly fucked up so bad”.
That week Angus’s rage became more public. On two occasions Angus shouted abuse at Emily for all of New Carnegie Court to hear. Once from the window of his flat and another time standing in the courtyard, he shouted “Emily Drouet from 86B is a slut and a whore.”
Emily was sat, crying her eyes out, terrified, when Blake arrived after one incident. “There was so much drama going on, girls crying, folks scared. My mates, who are guys, were crying as well,” he said.
Often, at three or four o’clock in the morning, Emily messaged Blake asking if he was up. They’d meet, in the night outside their halls, to smoke a cigarette. Whilst chatting, Emily told Blake things like “you should have met me before I came to uni, I was a completely different person, I wasn’t like this”. Not wanting to bump into Angus and end up in a confrontation, Emily became reluctant to go out on her own.
It wasn’t quite over for Emily and Angus though, and one night they slept together again. Their mutual friends were becoming concerned Angus was sending mixed signals. One minute he was charming, the next he was sending her angry WhatsApp messages and trying to cut things off. And every time he did, Emily was devastated.
For now, the abuse was emotional and verbal. Then, on 10th March, a week after the first WhatsApp messages, Angus was with some friends in his room saying he was going to question Emily about the threesome and record their conversation on his phone. He’d also prepared an email about what Emily had been up to at uni that was ready to send to Emily’s mum Fiona. He showed his friends the draft and told them he intended to send it.
The email was never sent. Instead Angus headed over to Emily’s block. Emily’s flatmate answered the buzzer, and Angus told her he wanted to come up and speak to Emily about their situation. She buzzed him up, and saw him enter Emily’s room. Angus went into Emily’s room alone, and left half an hour later. Angus slapped Emily twice on the face, choked her, seized her by the neck, and pushed her against a desk. He came out of Emily’s room calm, and told people in the flat what he’d done. He played them the recording of their conversation he’d taken, and said he’d slapped Emily because she was lying to him. One person there said it didn’t seem to bother Angus at all, and he was laughing about it. But when challenged, Angus agreed he shouldn’t have done it. A photo taken by Emily shows her injuries:
Emily came out of her room after Angus left, crying and with a red face, saying she thought she was going to die in there. A friend, although unaware of how bad Emily’s injuries were, told her she should report Angus. She went to a Student Resident Assistant – support staff based in Aberdeen’s halls – in the early hours of the morning and told them about problems with her aggressive boyfriend. They asked her if it was physical, but Emily, not wanting to get Angus into trouble, denied it. The report was signed off, and there was no follow up.
Emily blamed herself for what happened in that room. She carried on as normal; doing uni work, handing in an essay, but was messaging friends saying her boyfriend had attacked her and it was her fault. “You don’t deserve to be hit or strangled report him to the police Emily I am serious”, one friend texted her. “I deserve it” was Emily’s reply.
“Abusers often erode the confidence of their victims and make them doubt themselves and believe that they in some way asked for it, or that it is their fault, but this is never the case,” says Brenna Jessie of Women’s Aid Scotland. “In a new environment like university or college where someone might not have established and supportive friendship groups, this can present an opportunity for an abuser to gain control more quickly.” Women in abusive relationships also struggle with criminalisation of their abuser, say Women’s Aid Scotland. Like Emily did, they take on the blame and are reluctant to land the abuser in trouble for their actions.
Angus and Emily patched things up again a week later. However, there was still some discussion about the threesome among their mutual friends. And on 17th March, St Patrick’s Day, some friends decided to show Angus screenshots of the messages Emily had sent to her friends about it.
As she did often, Emily spoke to her mum that day. It was a normal conversation – Emily asked for some money to go to a ball, and told Fiona she was looking forward to going out.
Regardless of whether you’re Irish or not, St Patrick’s Day is a big night out if you’re a student at Aberdeen Uni. On the Thursday it fell on Emily was waiting for a friend to bring some wine to pre drink with, and was texting her Mum and nine year old brother until his bedtime at 8pm.
Before her friend arrived to pick her up, Angus went into Emily’s block, where he was seen on CCTV entering the building. No one other than Angus and Emily really know exactly what happened in her room that night. But according to Angus, they had an argument and then, despite weeks of on-off, he officially ended the relationship. As he left, he said Emily was hanging on to him and he had to push her off. He was then seen on CCTV leaving her flat. Around this time, The Tab has confirmed Emily texted a friend in another flat and went to talk to him briefly at around 9:20pm before going back to her room.
