Upon meeting a helpless, war-torn refugee child, a compassionate volunteer decided to smuggle the girl across the border. After he was arrested for his good deed, however, the man was absolutely devastated to discover that everything he believed was a lie.
After 53-year-old Rob Lawrie volunteered at a refugee camp, the former British Army fitness instructor immediately became attached to a young migrant child. Four-year-old Bru Ahmadi was living with her father in the squalid conditions of Calais, the notoriously dangerous refugee camp in France.
Understandably, Lawrie desperately wanted to help the child out of the horrid situation. So, along with her father, Reza Ahmadi, the volunteer concocted a plan to smuggle Bru out of the country and into the UK. What he’d soon realize is that he had been the central figure in a major hoax.
To get Lawrie emotionally invested, Reza told him that he had fled death threats from the Taliban in Afghanistan and that his wife had been tragically murdered. He pleaded with Lawrie to help his daughter, claiming that he still has an infant son living with relatives, according to the Daily Mail.
Upon hearing this, Lawrie agreed to stow away the father and daughter in his van. When he realized that Reza wouldn’t fit, he took Bru and promised to pay human traffickers to come back for the anxious father. However, Lawrie was unaware that two Eritrean migrant men had secretly stowed away in his van, prompting police dogs to sniff out his plan.
Lawrie was arrested and charged with people-smuggling before the count was eventually reduced to the endangerment of a child. Luckily for him, he received a suspended fine, dodging up to 5 years in prison. While Lawrie went through a terrible ordeal with the courts, his ultimate shame was in discovering the truth about those he had risked everything to help.
As it turns out, almost everything Lawrie believed about Reza and Bru was a lie. The migrant father hadn’t been fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan but had been living in Iran for decades before claiming refugee status. Additionally, he had unexpectedly abandoned his wife, who was not killed, and their youngest daughter so that he could look for a better life in Europe.
“I said to Reza, ‘Just come back with Bru. Don’t destroy everything,'” Goli told BBC journalist Sue Mitchell. “He said, ‘I can’t have that life in Iran. I just want to go and settle somewhere.’ He said he had brought Bru to make it easier for him to get asylum.”
Reza’s wife, Goli, claims that her husband abandoned her in Tehran and had “stolen” Bru in order to bolster his appearance as a refugee. She also debunked his claim that he has an infant son, stating that she is taking care of their youngest daughter and that she made it to Denmark in the quest to search for her missing child. She claims that Reza was “furious” when he discovered that she was pregnant with their second daughter.
Unfortunately, Lawrie’s disgrace wasn’t the end of his suffering. The activist lamented that his marriage ultimately broke down after his arrest for child-smuggling and that the entire ordeal ruined his life. He added that he feels duped by Reza, who has since been granted asylum status in the UK and went on to live with Bru in Scotland.
In fact, he said, “I feel like I’ve been hit round the back of the head with a cricket bat, it’s just staggering.”
Bru and her mother were finally reunited. Unfortunately, the little girl has no recollection of her mother and infant sister and has had to re-establish relationships with them.
Although Lawrie had all of the best intentions, misinformation devastated not only him and his family but also the lives of an innocent mother and her children.