Justice and Security for Grooming Survivor Lara Hall

By British Pakistani Christian Association

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A little bit of context

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) are launching this fundraiser on behalf of Lara Hall, an Australian citizen who in 2018 fell prey to a lecherous Pakistani Muslim, Sajjad – a man she had known online for circa six years through his Sydney based relatives.

Sajjad procured and groomed Lara into travelling to Pakistan on the false pretences that she would be safe, happy and free there and be staying in sanitary and nice accomodation. Sajjad even groomed and seduced Lara’s twin sister, Amy and her other loved ones. He was very charismatic and whenever any doubt would arise in the minds of Ms Hall and her close ones, he always eschewed this doubt – even going so far as to falsify documents.

He portrayed himself to be compassionate and empathetic and seemed to comfort Lara at a time when she was extremely vulnerable. Lara had an incredibly dysfunctional childhood and she suffers Harm OCD, PTSD, depression and anxiety – all very common mental ailments. 

At the time Sajjad predated on Lara she was experiencing an exacerbation of her mental health concerns. 

It was indeed the perfect time for him to prey on her. He promised that she would get the best care, support, and help in Pakistan and have a much needed “time out.” Her faith in his authenticity was reinforced and bolstered continuously by his Sydney relatives who she saw often and lived a mere ten minutes away and would always described Sajjad as a kind, compassionate and loving soul who would take good care of her. Groomers often identify people’s weaknesses and utilise them to take advantage of them which is exactly what Sajjad did.

She was assured that during her visit she would be free, happy, well taken care of and live in nice, sanitary accomodation. He told her that reports about the status of women in Pakistan are fraught with bias and that he often sees a white girl traipsing happily alone in the market place and he assured Lara she would be free and happy to do the same.

Trapped in Pakistan

Grooming is a burgeoning global phenomenon – you only need to look at the proliferation of grooming gangs throughout the UK, primarily perpetrated by Muslim men of Pakistani heritage.

In April 2018 Lara set off to Pakistan with a dual purpose, firstly to attend the wedding of Sajjad’s younger brother and secondly to see if her and Sajjad, this person everyone had come to view as so empathetic and compassionate could hit it off romantically.

According to her documents, Lara was only allowed to stay in Pakistan for a one month visit. Shortly after arriving Lara began to realise that Sajjad had pathologically lied about how her life in Pakistan would be. She was subject to squalid living conditions and living in a five bedroom house, catering circa 20 people. Her flight was cancelled and her documents were confiscated from her. She began to realise Sajjad and his family were cruel and she was increasingly subject to incredible abuse including, inter alia, sexual abuse from two family members, starvation (sometimes for 12 to 14 hours), bullying, intimidation, imprisonment (only ever allowed out upon Sajjad’s permission – and the few times she defied that and tried to run away she was subject to extreme punishment). She was subject to long periods of confinement and not even allowed to approach the door and was only let out on rare occasions under strict supervision for short intervals, usually because she begged.

Increasingly concerned about her plight and the precariousness of her visa situation, Ms Hall reached out to the Australian consulate and the Australian High Commission in Islamabad and was repeatedly met with a ‘lacklustre’ response and told to rely on local authorities – a terrifying prospect for anyone, especially for someone with high anxiety and OCD (consular officials should be mental health trained and informed) and a lapsed visa situation who was told by her captors that the police would harm her if she ever tried to escape.

As Lara’s continued cries for help fell on deaf ears, she realised that her only avenue of escape was to surreptitiously and covertly network with influential people online. She made plans with these people to flee and to redress the visa issue – she knew she was slowly heading into Iegal “no man’s land” and onto the black list where you are liable to be jailed as an overstayer.

Although plans were being set in motion for Ms Hall to be set free and she had managed to reclaim her passport (and kept it hidden once she did), Ms Hall had to exit earlier than previously planned. This was because one night after she discovered Sajjad had paired his phone to hers and she immediately became concerned that this meant he was cognisant of her escape plans.

In a state of distress and panic she had no other choice but to approach him and question him about this wherein a fight ensued and a death threat was issued. With a palpitating heart Lara barricaded herself in her room and made the only “choice” she felt she could make which was to bravely, albeit with shaking hands, dial ‘15’ the local police number. Circa 30 police officers descended on the house and conveyed Lara into the care of prominent business man Dr Kaiser Rafiq.

Although Lara was ‘free’ from her abuser and his cruel family, her troubles were far from over and she had to go to Islamabad to plead with the Interior Ministry not to jail her for overstaying. She arrived one day prior to the date she was supposed to go on the black list and it was only by the grace of God that she did not go to jail, something that the minister’s initially entertained doing. When in Islamabad, Ms Hall once again reached out to the Australian officials and even asked for a meeting with the Australian High Commission in Islamabad telling them what dire stakes she was in but they refused to meet with her and give her safe harbour and rather left her to the lions – telling her that it was not within the scope of their charter to help her.

Her fight to get her safe exit 

Lara was granted a one month grace period and a $400 USD overstay fine was imposed. She raised the funds with the help of BPCA who have been significantly helpful throughout her ordeal. 

After being granted an exit permit, Lara obtained her safe exit from her hellish nightmare. Lara is now bravely speaking out with the aspiration that her story will be a cautionary tale so that no other person falls prey to the same evil predicament. She has met with countless officials, conducted talks, given media interviews, etc - all with the intention of raising awareness.

How can you help?

Due to Lara’s horrendous experience, her mental health is suffering and she needs assisted living for one year, money to contribute to counselling, and money to conduct a legal case against Sajjad and any co-defendants in the case. 

Lara has chosen to speak out about her experience in a brave and bold stance against grooming and violence against women. She has passionately volunteered her time countless times to help ensure women in precarious situations do not fall prey to this same lechery. Now she needs your help so she can heal. Please support Lara. 

Unite to help Grooming Survivor Lara Hall

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Team Members

Wilson Chowdhry