At 9:41pm she messaged the friend she was going out with. “I don’t know if I can go out,” she said. “Angus just visited me. And he’s angry.”
Emily’s friend came round 10 minutes after Emily sent her last text, but Emily hadn’t read the messages. She didn’t answer her door or her phone, and so she left.
Two of her flatmates later returned from their night out. It was late, around midnight. Emily was usually active on Facebook, but they hadn’t heard from her, even though earlier that evening she assured them she’d be there. Becoming worried, they called the porter, and asked them to help them unlock Emily’s door. The porter gained entry and that’s when they found her. She had hanged herself, still wearing her black leggings and top, her bottle of vodka untouched.
Blake had been out that night when a friend he was with got a phone call and said they had to go back to New Carnegie Court.
Blake and his friend from halls jumped into a taxi the moment they received the panicked phone call telling them to come home. At this point Blake was still unaware of what had happened. When they got back to campus, several students were gathered in a student support building.
“The room was filled with everyone drifting in from their St Patrick’s night out. The news had spread around all the clubs and so many people came to see what was happening,” says a friend of Emily’s who was there.
“Everyone was crying their eyes out,” says Blake. It was about half an hour of uncertainty before he asked a member of staff and was told: “Emily’s died. She’s taken her own life.”
Two police officers rang the bell of Emily’s family home at 1:30am. Her mum, Fiona, called one of Emily’s friends in halls and could hear the chaos in the background, people arriving home from their nights were hysterically crying and screaming. This was the first time she’d been told about Angus’ behaviour. “He’s not been treating her properly, it’s been really bad”, the friend told Fiona.
Gathering themselves, a group left the support building, went back to the flat, sat, and shared memories of Emily before going to sleep. Most people, including Blake, phoned their parents and travelled home. The usually bustling Hillhead Village fell quiet.
The student village Blake returned to three days later was a wildly different place and flowers for Emily were piling up. Among the strange mood was Angus, still there in his flat just opposite Emily’s. As Blake laid his flowers, in tears, he saw Angus, who came over and hugged him without saying a word, then carried on walking. “He didn’t have a tear in his eye, just complete anger. He actually squeezed me really hard,” says Blake.
Angus asked Fiona if he could come to Emily’s funeral via the university chaplain. At this point, Fiona wasn’t aware of the extent of their relationship. She said Angus could come, but only if he told the family what happened on the night Emily died. Angus never turned up.
In fact, nobody really knew the whole picture, even Emily’s closest friends. “I couldn’t tell you anyone who would have thought this was going to happen. Otherwise, everyone would have broken a leg to help her,” says Blake.
Emily’s funeral was held at Netherlee Church, a small local church in her hometown Glasgow, with stained glass windows and a Gothic exterior of brick red Dumfriesshire sandstone. The reception was at the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow. It was only then, three weeks after Emily’s death, the full picture became clear.
Taking Fiona aside, the friend Emily saw just before her death told her he’d seen Emily distressed after Angus had been in her room.
Fiona spoke to more of Emily’s friends, who told her about the night Angus choked Emily in her room, and the WhatsApp messages he’d sent. It started to become clear to Fiona how Angus had treated Emily in the months leading up to her death.
With the help of a lawyer friend, Emily’s family began gathering evidence – interviews with friends, WhatsApp screenshots, anything they could find – to put a case together to present to the Scottish prosecutor. Because of the law in Scotland, there was no automatic enquiry into the suicide like there would be in England. “It was horrendous to have to do it, because you can imagine the agony our family were in. But we had to, or there would have been no investigation,” says Fiona.
Then, on 17th May, two months to the day after he’d visited Emily’s room the night she died, Angus was arrested on five charges of assault, one of abusive and threatening behaviour, one communications offence, and one of culpable and reckless conduct. In his police interview, he said he acted physically to scare Emily into telling him the truth about the threesome.
While the case was being put together, Angus was released and went out clubbing at home in Edinburgh. He was pictured twice in Silk, one of Edinburgh’s most popular student clubs until it closed down last year, on one occasion barely two weeks after his arrest.
