After being duped by a male cousin, a woman has spoken out to say that she would like catfishing to become a criminal offense. 

Kirat Assi (42), a west Londoner, believed she was communicating with Bobby online for 10 years. However, her profile and 50 other profiles were being maintained by Simran Bhogal, her cousin. 

Kirat had a romance with Bobby for part of that time – whom she assumed was from Australia. Her identity was based upon the photographs and profile photos of a real guy. That eventually caused her to get sick. 

Kirat hired an investigator who discovered the shocking and disturbing truth.  

Kirat Assi, 42, from west London, discovered that she had been the victim of a decade-long 'catfishing' deception in 2018. She wants catfishing to be made a crime

Kirat Assi (42) from West London discovered in 2018 that she’d been the victim a decade of catfishing deceptions. She would like catfishing to become a crime 

Kirat, who featured in the hugely popular six-part Sweet Bobby podcast hosted by Alexi Mostrous, told the Sunday Times that she wants catfishing to be taken more seriously as a deterrent to online fraudsters.  

She said that she believed it could be a deterrent to people knowing that they can be caught and charged with a crime as soon as possible. 

“I call it internet entrapment. My online identity is private, and I didn’t go on any dating sites. It’s fun, and that is what catfishing implies. 

“This affected my health and my relationships with my family, friends, colleagues, as well as my professional life. 

Tortoise Media produced a series of incredible podcasts that tell Kirat’s story. The podcasts featured investigators working with legal professionals, witnesses and Bobby the real-life Bobby. 

Because the catfishers created an entire group, they believe this is the most complicated and longest-running case of catfishing.

In 2009, Kirat, a prominent member of London’s Sikh community, was working as an arts and events assistant for Hounslow Community Services and presenting a show on Radio Desi, a station for the Punjabi community. 

Eventually she discovered it was not Bobby communicating with her, but her cousin, Simran Bhogal (far right), who had created a 50-strong cast of fake online personas to dupe her

But she realized it wasn’t Bobby that was talking to her. Instead, Simran (far left) had made a fake 50 personas for her.

Her relationship was when she met. She received an unexpected Facebook message from JJ (Jimran’s ex-boyfriend), asking her for help in getting her back.  

The pair struck up a friendship and communicated over the next five months before she heard news that JJ had died, and Simran passed on the email address of his brother ‘Bobby’ to send her condolences.  

The fake profile used the real Bobby’s photos and some biographical details without his consent, and in November 2010, Kirat had her first encounter with the fake Facebook profile. 

They began to develop a friendship. He told her that he was married with a child and soon started sharing details about his falling apart relationship. 

She told The Daily Mail that although they weren’t very close she considered him a friend and a brother. 

When she saw a post on Facebook in November 2013, Bobby had been injured and she was now suffering from memory loss. In January 2014 she found out that Bobby had passed away.

How illegal is catfishing?  

Catfishing refers to the act of seducing someone by making up an online persona.  

This phrase was popularized by Catfish (2010), an American documentary. 

Currently, catfishing does not constitute an illegal activity. However, other parts of the law could cover some elements of online activities. 

For example, someone who has duped another person out of money could be prosecuted for fraud.

According to the Tortoise investigation, legal experts believe that the laws covering controlling and coercive relationships would be sufficient for Kirat’s prosecution (even though Kirat was not under any control). 

“I was asked to join his Facebook group. The group had 39 members. Since then, I discovered that none of them were real.

However soon after, Kirat received an email out of the blue informing her that Bobby was actually alive but faked his own death and was hiding in a witness protection programme.

She admits that it is a ridiculous idea. “But at every stage, these insane happenings were being backed-up by others.” 

According to her, ‘Bobby was a heavy drinker and was considering suicide. In 2015, she was informed he had suffer a brain tumour, followed by a stroke.

Bobby declared his love for Kirat several weeks before they actually “got together” on Valentine’s Day 2015. 

It was unexpected that he would live. The consultant [yes there were also constant messages from his fake medical team, which Kirat accepted at face value]He was not expected to survive beyond July.

The ‘dying’ man was a mystery to her. “I’m not a soft-spoken person. He said, “I love you” and I was confused, but it made me feel that I loved him. . . As a friend.

I also wondered if there was any harm. This is not like I ever intended to have a sexual relationship with that person. However, he continued to keep the idea alive in my brain. Everyone else was saying, “Oh, he is so in love” 

The couple formed a close relationship over the next years, exchanging many messages each day and even turning sexual. Kirat did not send nude photos of herself. 

In 2017, ‘Bobby” was controlling Kirat. He forced her to have a private mammogram in London after she had experienced chest pains. Then she became angry when he revealed that the consultant she saw had been a man.

After being sick and stressed, she was fired from her job. “I tried to find another job, but Bobby refused to let me work. 

Bobby was a man Kirat wanted to see in person. However, every arrangement made would lead to something – even if he had a heart attack. 

Kirat would make threats to kill himself if Kirat tried too hard to get details about his claims or meet up in person. 

Kirat discovered, after hearing more outrageous claims from Bobby, that Bhogal was communicating with her. She hired a private investigator to help uncover the truth. 

The police told her that no crime had been committed. Later, she filed a civil suit against Bhogal. The case was dismissed without prejudice. 

Kirat said, “She took ten years from my life, and I won’t get it back.” ‘In that time, I could’ve met someone real and had a kid. My friends, my job and my savings were all lost.

‘I opened up to him — her! — telling him things about my hopes, dreams, my childhood, that I’d never tell anyone. I feel violated.