Thursday 4 November 2021
Bobby keeps slipping through Kirat’s grasp and she’s pushed to breaking point. Finally she makes a big decision – and discovers the truth
Gary Marshall – Producer
Claudia Williams – Assistant producer and additional reporting
Karla Patella – Sound design
Basia Cummings – Executive producer
[Clip: knock on the door]
Alexi Mostrous: Hey, how you doing?
Bobby’s friend: Hello hello!
Alexi Mostrous: Hey dog. Oh my goodness.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Pretty much since this podcast started – since I first got hold of Kirat’s witness statement back in June – I’ve wanted to speak to the man at the centre of this whole scam.
I’m talking about the real Bobby.
Bobby’s friend: Yeah he looks like a puppy actually.
Claudia Williams: I thought he was a puppy.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: The guy whose identity the catfisher used to trick Kirat for all those years.
Because even after months of looking into this story, I still don’t know how much Bobby knows.
About the deception. About the catfisher. About everything.
For weeks Amrit, a lawyer who’s been helping Kirat, has been trying to set up a meeting.
[Clip: child singing in the background]
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: And then one weekend, as I was watching TV with my children… I get a call.
[Clip: phone ringing]
Alexi Mostrous: Hi, is that Bobby?
Bobby: Yeah, the real Bobby!
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Bobby wants to meet.
Alexi Mostrous: It is an insane story…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: So Gary (my producer), Amrit (Kirat’s friend), and I – we head down to Brighton.
And standing by a table waiting to meet us, there he is. In the flesh. It’s Bobby.
[Clip: restaurant chatter]
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: And look, I can’t lie, it’s a pretty weird experience.
It’s like the main character from a film you’ve been watching on Netflix suddenly appearing in front of you.
This handsome, charismatic guy from Kenya – just as Kirat described him.
We talk for hours that night, in a busy steak house just outside the city centre.
And I get a lot of answers. But I can’t use them.
Because Bobby still isn’t sure about an interview. He asks that this meeting be off the record.
So we leave for London without knowing, ultimately, if he trusts us – and if he trusts us to tell his story.
[Clip: train announcement for London Victoria]
Alexi Mostrous: So that’s where we left it. We might speak to them next week, they said that they’d think about it. I really hope that they agree but fingers crossed. Here’s our train, we’re going to miss the train…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: But then – and sometimes this just happens – we get lucky.
Bobby agrees to an interview. Maybe he just felt like now was the time to speak. Or maybe Amrit was really persuasive. I don’t know.
But whatever the case, we head down to Brighton again. This time to Bobby’s friend’s house. A friend with a very sweet dog.
Bobby: He is the best dog in the world, the best dog in the world…
Alexi Mostrous: He’s so lovely.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: And these questions that I’ve had in my head for months: I finally get to ask them.
Alexi Mostrous: What’s your name?
Bobby: My name is Bobby.
Alexi Mostrous: How old are you?
Bobby: I’ve just turned 37.
Alexi Mostrous: Have you ever been a cardiologist?
Bobby: No, not at all.
Alexi Mostrous: Have you ever been in witness protection?
Bobby: Not that I can say on a podcast. No, I haven’t. I haven’t.
Alexi Mostrous: Have you ever been in a hospital for a long period of time?
Bobby: Not longer than a day.
Alexi Mostrous: Have you ever been in a relationship with Harkirat Assi?
Bobby: Absolutely not.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: I’m Alexi Mostrous. From Tortoise Media, you’re listening to Sweet Bobby.
Episode 3: Confession.
Kirat Assi: I was really excited. I was obviously watching his flight land and I was like, oh my god, look, look, look, look, he’s coming. He’s coming, kind of thing. It was like that. And I was really excited and he was like, I remember…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: It’s 2018, and Kirat is waiting for Bobby to arrive in London.
It’s nearly 8 years since he first approached her on Facebook and they became friends.