It was a year before Angus finally appeared in court in July 2017. The case wasn’t put in front of a jury, so the evidence wasn’t examined. Instead, the prosecution and Angus came to an agreed version of events that led up to Emily’s death. In court, the prosecutor read this narrative out. Apart from Angus’ request to come to the funeral, the hearing was the first time he had been in contact with the family. Angus was accompanied by his uncle to court. His hair was a touch longer than usual, but he didn’t shed a tear during the hearing, recalls Fiona. “He showed no emotion throughout the process,” she says. “He even stared defiantly at us in court corridors.”
Angus pleaded guilty to one count of assault, the communications offence, and the threatening and abusive behaviour. The other five charges, including one of choking Emily in her room on the night she died by suicide, were dropped due to lack of evidence. Angus avoided jail, and was sentenced to 180 hours of community service and a 12 month supervision order.
In the sentencing statement, the judge said the remorse Angus showed was “more to do with subsequent events and was not your position at the time.” Angus tried to defend his actions based on Emily’s threesome: he was so shocked that she could have done that with one of his family members, that he acted out. During the hearing, the prosecutor said: “You encouraged this behaviour. Emily found your suggestion of it, and I quote, ‘creepy’.” Sheriff Malcolm Garden, sentencing Angus, didn’t accept this as justification, saying “there was no excuse for you behaving in the way in which you did.”
Outside the courtroom, after the sentencing, Fiona said about Angus: “He’s a convicted criminal who abuses women, and that’s been proven in court.” Following the trial, he was kicked out of Aberdeen Uni. It looked like everyone could begin to move on.
About three miles outside Aberdeen is the Ardoe House hotel. It’s a four-star hotel set in 30 acres of land, built in the 19th century. Last year it hosted Aberdeen’s St Andrews Ball, a black-tie charity event and a highlight of the social calendar for any Aberdeen students.
The event is held in November, and is where students go to celebrate the start of the next academic year in lavish fashion. 2014’s event, at a different hotel, saw scenes of table-flipping and food-throwing so rowdy that students were kicked out. But last November there was a different kind of drama.
Blake was staying in Ardoe House already, so came into the ball through the back door. As he sat at his table, one of his friends told him that he’d seen Angus on the list. Blake assumed it was a mistake. Seeing Angus actually walk in, just months after he’d been convicted and kicked out of uni for abusing Emily, was a huge shock for Emily’s friends, many of whom were in the room. Angus was wearing a black bow tie, a white shirt and a black suit, and was drinking red wine and chatting with his mates at a round table. Blake watched Angus from across room. “It was almost like a celebration,” he says.
“I was bubbling with anger. I’d dealt with the whole court case, I’d watched him sit smugly in court. For him to turn up at a ball with all of Emily’s close friends, that was a kick in the teeth,” says Blake. Blake decided not to get into a confrontation but instead took a couple of photos of Angus, including the one below.
When he did, one of Angus’ friends quickly stood up and shouted at Blake, to which he replied, “you’re sitting with a girl beater at your table”. His friends were defending Angus, and got aggressive towards Blake. Things calmed down, but later another of Angus’ friends came to Blake’s table and demanded he delete the photos; something Blake pretended to do, to defuse the situation.
Throughout the night, Emily’s friends were brought to tears and phoned their parents crying. Angus was later pictured with his bow tie off, enjoying himself.
Despite his unexpected appearance, Fiona and Emily’s friends had been lead to believe Angus was living far away in the Highlands with his uncle. He was largely out of the picture and Emily’s friends and family did their best to forget about him. That was until, at the end of last academic year, when a story broke claiming Angus had spent a year studying as a fresher at Oxford Brookes. He’d been offered a place there just weeks after his conviction.
While Angus has been allowed to restart his life, Fiona has been campaigning against gender-based violence at Scottish universities, to stop the same happening to others. The #emilytest campaign wants better training for staff on how to spot the signs of abuse.
So far Fiona has secured £400,000 in funding from the Scottish Government. The family are also demanding a further inquiry into Emily’s death.
“For us, this is Emily’s legacy,” says Fiona. “For Emily to have died and then nothing changes, that would be an even worse situation for us to face.”
If you are experiencing problems with your mental health, help is available. You can call Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected]
Women’s Aid Scotland say: “The best thing you can do for anyone you think might be experiencing domestic abuse is listen to them, believe them, and offer them your support. Don’t put pressure on them or tell them what to do, but make sure they know they aren’t alone.”
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is open 24/7 on 0808 2000 247.