Tue Apr 24, 2018 London
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EDITORIAL

Editorial comment from Matthew SteeplesOur editor tells it like it is and he rarely minces his words

The wrong Lane?

Matthew Steeples asks: “Is the story of the ‘middle class Heathrow homeless couple’ all that it seems?”

 

Yesterday, after the Mail Online featured a middle-class couple “forced” to sleep at Heathrow Airport, over 470 people donated to a fund to help find them a home. Though this plainly shocked many, a simple Google search revealed there to be more to this story and that of other Heathrow rough sleepers than initially meets the eye.

 

Alan Lane and Katrina Smith
Alan Lane and Katrina Smith pictured at a drinks party and with their luggage at Heathrow Airport (Both photographs taken by Murray Sanders)

 

Tugging on the heartstrings of the public, twice divorced Alan Lane, 71, and his partner of twenty-eight years, Katrina Smith, 62, were described by the Mail as “trapped in [a] half-life… because of an anomaly”. The paper added that the couple had made “a series of bad decisions” and been victims of “some even worse luck”; they “live hand-to-mouth, eking out their days in limbo” and “live in hope of a drastic change of circumstances”. The article concluded with a link to a gofundme fundraising page titled “Katrina and Alan’s home fund”. The page, it was revealed, was set up by a lady who claims to have “never heard of the couple” named Natalie Longford. She sought to raise a sum of £2,000 to “turn their life around”.

 

As of 9.15am today, £9,065 had been raised for the couple by generous donors but strikingly of the 164 comments left by the public, the majority ask why this middle-class pair have attracted so much support. The fact that Lane and Smith admit to earning £1,400 per month – which equates to the average income of a taxi driver or undertaker – yet claim to be unable to find a home grates for some, but that they spend £300 per month storing items that they themselves point out have “little monetary value” is ridiculous. The duo also admit to turning down offers of financial support and accommodation for fear of being separated.

 

Lane and Smith “lost” their £500,000 home in 2006 and in doing so released £190,000 in equity. In the years since, they have managed to burn through their savings and claim to have struggled to find work. Bizarrely, however, Mr Lane remains listed on the website of First Principles Communications and is described there as the firm’s “International Communications Counsel”. His biography attests to his having worked for the BBC, Sky News and “top PR agencies” Hill & Knowlton, Weber Shandwick, Grayling, Fleishman-Hillard, Burson-Marsteller, Grey and Ruder Finn. He is plainly a media savvy individual and we do question how his story attracted such great attention at a time when people are being killed on the streets of Donetsk.

 

Alan Lane and Katrina Smith have been able to afford to stay in a B&B near Heathrow for several nights per week since becoming homeless. Several comments on the gofundme fundraising page point out that a couple sharing Lane and Smith’s Christian names is mentioned several times as being the “hosts” on TripAdvisor reviews of a guesthouse named Heathrow Cottages in Middlesex. We have been unable to confirm whether this is in fact them but when The Steeple Times called the guesthouse the phone was put down by a woman named Katrina Smith.

 

Heathrow’s “hidden homeless” problem was highlighted earlier this month when data published by the Greater London Authority revealed that they had recorded 103 rough sleepers at the airport between October and December 2014, compared with just 54 a year previously. Echoing the plight of the stateless eastern European tourist in Stephen Spielberg’s film The Terminal, this plainly is a growing issue. The case of Alan Lane and Katrina Smith, however, may prove to be quite something else.

 

 

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Comments

47 comments on “The wrong Lane?”

    1. Why are you picking on this innocent couple? They are good people who need all of our support. Shame on you and on all the other horrid comment makers.

      1. What makes you think they are innocent? Why do you think they are more worthy of our concern than other homeless people? Is it just because they are clearly middle class and well dressed? The financial decisions they have made and are making, if their story is to be believed, are ridiculous. She could be claiming JSA for a start. And apparently there have been offers of work and accommodation but they would have to separate for a while. Well, boo hoo at least then they wouldn’t have to be relying on gullible idiots giving them money instead of to worthy causes. I’ll bet if they were working class and jobless you wouldn’t be so sympathetic.