Kirat Assi: It was such a strange feeling to know that he was here in the UK.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Three years since Bobby told Kirat that he was in love with her and they started a long-distance relationship. This is the man Kirat wanted to marry – to start a family with.
Kirat Assi: My mind was racing as in like, how’s it going to feel? Oh my god, is it going to be awkward? All those questions. Am I going to be good enough?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Finally, he makes good on his promise and, a few days after Kirat’s birthday in February, he arrives.
For Kirat, this is huge.
It’s the moment when she thinks that her dreams might actually come true.
Instead, it’s where her nightmare really begins.
Because the excuses don’t stop.
Kirat Assi: So when he first came to London, he was staying at the Marriott in South Kensington, this is South Kensington.
Alexi Mostrous: Which is just opposite?
Kirat Assi: Yeah. Just opposite us now.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Bobby tells Kirat that he’s staying at an exclusive hotel in South Kensington but he still refuses to see her.
Alexi Mostrous: And at that point, why won’t he come down and see you?
Kirat Assi: He’s not ready to, he’s not ready to see me.
Alexi Mostrous: Why not?
Kirat Assi: Well for a long time, well, he mentally he wasn’t in the right headspace. And then later on, a couple of weeks later we find out, he wasn’t feeling well again, slowly.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Until this point in the story, most of what had happened to Kirat had happened online. Between New York and London, in voice notes, messages and phone calls.
But now the story shifts to somewhere more tangible.
Bobby and Kirat are in the same city, seemingly only a short car ride away from each other.
And Kirat feels like everything is finally in touching distance.
And yet like that Greek myth where a man is condemned to spend eternity right next to a tree whose delicious fruit he can almost touch, but not quite…
Kirat finds that however close Bobby gets he always – ultimately – slips through her fingers.
Like when she went to the Marriott hotel one time to see him.
Kirat Assi: So I’d asked for him at reception and they told me he wasn’t here and I felt sick because, you know, Bobby had lied to me so much in the past and I was beginning to question everything all over again. And I, instead of messaging him, I messaged Simran to say, I’m here at the Marriott, I’ve come to deliver a flower to him, a rose to him, to say, you know, it’s okay it’s just me… and they’re telling me he’s not here…..
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Kirat was in touch with Simran, her younger cousin, a lot at this point.
Simran was often the person that Kirat would turn to for advice about Bobby – or at least to tell her what was going on.
Kirat Assi: And he’s messaged me to say is that you downstairs? They’ve just called up to say that somebody’s downstairs asking for you. And he explained that he’d told them that he doesn’t want to be seen by anybody. If anyone asks for him nobody should know that he’s here.
Alexi Mostrous: And what was going through your head at that time? Did you think that he was upstairs and didn’t want to see you? Did you entertain the possibility that he might not have been here at all?
Kirat Assi: No I just, I was just upset that he wouldn’t see me, I wasn’t thinking that he wasn’t here.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Bobby seems overwhelmed by being back in the UK after so many years in witness protection. And then his grandmother becomes ill, meaning he has to spend some time with her.
But then, a more serious obstacle comes up.
Bobby says that a cancer he’s been battling has returned. He says that’s the real reason he can’t face seeing Kirat.
And Bobby’s friends and family, well… they’re saying the same thing.
They’re telling Kirat don’t push Bobby too far, don’t nag him, don’t be overbearing. Yes, he’s in the UK but give him space.
The pressure at this point feels like it’s coming at Kirat from all sides.
Even though she’d asked him not to, Bobby had told her family that he’s in the UK.
So, naturally, they expected Kirat to bring him home for a visit.
But he won’t see her, so she starts covering for Bobby. She tells her family that she has met him. That she’s looking after him.
And this pretence, it goes on for weeks.
