Monday, February 9, 2015

Sleeping At Heathrow, Her Handbag, & His PR Stunt

What a palaver eh? So much information and mis-information it's hard to get a grip on the truth. Having been following the discussions avidly (and joining in as much as the Daily Mail will allow me *ahem*) I've decided to analyze the plot as it thickens by the minute. My theory is that the Media Networking Consultant, Alan Lane, orchestrated the whole thing as a huge self-promoting PR campaign for his business.

1. In 2002 a middle class couple, Alan Lane and Katrina Smith, with a good income buys a house in Poole, Dorset for for £265,000 with a mortgage of £170,000. He was then around age 59 with his own consultancy business and she was 50. It was 2002 remember - there was no reason to believe that the economy was about to collapse.

2. In 2004 his work dried up and they were struggling to pay the mortgage. They sold the house for £397,000 and came away with equity of £200,000 - Good move. So they bought a flat for £295,000 with a £95,000 mortgage. He was 61 with little work and she had no income. Bad move. Seriously, there were no decent flats for £200,000 in Dorset?

3. In 2006 they needed to downsize again and, in a panic, they sold the flat before the bank foreclosed. Good move - they released £190,000 in equity. And they rented for between £850 and £900 per month for the next 7 years. Bad move - a quick division sum of £190,000 by monthly expenses would make it clear that this money could not last more than about 7 years and then they'd have nothing. On the other hand buying a flat for £150,000 (not necessarily in Poole or even in Dorset) and living modestly would have given them security for life.

4. In 2013 they moved to Canada with the offer of a good job for him. He was 69 and she was 60. The move probably wiped out any money they had left. The job only lasted 6 months. They returned to the UK with nothing in June 2013. The story goes that they lived with friends for a while and then moved into the airport. One report says they've been in the airport for 5 weeks so that was a lot of living with friends - over a year's worth in fact.

5. They pay £300 a month to keep their stuff in storage and £400 a month to stay 2 nights a week in a local B&B. A quick look on Zoopla shows 56 properties for rent for under £500 pcm in Dorset. And other counties are probably cheaper. He gets about £800 per month in pensions and her state pension will kick in this year (if she is 63 before 30th September). Before that she's entitled to £280 a month in jobs seeker's allowance but can't claim it because they've no address and she can't get to the job centre from Heathrow every week. Hmmm, these are solvable problems much less drastic than living in the airport methinks.

6. They have a bank loan to pay off which is costing them £485 a month. Last year he earned an extra £7,000 from his consultancy business but no guarantee that he will do the same again this year. She has been offered work as a residential carer but won't leave him. For goodness sake, it's not like going into service with only Boxing Day and Mothering Sunday in which to go home and visit. Take one of those jobs for a year, come home every weekend, and pay off the loan while he lives in the rented place with his £800 pensions.

7. Here's where the thick plottens. They stay in a B&B near the airport for two nights a week where, unusually, they have use of a washing machine. By amazing coincidence there is a B&B close to the airport which is owned by an older couple called Alan and Katrina - same names! On the forums people have claimed to have seen their photos on travel websites and confirmed that it was them, before the photo was removed. Others have allegedly called late at night and they've picked up the phone giving their surnames - Lane and Smith - same as the airport couple. Someone said the B&B is registered to a Mr Alan Legge. (In the DM he has been called Alan Lane, Legge, Page and Parks so even they aren't sure, LOL.) You can't trust everything you read in a forum but how difficult is it for someone to go down there and check? Eh Daily Mail?

8. A very kind lady felt sorry for them and set up a Go Fund Me collection to raise £2,000 for the deposit and first month's rent on a flat - this apparently has been the problem. Although with all their affluent friends, connections (he's a media network consultant), and two daughters in Canada, I find it hard to believe that no one could have lent them this small amount to get a roof over their heads.

9. It was announced that the couple were to appear on Loose Women, ITV, today. On the Loose Women fb page people strongly expressed their suspicions. The announcement was removed and there is no further mention of this tv appearance.

10. The Go Fund Me fund reached £9,270 and the lady who set it up was urged to stop further donations. She was very upset by it all but she did stop the campaign while explaining that the DM had assured her they had checked out the story and it was legitimate. Another comment said that Go Fund Me are investigating the whole affair after complaints have been received. Who knows?

11. The Daily Mail finally related to all the accusations, after ignoring this part of the story way after it had become 'breaking news', by saying the couple are devastated by these false accusations. Meanwhile the story has gone global.

12. And here is where it all becomes personal. One comment on the DM article said that Katrina's handbag was Louis Vuitton. On the Go Fund Me site another comment referred to her designer handbag. The thing is, I have that very same shoulder bag (albeit in taupe instead of black) which I bought for £8.50 in Primark last April. You can see Katrina's bag here (bottom picture). And here is mine:


So there you have it. Loads of people weighing in with all sorts of facts that have not been verified. A couple who seemingly wanted someone to save them because they cannot bear to live in something less than they have been accustomed to - even though they cannot afford it.