    1. COMMENT RECEIVED ON EMAIL: “Just thought you may be interested, ********************* lived opposite Alan and katrina in lilliput, they spent lived a life of extreme luxury and indulgence on the famous millionaire strip, have been posting to the go fund site to advise people of this so they can get their money back but the site refuses to post them up, I suggest the site stands to lose their share of the money if Alan and katrinas *************** version of events are widespread and folk stop donating.

  1. How dare you victimise this poor couple. I am appalled that you do not support the Find Madeleine campaign and dear Gerry and Kate’s efforts to find their dearly beloved daughter Madeleine McCann but now you attack two hard working elderly people. They need all our support and I for one will be making a donation.

    1. Good for you if you have money to spare I do however wonder what this story has to do with support for gerry and kate McCann. Also this couples income is £1400 per month which is much more than most people earn, and we do wonder how they cant manage. I am a hard working person of 61 and my husband does 50+ hours a week and do not earn what this couple does. I also live in the area they had a house so I know what things cost, so forgive me if i dont support them by donating
      .

  2. The Steeple Times should get their facts right – if they had called the guesthouse as they claim the phone would not have been answered by Katrina Smith. Typical lazy middle classed never-done-an-honest-day-of-work scrounger the same as the people in the article. Shall not call such a person journalist as not to bad name honest hard working journalist.

      1. May be you should call again and try to get your facts right – just saying. You are a liar Matthew and a lazy one on top of that !!! As I have said already nothing to do with journalism just plain arrogance, laziness and self-importance.

      2. Clearly Matthew doesn’t like the truth since my reply has not been published. Let’s see, shall we? A journalist and I would use that word very loosely should be the last one to assume and join in with speculative public surely?!
        The bottom line is that the phone at the guesthouse was never answered by anyone called Katrina Smith. Matthew made that up.

        1. All of your comments, as nonsensical as they are, have been published.

          You can repeat yourselves as much as you want. When our team called the guesthouse, they asked for both Alan Lane and Katrina Smith. Nobody denied such people being there and a woman named Katrina put the phone down when questioned.

          Please stop repeating your gibberish. Thank you.

          1. So,now you claim it was actually a women called Katrina and not Katrina Smith as you originally stated. Why don’t you read the Newsstatesman article by Martin Robbins since they seem to do proper job unlike ‘your’ team.
            Also check the TripAdviser Q&A as someone mentions Carlton Kirby from Eurosport as a past guest of the B&B. Another journalist.
            Hard to admit you are wrong and making things up

          2. Do you work for Alan and Katrina? You are now barred from commenting as you simply repeat the same drivel. You are actually worse than Gillian Trott and that is saying something.

  3. Gillian Trott, how can raising questions about Mr Lane being listed as a principal of Vasgama Asset & Reputation Management and whose address is a very posh flat in Poole when he is supposedly homeless, be considered “victimising” them? A fool and her money are soon parted…

  4. I am an immigrant in the UK where I came 10 years ago, but never asked benefits or any financial help from any institution. I bought a one bedroom flat last summer and now I m getting ready to finalize my mortgage documents for the next house, this time a two bedroom one, which I am going to let. Of course all this through so much hard work, a lot of economy in everything, and many prayers to God (i m a practicant Christian). Of course it was not easy to live my parents and my easy life back home, but without hard work, a bit of brain and sacrifice you won’t get anything, or, like this couple, you will get something FOR A WHILE, till all vanish. Wish them good luck though. I don’t want to be in their shoes

  5. Show us evidence of an abduction Gillian Trott first. Btw in the first year of Maddies disappearance only 6% of raised funds were spent on a ‘search’, the rest went on subsidising the family and lawyers fees. Hardly the actions of parents who thought their daughter was findable.

  6. Memo from Martin Ellis Jones to Martin Ellis Jones……

    Do not,- repeat NOT – upset this Matthew Steeples ‘ news hound ‘ stroke ‘ gum shoe ‘ person…
    Copies to Miss Gillian Trott and Nigel Farage Esq.