Kirat Assi: I was like, you need to explain to my mum. I said, I’m covering your tracks everywhere. I’m lying for you. I’m covering up for you. You’re putting me in an awful position and you’re supposed to love me.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: I think this is one of the hardest bits of Kirat’s story for me to listen to. Bobby could do almost anything at this stage – think up any excuse – and he could still keep control.
So for a whole summer Bobby keeps Kirat on tenterhooks, keeps breaking promises, keeps lying to her.
And Kirat was forced to keep up the pretence – telling her mum that she’s going to see Bobby and instead sitting in her car alone for hours.
And all this gaslighting, it eventually begins to loosen her grip on reality.
Kirat Assi, voice note: I know you’re scared, baby, I love you.
Kirat Assi: Absolutely distraught and I was like, you explain, I don’t care what’s going to happen to me today because I don’t know how to face my family anymore. I wanted to go home and tell everybody everything and say how he was behaving but at the same time, I knew if I did that, just given my family and community, everyone would lay into me and I just had nothing left to show for myself. So I would rather have just not existed and I didn’t care what happened to me. And I just said to him, I’m just going to go walking. I dunno, I said, I’m going to leave my car here. I’ll lock it. I said, I’m probably going to drop my car keys down a drain somewhere and I said I was probably just going to go somewhere and go walking and not come back. I said, you can explain to my family what happened to me and why it happened.
Alexi Mostrous: What did you mean that you weren’t going to come back?
Kirat Assi: I don’t know. I just didn’t know, I didn’t know where my head was at. I wasn’t going to hurt myself but I was just going to wander around and don’t know, if something happened to me, if it did or didn’t, if I ended up somewhere, I don’t, I just don’t know where my head was at. I was so distraught. I just didn’t know how to keep going back home and keeping up this pretense and you know you don’t want to do anything to yourself, you love your family, but I just didn’t understand how I was such a horrible person. I’ve seen him through everything. Through strokes, a heart transplant, cancer, you know…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Kirat was becoming increasingly fragile.
When I think back to how Kirat was before she met Bobby, this happy vibrant person with so much going on for her. Reduced to this?
Kirat Assi, voice note: You’ve broken my heart. You’ve shattered my dreams. I thought you loved me. I love you, but I can’t do this. I can’t be pushed aside while you think… when I’m supposed to be a part of your life.
Kirat Assi: There were loads of excuses, mostly like I’m just getting this done today, I need this done today, I need to do hospital stuff, there was hospital stuff he wanted me to be at with him but then he’d go himself.
Alexi Mostrous: Can I ask you a question that I think might, you know a lot of listeners might want to ask as well which is, you know you’ve been waiting years to see this guy, fair enough he might want to go to hospital appointments on his own or get his house clean, but if he’s going to the dentist, like why doesn’t he meet you for a coffee outside the station before he goes in? Why doesn’t… it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense that he didn’t want to see you given your history?
Kirat Assi: He wasn’t saying that he didn’t want to see me. He was saying that he wasn’t ready to see me.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: On one level Kirat believed what Bobby was telling her: that his health was fragile. But on a deeper level she knew something was wrong.
Kirat Assi: So I think there was a particular phone call where it didn’t sound like he was here because here is quite noisy. And I just felt something was wrong. I’d emailed a private investigator so yeah, I didn’t want to know anything too much, all I wanted was his current address because my gut told me he wasn’t in Kensington.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Yeah. Kirat hired a private investigator. She’s at the point now where she needs to know the truth. But she doesn’t ask him for much, only for Bobby’s most recent address.
And the investigator comes back with something concrete. But it’s not in Kensington.
Bobby’s in Brighton. 80 miles away.
And Kirat doesn’t know what to do with this information. Bobby had to be hiding something – she knew that – but what?
Finally, on the 9th of June 2018, Kirat reached breaking point.
She had been getting ready to go to Birmingham with her mum but when she mentioned this to Bobby over the phone, he hung up. He wasn’t happy.