My own theory at this point is that they may or may not run a successful B&B but the husband, who runs a media networking consultancy, has just made the biggest successful ad campaign for his services. The story is global. He's won.



43 comments:

  1. So if you Google Alan Lane you can find his LinkedIN page that links to a few business ventures of his. Including the one where he started a new company in 2012, Infinite Latitude

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    1. And as others have pointed out - he renewed his domain licenses recently which is not cheap to do.

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  2. He might have 'won' - but he looks like either a liar or an idiot or both - not someone i would hire

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    1. Maybe it was to win a bet. Maybe his final hurrah before he retires. Who know? The DM have now dropped the story so it's all over and we'll probably never know.

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  3. ..agree with most of your conclusions. I'm no expert on designer / ladies handbags but I guess commenters @DM took a quick peek at the photo in that article of Julie and Christopher Nairn who live in the New Forest and mistook the couple for Ms. Katrina Smirth and Mr. Alan Lane. Mrs. Naim is pictured with what seems a Louis Vuitton handbag (to me). I could be mistaken though. Regards, Anthony.

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    1. Ah, yes I think your're right about the bag. I didn't spot the other lady's bag.

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  4. http://www.newstatesman.com/martin-robbins/2015/02/story-middle-class-heathrow-homeless-couple-too-good-be-true

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    1. Yes I saw this - after I wrote mine of course. His analysis is so much better. Oh well, back to being a teacher. ;)

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  5. The story may be global but it's all #News to me. Have bookmarked this to read after the school run #Intrigued xxx

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    1. Oooh I've been bookmarked, I must inform Sally at TOTS100 - maybe it'll get me a few points. LOL. Thanks Liska. :)

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    2. It's taken me a few days but I have JUST come back to read it and have linked from a post I just wrote. But now that I HAVE read it, I should include a paragraph in my post but I am starving marvin. This story IS fascinating though and it'd passed me by until you wrote about it xx

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    3. Thanks for the link. I am honoured to be part of your news round up post. xx

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  6. Re: The Louis Vuitton bag comments. I think these comments were made about the follow up article about them being offered help from well wishers:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2943749/They-stay-Middle-class-homeless-couple-forced-sleep-Heathrow-losing-home-overwhelmed-generosity-strangers-offering-spare-rooms.html#comments

    One of the pictures is of a couple who offered to take them in, where the wife is holding a Louis Vuitton bag. So the comments were wrong but for a different reason.

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    1. Yes someone pointed that out above and I agree. I hadn't noticed the other woman's bag when I wrote this. Thanks.

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  7. I've been following this saga all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. It really is fascinating this new culture of cyber begging for everything. I was taught to work for everything one needed, whether it was one job, or three. What a shame if all these people who donated really were scammed, many with much less money that these two. Regardless, I hope you'll keep us updated if you hear more news. Great blog post!

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    1. I think the Go Fund Me site is an amazing tool for people to set up funds for real tragedies that need a quick financial solutions - like medical costs or equipment for a disabled person. Also for helping out someone who's had genuine bad luck - a house fire, a robbery, etc... The Heathrow couple don't really qualify though, I agree.

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  8. Maybe they "stand in" at the B&B for the owners a couple of nights a week, giving the owners time off and giving themselves (possibly) free lodging, the chance to do their laundry, have a good old bath and clean up. This ignores the fact the article says they pay £400 a month for B&B but may explain those who say that it is THIS Alan and Katrina who were their hosts at Heathrow Cottage. As you pointed out, there are so many things that do not add up here. The original Daily Mail article described her earrings as "faux pearl" (pretend/fake pearl). Seems like they have lived beyond their means pretending/faking to be something they are not, and this story follows the same route. Full of fakery and pretence. (What a shame they can't live on their current income of £1,600 a month!)

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    1. Maybe - but why not say so. They have denied that they own the B&B. If there was a simple explanation it would behoove them to tell us what it is. As they haven't I can only conclude that this isn't the case.

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    2. According to Eve on the comments page of the DM, one of DM's journalists visited the B&B to ascertain whether the Alan and Katrina were the same people as those in the photo. Apparently they weren't. I'm not sure whether to believe this or not.

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    3. According to Eve from the DM page of comments, a journalist from the DM visited the B&B to ascertain whether the Alain and Katrina who worked there were the same homeless people as seen in the DM's photos. Apparently they did not resemble them. I don't know whether to believe this story or not.

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    4. I'd expect to see a photo of the other Alan and Katrina with a short interview. They've got loads of free publicity from this story if it's the case. I'm keeping an open mind but veering toward sceptical on this.

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  9. You're probably right Midlife Singlemum (Good name! It perfectly describes me too.) The real B&B owners have kept jolly quiet as well. I live very close to Poole and as you say, there are plenty of cheaper properties to rent/buy down here. Unfortunately there is also a lot of "having to keep up with the neighbours" in the areas where they lived, and in nearby Sandbanks etc. I totally agree with your point 6. Sometimes, regardless of age, class, sex or upbringing we have to do things/take jobs we do not want because the situation necessitates a temporary solution (I am case in point!). The job won't last for ever but will help you get out of a problem. We shall have to wait and see where the story leads.