  7. As the saying goes “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck” And everything in the first article and subsequent articles posted by DM plus the photos smacks of something not right about all of this! What really annoys me about all of this is the fact that decent, kind people have been involuntarily taken in by this couple and donated some of their hard earned cash, one person even donated £1000 though I’m beginning to wonder if this was done (by them on their smartphones) to encourage others to donate larger amounts now, with all that has come to light! Thank goodness there are a lot of “streetwise” people around who thought to look deeper into this and disclosed all sorts of flaws in their sob story. Among the many doubts and questions I have is why Heathrow Airport? They were living in Poole in Dorset, why not Gatwick Airport which is another International airport and a lot closer to Poole than Heathrow is. A lot of people have been assuming that because they are “allegedly” camping out at Heathrow that they were living in London but this was not the case. I think this has all been carefully planned and executed by this couple, as well as their calling the press as journalists are not usually in the habit of trawling airports looking for homeless people, and this couple look anything but homeless especially considering the are having only 2 hours sleep on a hard chair 5 nights a week! As much as I dislike being cynical I dislike being taken for an idiot even more!

  8. I see from the Gofundme page http://www.gofundme.com/lt0bfw, that they have started to give out refunds. Meanwhile the Daily Mail is removing lots of comments as they did last Sunday morning. After there being many hundred comments posted in the Daily Mail bySaturday evening on Sunday morning at about 10am there were none! When I added my comment to ask the DM the reason for this it was not printed. An hour later on Sunday there were 35 comments. What on earth is the Daily Mail doing and why?

  9. Are they being investigated for fraud I wonder? After all, if the story is fabricated, was it done so with an intent to gain money?

  10. Bob Ogle (I’m with her above)
    We forgot to mention this.
    All there seems to be in this apparent “scam” is hearsay, gossip or subjecture yet there is one FACT which I find interesting. Look at the two photos above, taken some time apart – Notice anything odd?
    HOW DID “MURRAY SANDERS DAILY MAIL” just happen to be at the Drinks Party AND ages later at Heathrow ?
    Interesting coincidence or impossible coincidence ?
    I emailed Andrew Pierce at the Mail with this query but he chose not to reply

  11. A very good point Bob!!

    I know that if I were in that couples position right now with people doubting me. but I was being 100% genuine, I would be contacting every man and their dog to defend myself publicly. I certainly would not go underground and spend my time deleting information about myself that was on the internet until a day or two ago, or going on twitter to tell friends to “stay out of it” (quoted on GoFundMe).

    Regarding Loose Women cancelling this couples appearance on their show, I would imagine that Loose Women have their own research team as well as a legal team, if so is it possible that they found some flaws in this couples sob story and were advised to not have this couple on the show?

    It is possible that we will never know the truth!

  12. Come on, Matthew, feet on pavement:

    THAT LOAN:
    1. The £20,00 loan – was there actually ever a loan?
    2. If there IS a loan, who gave it? Which financial institution/loan company/bank allowed it? Over which period? Interest rate?
    a] Was it Unsecured? Unlikely. A man in his 60s with a small “income” would hardly be eligible. [We’ve been told “Alan Lane” earned 7k last year, but no proof. What were his earnings for the few years preceding ?]
    b] Was it a Secured loan? That would be attached to “assets”. Assets usually means either equity in property or, perhaps, valuable collections of say, books, paintings, jewellery etc.

    If it WAS a secured loan, what was the security?

    HEATHROW COTTAGES:
    1. Looking through comments on Trip Advisor, the people running [owning?] the property are variously described as “Alan and Katrina” or “Alan and Katerina”.

    2. Why have no journalists visited the Cottages to interview “Alan Legge”?

    3. Why have “Alan Legge and Katrina/Katerina” not put their heads above the parapet to say they are not involved in this story at all?

    4. One Facebook member commented that “their” [presumably meaning “Lane/Smith”] photograph had been deleted from the H.Cottages site.

    5. A separate FB member commented that some people or someone on Twitter who had stayed there, identified them as “Lane and Smith”.