Kirat had been planning to go shopping but this argument had ruined that. So, not for the first time, she got into her car – just to go for a drive and clear her head.
But this time, it wasn’t aimless.
Kirat Assi: So I just thought, you know I was not in the mood to go to Westfield anymore, and I thought I’d go to, just go for a drive. Went up onto the motorway and as I was driving, I got to the M25, saw signs for Gatwick, and I thought, you know, screw it, I’ve got the address. Why don’t I just go to Brighton and just see him?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Kirat decides it’s time to confront him.
And when I heard this story for the first time: I was willing her on. Go to Brighton I was thinking. Be brave and just do it.
Because how much grief can one woman take? This deceit had been going on now for 8 years.
And the catfisher showed no signs of stopping.
If Kirat didn’t do something herself to drag out the truth, there’s no reason to believe that things just wouldn’t have kept going.
Kirat Assi: So I just thought I’m going to go, I’m going to show him that there’s nothing to be scared of. So I thought I’m just going to go, what’s he going to do? What’s the worst that’s going to happen…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: When we were making this podcast, I hired a car and made that same journey with Kirat sitting in the passenger seat.
From Hounslow, north west London, to Brighton.
It takes about two and a half hours, so we had plenty of time to talk through what happened on the same journey three years before.
Alexi Mostrous: And it must’ve been as well, a kind of sense that the, the present situation was intolerable. You couldn’t carry on as you, as you were doing?
Kirat Assi: Yeah. You just go, how can he be in the same place as me, just miles away from me and not wanting to see me after everything that we’ve been through?
So I was driving down and he kept on calling and he kept on calling and I could see the messages popping up on the screen as I was driving down. And I was like, when I get to a service station, I’ll call you. And this was the service station I pulled into.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: It’s called Pease Pottage – the name was weird enough that Kirat remembers it today. And it’s the last service station before you get to Brighton.
And it’s here that Kirat pulled in to catch her breath.
But she wasn’t alone. Bobby was still calling, calling, calling.
[Clip: phone buzzing]
Only this time, when she picked up, Kirat kept something back.
Alexi Mostrous: You didn’t tell him where you were?
Kirat Assi: No.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Up until this point, Kirat had just been following signs to Brighton.
But now she typed into her satnav the exact address she’d been given by the private investigator.
Alexi Mostrous: And, and so you were sitting in a, in a parking space, probably not too far away from where we are now. And did you have that moment, that fork in the road moment when you thought, okay, I can either carry on to Brighton or turn around and go back?
Kirat Assi: Actually, when I did, I remember when I drove out, I did wait at the roundabout. I did hesitate, and there was probably a sort of 10 seconds where I’d gone home, Brighton, home, Brighton, Brighton… let’s just go.
Alexi Mostrous: Big choice.
Kirat Assi: Yeah. But I needed to know. I did need to know.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: We’re now in June 2018.
And finally, in the space of a few days, this whole edifice of lies – the catfishing deceit – well, it all comes crashing down.
And it was all thanks to a split section decision of Kirat’s to turn left and not right at the roundabout out of Pease Pottage service station.
Not back to London, but to Brighton, and towards the truth.
[Clip: Alexi and Kirat in the car driving]
Alexi Mostrous: Are you okay?
Kirat Assi: Yeah.
[Clip: Sound of Kirat crying]
Alexi Mostrous: Yeah? I’m just going to pull in here.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: It was like a domino effect.
And the first domino falls, when Kirat pulls up outside Bobby’s front door.
Kirat Assi: It’s where it all came crashing down. I still didn’t think he wasn’t… didn’t ever think at this point that he wasn’t him.
Alexi Mostrous: Yeah.
Kirat Assi: But it was where everything came crashing down and the relationship ended.
Bobby: Okay. So Saturday evening, about seven o’clock…
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: This… is the real Bobby.
I’m sitting in his best friend’s front room, and he’s telling me about that day in Brighton.