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    1. I'm hope they do a follow up and not let it quietly disappear.

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  10. According to the Daily Mail comments, the author of their article visited Heathrow Cottages and interviewed the owners who although called Alan and Katrina did not resemble the people in the photos. This is the comment:

    "Eve101, London, United Kingdom, 33 minutes ago
    Correct. They do run the B&B. but they are not called LANE and SMITH never were so clearly nothing to do with this story. Again if Lucy Osborne did her job properly she would have reported it that she visited the B&B spoke to Katrina who,looks nothing like Katrina Smith and is more than 20 years younger. Not a story than, is it?"


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    1. See my comment above. Where are these innocents who have gained so much publicity and would presumable want people to now they are not the same couple? Why didn't the DM report this in their article? How does the commenter know? Too much missing information imo.

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  11. It all seemed a bit odd to me too, although I didn't analyse it very much, just an instinct that something was 'off' with this story.

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    1. One problem is that DM never tell the full story about anything. Whatever I read there, I'm always left with questions, and obvious questions at that.

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  12. I have heard nothing about this story but really enjoyed reading your synopsis. Sounds like a series of really bad mistakes for business people to make, then again business people do, and have, made seriously bad mistakes, all the time. Hard to feel sorry for them..... and there's ALWAYS a back story to the stories printed in newspapers. Always.

    I feel bad reading the stories in Ireland about families living in their cars as they have been made homeless due to rising rents and lack of rental properties. When the first story broke I just couldn't join in with the 'how awful this is' because I felt there had to be a back story that no-one was revealing. I was proved right. (why on earth would you choose to force your 3 children to live in your car when you have family members to turn to???)

    it must be true what they say.... never believe what you read in the newspapers. Well, not completely anyway! xx

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    1. A friend of mine who is a social worker onece told me about having to find accommodation for a 22yo who had nowhere to sleep. She said, can you imagine being 22 and not having one friend or relative you could ask if you could sleep on their sofa for a few nights? I couldn't imagine it but there are some genuine people like this.

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  13. This is a very strange story indeed!!
    Very suspicious too. Why don't the Daily Mail prove their story? Or admit they've been had?

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    1. Yes, I'm also waiting for the follow up. I want to see this other Alan and Katrina who supposedly run the Heathrow Cottages B&B. I want to hear from the B&B they actually stay in about how they let them use the washing machine as they are such regular customers. I want to hear character references from their erstwhile friends who between them couldn't lend a few hundred pounds for a rental deposit. So much not said.

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  14. Brilliant spelling out and deduction! You've missed your calling ;) Will keep an eye out for the follow up stuff now :)

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    1. LOL, yes I should have been a professional nosey-parker.

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  15. It seems really suspicious to me that the TV appearance was pulled and that the DM has not done a follow up story on the couple - the gofundme page has gone - none of their friends or family have come forward to vouch for them and they seem to have vanished off the face of the earth - if it was me i would be doing all i could to prove my innocents.

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  16. So the go fund me has closed. Did they receive the donations? If so they should release a statement to say thank you.

    I have seen the eve101 comments on DM and i have also seen comments on a mumsnet that are by a eve. This time saying she is a close friend of the b&b owners.

    I think they are the same eve and i dont think they are being honest.

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    1. There has to be a follow up at some point. Maybe there is a criminal investigation going on so they can't write about it yet. It will come one day - has to. As soon as either of them try to do anything in the UK, move on in any way, they will be recognised and it'll all be in the papers again.

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  17. There was a new question on the trip advisor site

    “If someone smokes in their room and it results in your B&B burning to the ground. Do you have any provision for that? Would it feel like being homeless? Would you go and live at Heathrow and sell a story to the Daily Mail about it? Would that be a good idea for you? What would you do if that happens to you, will you be entirely happy about it and how would you fare. Does it seem entirely unlikely to happen to you? Nice work Katrina and Alan, very smug of you doing what you want and thinking nobody knows the difference, until someone else comes along that will not tolerate you and your ideas and what you are about.”

    does this person know more?!

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    1. Interesting. I hope they are indeed the same A & K or they'll be pretty upset. On the other hand, if they are not it's about time they came forward and showed everyone how they are completely different people. Not going to happen methinks.

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  18. Any updates? I want to know why loose women cancelled their appearance

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    1. No updates. The story has disappeared for now. There will be a followup one day but it may not be for months or years even. Eventually one of them will do something, be recognised, and it will be in the news again. Be patient. ;)

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  19. Reading this again I see I forgot to mention that the DM photographer who pohotgraphed them looking forlorn in Heathrow is also creditted for the photo of them at a party presumably over a year ago when they first became homeless. Fishy eh?

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