    6. Coincidences happen – of course they do. In this case? There is no evidence either way. Get a reporter out there, Matthew, find out.

    HEATHROW AIRPORT:
    1. The airport keeps statistics on “sleepers” which were published in newspapers on 11 Feb.
    2. During the daytime, if this pair separated and wandered in different terminals, they might not be spotted. But at night? In the middle of the night? This is Heathrow, not Delhi Airport. Either separately or together, particularly distinguished by being so “middle class”, they would have been spotted long ago.

    ACCOMMODATION OFFERS:
    1. They have turned down all offers for fear of being “separated”.
    2. They were offered a flat for a month – for them both – rent free. Turned it down.
    3. Offers from “family and friends” “dried up”. I wonder why? Too tedious and pretentious to live with?

    FURNITURE:
    1. In storage, of no particular value [according to “Lane and Smith”.]
    2. Why spend £75 per week storing it then, if you’re desperate?? Come on!

    NATALIE LONGFORD:
    1. “Never met them, felt they needed help”.
    2. Has deleted her profiles on the Net: where is she? what does she do? Does she in fact have a connection to Lane/Page/Park/Legge and Smith?
    3. Possibly she thought she might attract the kudos bestowed on Katie Cutler for promoting the cause of Alan Barnes: personal donations/public appearances, honours?? Matthew – find her. Check her out.

    I don’t understand how anyone with a brain in their head could believe this story. I notice that, so far, roughly £250 has been returned by GoFundMe to disenchanted donors. I sincerely hope that the majority of those gullible well-meaning people follow suit and reduce the total to under £2,000.

  13. Well this story of the Homeless Couple Sleeping at Heathrow Airport has definitely gone viral (apparently one of the techniques offered by Alan Lane on one of his many websites) as far as Australia, Asia and Europe and it has escalated from their alleged “living the life of luxury” and mismanaging their finances to their downfall being down to the UK having an economic crisis!!

  14. According to the gofundme page Natalie says all the facts have been verified and they are ready to hand over all the funds now.! Anyone else wanting a refund will have to act extremely quickly. Something is not quite right.

    1. Hi Geraldine. I totally agree with you and have expressed my concerns to Natalie on GFM, they are as follows:

      Natalie. On different updates you have given you have stated that you have never met the couple yet you keep on confirming they are genuinely homeless, how do you know 100%? I personally, before committing myself to such a huge responsibility as setting up a GoFundMe account would want to meet these people for myself to confirm this and not just take the word of the DM, it’s not like they are/were in a place that was not accessible. You keep saying their situation has been confirmed and verified but by whom and to whom? Would it not be more ethical for whoever is giving you this information and even you yourself to give more details, especially to all the kind hearted souls that have donated? I am saying this because I on many occasions have actively been involved in helping others but before I even approached others for donations or other types of help I always met the person/people to make sure for myself that they and their situation was genuine as I have an obligation to those who are kind enough to help or donate to do this, I would certainly never rely just on the word of a newspaper. I am not implying that you are in cahoots with this couple as I believe you started off with good intentions but I do feel that you are short-changing those who have doubts and the donors in your replies by expecting everyone to just take your word for it without you having to prove in any way other than just saying “they are genuinely homeless”!! I do hope all of this does not deter people from donating to GFM in the future as it is a good way to make donations even if their commission is rather high;)

      Adding to this, it does seem a tad strange that the person who donated a £1000.00 doesn’t seem to have been following up on what is being said, if I donated a £1000.00 you can be sure that I would be checking for updates and would have definitely asked for a refund considering all that has been revealed about the couple.

  15. Natalie Longford on GFM says the “facts” have been verified. She didn’t say WHAT facts – was there a 20K loan, do they have non valuable goods in storage, are they still “living” in 2 Capella, Canford Cliffs? Does she have photos of the pair wandering through Heathrow? Has she “verified” their 2-nights-a-week stay at a still undisclosed B&B? One could go on and on. I notice that a further small donation has been refunded. How can GFM dispense funds when, slowly, donors are asking for refunds?