It was a life changing day for both Kirat and Bobby. A day when the catfisher’s fantasy collided with reality.
And in fact, listening to this podcast will be the first time that Kirat and Bobby have heard each other’s version of that day.
Kirat Assi: It took me a while to get out of the car. I remember ringing the doorbell. I think it was a doorbell.
Bobby: I’m with my wife, my son, we’re upstairs and we’re trying to put him to sleep. There’s, uh, a ring of the doorbell…
Kirat Assi: Yeah. Nobody answered. I didn’t know if anybody was home.
Bobby: I go downstairs. Who could that be?
Kirat Assi: So I started walking away. I don’t think I gave them enough time to be honest. I was that nervous…
Bobby: Open the door, nobody there, I look beyond our driveway and a lady’s walking away from the house. She turns, we make eye contact and I see rage. I see a lot of aggression and she turns around and starts walking back towards me. And just starts really aggressively saying, how could you, how dare you? How dare you? Eight years, eight years. And I’m thinking, woah, lady – who are you? What do you want? I’ve never seen you in my life, please. And I’m thinking… this lady needs help. Who is she?
Kirat Assi: I was like, it’s me. And he was like, I don’t understand – you’ve got me confused for my brother.
Bobby: My brother and I are often confused for the same person. Maybe you think I’m my brother, J.
Kirat Assi: I was just confused. I was like, why are you being like this?
Bobby: And she’s like nope. This is who you are. She names our names. Okay. She’s definitely got the right people – really shell-shocked now we’re getting a little bit frightened.
Kirat Assi: Why are you being, what are you being like this for? And then out walked the ex-wife and then I was like, okay, he’s pretending, like, that’s why he’s like, not anything to me, not being, you know, he’s, he’s warning me off. Like it was, for me, it was like, he was warning me off, like go away because she’s here. Right. So that’s what I thought was happening. Cause he’s been living a double life.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: From Kirat’s perspective, it was horribly clear. Bobby had been lying to her about where he was and about who he was with.
He’d clearly got back together with his ex-wife, SC, and was trying to pretend he didn’t know who Kirat was.
She couldn’t have known, at this point, that Bobby had in fact never left his wife and had been happily married for years.
Bobby: I don’t know what’s going on at this time. My wife and son come to the doorstep and my wife was like Bobby, who is this lady? And I’m like, I was like, I don’t know who this person is. I’ve never seen her in my life. And thankfully my wife and I have this trusting relationship, she took my word for it. And we were like, okay, what, what is this? What is this, you know?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: In the confusion, Kirat gets her phone out to show Bobby that she has him saved.
Bobby: It’s got a picture that I look closely and it’s… it’s me. I’m looking at my own face on her phone. I can’t even deny it. I’m like, that’s me, but a phone number that’s not mine. And I was like, okay, so that’s not my phone number. She’s like, you liar…
Kirat Assi: So I gave him my number. I wasn’t scared of giving it to him cause he had it anyway, as far as I was concerned. And he rang my phone and it didn’t come up. His name didn’t come up. And I just said, you’ve had so many numbers. You’ve been lying. How do I know, like, this is, could be another number.
Bobby: At that point, I remember her phone ringing. And it was my face that came up on her phone. And I looked at her and I looked at her phone. I’m like, I’m not calling you. That’s not me. And she seemed very confused. She answered the phone. She spoke, I don’t know what was said. And at that point she put the phone down. I was like, I’m right here. I hope you now understand that’s not me.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: What Kirat thought, at this point, was aha, Bobby’s wife has gone back inside to call Kirat from a different phone. She is in on this whole scam too.
