"All the feelings of love died. Then the abuse started."
Australian woman Lara Hall, aged 30, was the victim of an online groomer who imprisoned her and raped her repeatedly over several months.
Ms Hall was lured to Pakistan by a man called Sajjad, who promised her a lavish life in a Spanish-style villa in Lahore.
She has spoken about her ordeal in Pakistan as well as the Australian government’s poor response to her pleas for help.
Her horrific ordeal began from a chance meeting in 2013 when the lawyer befriended a Pakistani woman on a train called Rhianna.
Ms Hall offered to teach her English and over time they became good friends and was even welcomed into the woman’s family.
Lara said: “I didn’t come from a functional family, so it was everything I was craving.”
One evening during a Skype call to Rhianna’s family, she was introduced to Sajjad, a relative who claimed to also be a lawyer.
They followed each other on Facebook and struck up a friendship which went on for a few years.
Sajjad always appeared interested in her life and was eager to make her happy. The friendship came at a difficult time for Lara, whose mental health battles and childhood troubles resulted in a breakdown. Sajjad’s messages helped her through.
Ms Hall said: “Sajjad came into my life at just the right time when I was completely vulnerable.
“He promised a grand, amazing and happy life if I would ever consider him.
“He said he had five houses and showed a purchase contract for a Spanish house he said we could live in and that I could decorate however I wanted, he even sent me pictures of the house.
“I remember asking him if he would ever lie to me and he said ‘no’, he was very attractive and seductive.
“I was seduced by the promise of this amazing life with him. He would always say ‘I’ll fill all your blank spaces’.
“And I’d known his family here for a long time.”
Sajjad got in contact with Lara’s twin sister Amy to convince her that he was legitimate. Amy was happy that Lara had found someone so loving.
Amy said: “He was very compassionate, empathetic, always there to listen, issuing grandiose promises, like a friend, a very trustworthy person.”
In early 2018, Sajjad invited to Lara to his brother’s wedding in Pakistan and on April 23, 2018, she flew to Lahore.
When she arrived, Lara was not met with the grand home she was expecting. Instead, twenty people were crammed into five bedrooms and the house was covered in litter.
“The house was certainly not like anything in the pictures, I was taken back when I arrived.
“There were twenty people living in five bedrooms. He said they were just there for the wedding. It was filthy.”
Over the next few weeks, Sajjad admitted that he made up the Spanish villa and was not the man he claimed to be.
Lara said: “All the feelings of love died. Then the abuse started.
“Sajjad raped me and his brother attempted to rape me on multiple occasions. I was a kept woman. I was denied feminine hygiene products and had to bleed freely, I was starved over long periods of time, on one occasion up to 14 hours.”
Ms Hall was also beaten. In one incident, she had a bit of shampoo still in her hair after showering and Sajjad grabbed her and slammed her head into the basin.
Lara continuously refused Sajjad’s marriage proposals which enraged him further.
“I was once made to lay naked in the bed with my legs open.
“One time I was ill he thought it was ‘hilarious’ – as I was vomiting – to come up and try to rape me while I was hurling.”
“I had come all the way to Pakistan to be a prisoner.”
In a bid to escape, Lara contacted the Australian consulate and High Commission but was disappointed by their “lacklustre” attitude. She was told to seek safety.
Lara was scared to go to the police as her visa had expired and would risk being arrested. So Ms Hall planned her own escape.
She reached out to Dr Kaiser Rafiq, chief executive of the elite AFOHS club, a prestigious members-only club for armed forces officers, diplomats and prominent business personalities.
One night, Ms Hall locked herself in a bedroom and contacted the police. When they arrived, Sajjad begged her to tell them she was fine but Dr Rafiq got on the phone and she was taken to the local police station.
She was put into the care of Dr Rafiq and stayed at the AFOHS club for two weeks.
Dr Rafiq offered to help as he did not want Ms Hall leaving with a bad image of Pakistan’s people.
He said: “I find her extremely genius and positive person.
“But I was disappointed and somewhat angry at her for coming to a totally strange country and strange people whom she met only through internet.”
Lara later moved to stay with a friend named Rafi. Both travelled to Islamabad to the Ministry of Interior.
She was threatened with prison for overstaying her visa, but she escaped with a fine and was told to leave the country.
Lara tried again to get help from the Australian embassy as she had no money but was met again with lacklustre replies.
Ms Hall set up a GoFundMe account as she had nowhere else to turn. Wilson Chowdry, head of the British Pakistani Christian Association answered her pleas.
The organisation paid her fines and organised a safe passage out of the country and back home to Australia. He also criticised the Australian government for their poor response.
Lara said Mr Chowdry was the man who got her home.
“I’m not a Christian, I’m an agnostic. But Wilson helped me get out of the country. He was a big part in me getting out.”
Lara was glad to have survived such a horrific experience but is troubled by the Australian government’s inaction.
“Why did the Government let me down? I’m speaking out because no other Australian should be left behind.”