  16. Hi Laura Cheshire. Firstly thank you for going to such great lengths to find out the truth from DM, I didn’t bother as I have tried in the past contacting them due to an article they had on their website that I applied for the free product and ended up being scammed for a lot of money being taken without my permission. I actually phoned them first and was put through to their “library” which I assume is their archive and was told by the person there that that particular article had been removed, when I questioned why I was told that they do that sometimes if there is a problem!! Anyway going back to what they said about Murray and that first photo where he says he can claim it as he collected it, well he has copyrighted it which he is NOT allowed to do as the copyright belongs to the person who took the photo and unless he had written permission that the copyright has been given to him he cannot use the photo! They sound like a bunch of amateurs working there, even their articles have so many spelling mistakes and the grammar leaves a lot to be desired!!

    And thank you to everyone else who like me feel that there is something not right about all of this and feel that over 400 very kind hearted donors are worthy of an explanation as to where the money has disappeared to. Hopefully between us all we will eventually get to the bottom of this.

  17. Hi Valerie, thank you I did suspect that, about the photo this is what they said ‘regards to the photos of Mr Lane and Ms Smith, it is common journalistic practice to obtain photos of the subject of an article as well as taking new ones. These are called ‘collect’ images and are usually supplied by the subject or their family.’ Does not answer the question. They are quite determined to hide lots about this story. Today the person answer my reply within 30 mins. I haven’t heard back since I supplied proof they changed his name. Nor surprised. They clearly they think we are all as stupid as they are. Tomorrow I will be complaining to the pcc, surely lying to someone complaining is also another nail in the proverbial coffin.

  18. Laura, I have that page bookmarked and the heading does say “Alan Page”. However, as you said, clicking on the story, lo and behold, it’s Alan “Lane”.

    I wonder if a few emails to jo.kelly@mirror.co.uk might persuade them to run another article. I doubt the anomalies in this story will ever be clarified, but as there are approximately 450 donors who may not be aware of the refund situation or if they are, now don’t know how to get one, info in a national daily might help.

  19. While the story is odd given their income, the cheapness of flats, and so on, I think it would be wrong to be too suspicious. Alan Lane clearly exists, and his CV, while containing a few successful ventures has all the hallmarks of someone who was down on their luck – setting up various one-man consultancy projects etc.

  20. I posted this reply I received this evening on the other thread ‘ go fund gone ‘

    Katie
    Katie (GoFundMe Customer Happiness)

    Feb 16, 11:35 AM

    Hello,

    I have ensured that our Security Team has also reviewed the emails you have sent over.

    We are unable to share any non-public account information with any parties other than the page creator without a court order – this includes any information regarding our investigation in to this page.

    As we have already noted, if you believe this user is committing fraud, or breaking the law in any way, please contact law enforcement officials and we’ll be happy to work with them should they decide to investigate the claims made on this page.

    RECEIVED TODAY AT 7.35PM

  21. Dont you people have anything better to do? (actually at the moment i dont), how can you expect a piece of crap like the daily mail to be diligent and professional in their reporting, they are merely a comic whose sole purpose in life is merely click bait for advertisers, the only thing they seem to be any good at is getting more pictures than other online news sites, the reporting is abysmal, and some cases abhorrent, but like a good old junkie is back to them we go for more useless garbage and the odd bit of news. Wean yourselves off, you can do it just requires more will power and some other purpose. Do you really care about his pair of idiots? If the story is to be believed theyve basically pissed everything theyve ever had away so even if they get the 9K, it will be a gonner in under 6 months ill bet, im just glad it didnt get to the alan barnes values, not that i begrudge him at all, i think he was a much worthier cause than these ‘actors’. The fact that these 2 have been, id say, quite a lot in their local rag, with what look like completely cack made up stories again, sort of tells me that they do this for a living, or even just a sideline. How many people do you know had to be extracted from beruit and then nigeria because of wars and coups? Then turn up years later on a national scale because they had pissed all their money away?
    To wit, i am more likely to believe a real hardship story, thus;
    https://twitter.com/warpdog/status/448224861316722688

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