Bobby: And she then gets, uh, she’s… then she says, I’m going to call Simran. I’m like the only Simran I knew was somebody that had a relationship with my brother a long time before. So I was like, is that Simran Bhogal by any chance? Let me speak to her as well, please, because I need to figure out what’s going on. So she calls, she’s like, hi Simran, I’m here, he’s denying everything. I don’t know what to do. I’m not sure what’s going on. And I was like, Harkirat, can I speak to Simran, please? She gives me the phone. I’m like Simran, who is this person? What is she doing outside our house? She knows everything about me. Who is she? Simran says something like, um, she’s my cousin. She’s a bit confused. Let me figure out what’s going on. Please, could you hand her the phone back and I’ll try and figure it out?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Simran, who has been beside Kirat for so much of this turmoil – a bridge between her life with Bobby and the real world – Simran gets on the phone, and calms Bobby down.
And she also manages to placate Kirat.
Kirat Assi: And they were having a conversation like they knew each other. So there wasn’t any doubt about that. The fact that they had that conversation and that Simran was then saying to me, don’t worry, don’t worry, he loves you. Don’t worry. Don’t worry. And that it’s all his ex-wife who he was there with… Yeah, that kind of reinforced the fact that I was right. I’d caught him red-handed. Why would he speak to Simran otherwise?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Kirat – distraught, upset – sits down on the grass outside Bobby’s house. Bobby’s wife tries to calm her down but by this point, Kirat needs to leave.
So she gets back in her car and heads home, almost unable to see because she was crying so much.
Kirat Assi: Driving back I had Simran on the phone. I was just frantic all the way. I was crying, screaming, crying. And she was trying to keep me calm.
Alexi Mostrous: What was she saying?
Kirat Assi: She just kept telling me it’s not true, SC’s making him do this…
Alexi Mostrous: And what were you, what were you thinking in terms of the implications for your life?
Kirat Assi: At that point I wasn’t thinking the implications of, I wasn’t, I couldn’t think right. I was just in pain.
Alexi Mostrous: It must’ve felt almost like… a death.
Kirat Assi: Yeah. Well it was the death of a relationship, but it felt worse a couple of days later.
Alexi Mostrous: How so?
Kirat Assi: Cause none of these people were real.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: At this point, imagine, how would you feel? If your whole thirties were taken up by a friendship, which turned into a relationship.
And after years of difficulties – when it all seemed finally to be working out – you catch your partner in a huge lie. And an entire decade of your life now seems to have been for nothing.
Bobby: And she walks off and we’re like, okay, we shut the door, all the latches back on, we go inside, straight away we start to call the police.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: When Kirat was leaving Bobby’s the last thing she heard him say was that he was going to go to the police. So what I actually think now is that it was an understandable response.
Bobby knew nothing about the deceit. He’d never seen Kirat before.
All he and his wife knew was that some strange woman had turned up and shouted at them.
A woman who knew all of their personal details: their names, their son’s name. They didn’t know if she was dangerous or not. How could they?
And it turns out, Kirat had similar concerns.
While Bobby called up the police in Brighton, Kirat went to her local station in Hounslow.
And she took Simran, her cousin, with her.
Simran had heard a lot of what had unfolded in Brighton on the phone – so she could act as a witness. They filed a report, and then they went back to Kirat’s.
Kirat’s mum was there. Simran reassured them that Bobby really did love Kirat. She said she thought it must be his wife blackmailing him.
But despite this, when Kirat went to bed that night, she knew her world had changed.
But there was one more domino yet to fall.
And it finally came crashing down a day later, on June 11th 2018.
Kirat Assi: Simran was supposed to come and work from here on the Monday morning. But she took ages so I was a bit frustrated cause that wasn’t like her. And, um, I was pacing up and down my room, just messaging people, and the car eventually pulled up. She didn’t get out immediately and I could see her and her brother arguing in the car. There were hand gestures going on between them. So I wasn’t sure what was going on. It didn’t feel normal. And I, from here, I just, uh, I had my phone in my hand still and I went straight downstairs to open the door.
Sorry, this is tough.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Simran had offered to come round and work from home with Kirat, to keep her company as she processed the horrendous events of the weekend.
So Kirat was expecting her to arrive early, with all her work stuff. But when she showed up around 11, Simran was in tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt.
Kirat Assi: Well, that’s not like her, where’s her work bag and whatever else. That morning before she’d come, she’d been talking to me… I’d felt really sorry for her, for how smart she was, for her to have been taken in by all of this as well. And I was like, you know, I’m so sorry that you’ve been, you’ve been had as well.
And she was like, no, I haven’t been truthful, honest with you. You know, when I went to see him in New York, I didn’t see him. He asked me to say that to you, so you wouldn’t worry. So obviously I was angry at her. I was like, why did you do that?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: The day before, at the police station, Simran had told the police that she had seen Bobby in New York. And now that wasn’t true?
Simran was one of the only people in the real world who had seen Bobby in the flesh.
In 2017, she’d gone to New York on a work trip and visited him in hospital. Or at least, that’s what she told Kirat.
If she wasn’t telling the truth about that – what did that mean?
Kirat Assi: And she was stood in the doorway and I said, you’re not going to come in? And she said, I don’t think I should come in.
And um, she said, I need to tell you something. And I was like, what? You know, I’m just really annoyed about what you told me. Why would you lie to me? And she said, no, I need to tell you something.
It was all me.
And I didn’t understand. Absolutely didn’t understand what she meant by that. I was like, what do you mean “it was all me”?
And she said I was, I was Bobby. Bobby’s me.
And I still didn’t grasp what she was saying. I was like, who’s telling you to say this, have they threatened you as well? So why are you saying this to me? And she said, no, it was all me. I wasn’t quite grasping it. And I could see that her brother was still in the car outside. And she said, I had to tell my mum and dad this morning, they know everything – they don’t know everything – but they know. And that’s why I’m late.
And again, my head wasn’t registering it quite… And I was saying to her, I was calling her all the different names. And I said, well, what about this person, this person, and this person and this person, and she said it was all me. And at that point, I think, I think at that point I fell back. I kind of collapsed.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: I’ve stood in Kirat’s hallway and tried to picture this scene.
The initial foreboding that something was wrong.
Kirat opening the door, and seeing Simran, and then hearing the words come out of her mouth: it was all me.
Kirat Assi: And all I could do was call my best friend and I was like just come over now, now. Screaming down the phone to her just like, come over. I need you to come over now.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Harvy, Kirat’s best friend, raced over. They live just down the street from each other.
Harvy: And I get there and she was like, it’s not real. Like the front door was open so I just ran in. And I was just trying to pick her up off the floor, but she was inconsolable. There was a girl there. I didn’t know who she was. And yeah, like a really impassive face.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: If you can picture it, Kirat was slumped against the wall, with Harvy now by her side.
Simran was sitting on the stairs – facing towards the door.
Harvy: And she was just saying, tell her what you told me.
Kirat Assi: And she just like came to me on the floor and she just put her arms around me. And I was trying to explain to her that Bobby is Simran.
And I couldn’t, I just couldn’t understand it. I just couldn’t. And I kept screaming at her like, why, why did you do this? Why, why would you 10 years of my life, you’ve stolen 10 years of my life. Why didn’t you stop? You know, how could you be so sick? You had every chance to stop – you had a million and one chances to stop.
I tried to end the relationship so many times, you could have just stopped. I would have never have known the better, any better. You could have stopped, but you chose not to – why – it was just like constantly, why? What did I ever do to you? What did I do to deserve this? Have I done anything to you? It was just…
Her brother went back to the car and she came in and sat down on the second step of our staircase.
She was facing not the front door, so she’d fit. And you know, she’s facing sideways towards me.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: In all the chaos of that morning, one of things that stands out for Harvy, for Kirat – and for me -– is the way Simran seems to have behaved.
No sign of empathy. Or regret. According to both Kirat and Harvy, her delivery just seemed to be flat… a statement of facts with no real explanation.
Alexi Mostrous: And when she confessed, did, did she apologise at all? Or was it…
Kirat Assi: No, there was never a sorry. Sorry didn’t move… it didn’t come out of her mouth once.
Alexi Mostrous: She never said sorry?
Kirat Assi: No. It was, it was… that’s what’s so poignant. There wasn’t a sorry. And it was: I’ve ruined my own life.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: Simran appeared to be more concerned about what this confession meant for her, rather than for Kirat.
Kirat Assi: And then while I was on that, on the floor in the state I was in, I just suddenly had this whole horror moment of… who have I been sleeping with on the phone for the last three years? And she said, me and when she said that, that’s when I really started vomiting and passed out.
Alexi Mostrous: Do you, do you remember, like, in your, in your mind how, whether that was stages in, in your mind’s reaction to this information? So was the first stage, Simran is telling me that she’s Bobby and was there then a gap and then a kind of realisation that she’s, that means that she must have been all these characters?
Kirat Assi: I don’t think it was processing the information at all, to be honest. It was just that she kept saying it was all me and it was understanding what “all” meant. If you’re Bobby, then who was that person, you know, if Bobby was you, then those people couldn’t be them, but they’re real people? It was really difficult to understand, knowing I’d met the real Bobby. Knowing that I knew his family. How could you be the real Bobby?
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: On the face of it, Simran’s confession is the last domino of this terrible story. The truth was out.
The person behind the deceit – from that first message from Bobby – was a young woman called Simran Bhogal.
It was the last person Kirat would have expected. The last person I expected.
Because Simran doesn’t fit the profile of a typical catfisher like you might be imagining. She isn’t an older man trying to act out a fantasy.
She’s young – a young woman – a relative. And she was a golden girl, a head girl at her school who now works in the city as a high powered executive.
It was a profile that surprised all the experts we spoke to.
Still, we do have her identity.
And now you do too. And that means you’re pretty much in the same place I was when I finished reading Kirat’s witness statement.
So in one way, Kirat’s story ends here – in 2018. Perpetrator unmasked. Job done.
But actually, I think there’s a lot more to do.
Because even though Simran confessed to the catfish, Kirat is still fighting for justice today.
The British police have – so far – refused to investigate.
Simran is still in her high powered job. And from the outside, her life barely seems to have changed.
And thanks to her aggressive lawyers – and I’ll get into this more later – almost no-one in Kirat’s community is allowed to know the whole truth.
The situation feels unfinished, unsatisfactory.
So I’m going to try and do something a bit different.
I’m going to shift from telling you a historical story to carrying out a live investigation.
An investigation that tries to ask “why” rather than just who.
Why did Simran do what she did?
And why has Kirat – along with countless others who feel they have been victims of online harm – struggled so hard to get justice?
I don’t know what the investigation will throw up – or how this story will end – but I think it all starts with getting hold of Simran herself.
Alexi Mostrous: Okay. Here we go.
Simran Bhogal: Hi, Simran speaking.
Alexi Mostrous: Hey, is that Simran Bhogal?
Simran Bhogal: Hi, Simran speaking.
Alexi Mostrous: Hey, sorry. I think, I think we’re getting cut off a bit. Is that Simran Bhogal?
Simran Bhogal: It is yes.
Alexi Mostrous, narrating: While making the series, Simran’s lawyers gave us this statement on her behalf:
“This matter concerns a family dispute over events that began over a decade ago, when I was a schoolgirl. As far as I am concerned, this is a private family matter that has been resolved, and I strongly object to the numerous unfounded and seriously defamatory accusations that have been made about me, as well as details of private matters that have been shared with the media.”
Thanks for listening to this episode.
Sweet Bobby was written and reported by me, Alexi Mostrous, produced by Gary Marshall, with additional reporting and production by Claudia Williams. Sound design is by Karla Patella. The executive producer is Basia Cummings.