Mundill Mahil was a straight-A student with a bright future. Then she was charged with murder
The tabloids dubbed her the ‘honeytrap’ girl when she was tried for the murder of Gagandip Singh in 2012, alongside two others. Was the truth more complicated?
Mundill Mahil knows it sounds cheesy, but as a girl she wanted to save the world. She was a model student. At Rochester grammar school, she got 10 A*s at GCSE, three As at A-level, mentored an autistic child and worked in a hospice, before winning a place at Brighton and Sussex Medical School; she hoped to do aid work for Médecins Sans Frontières when she qualified. Then everything went wrong; at 19, she was charged with murder.
There are no winners in this story. One young man died; one was convicted of murder, another of manslaughter. On 25 February 2011, 21-year-old Gagandip Singh was brutally beaten by two men in Mahil’s Brighton bedroom, before being burned to death in the boot of a Mercedes. A year later, an Old Bailey jury acquitted Mahil of murder, but found her guilty of GBH with intent, for having lured Singh to his death. She was given a six-year sentence. Her motive, prosecutors argued, was revenge; she had told friends Singh had assaulted her six months earlier.
It was a shocking crime. In a television documentary broadcast last year, Singh’s mother, Tejinder, talked about how she has struggled since her son was killed: “I have no life left. Two or three times a day, I think I want to die.” Last week, Singh’s sister, Amandip, told the Guardian that the family still grieve every day. “We will never be a normal family again. There’s not a moment we do not think of Gagandip.”
Mahil, now 29, has never talked about what happened before: she never felt she had the right. “It is so horrific, what happened to Gagan. It felt, if I told my story, it would seem as if I didn’t care: ‘Look at me, I’m the victim.’” We are talking over Zoom, and she is clearly nervous.
In media coverage of the case, Mahil has been portrayed as a vengeful student at the heart of a honeytrap plot to kill Singh, once her close friend. And she admits she was her own worst enemy in the days that followed: it was true she had invited him to her house under false pretences; and that when his body was found, she failed to tell police the full story. She even acknowledges that Singh would not have died had he not come to see her. Looking back, Mahil says she is not surprised the jury convicted her. But she says she was oblivious to any plan to hurt Singh, let alone kill him. There was no thought of revenge that night: she had hoped to put an ugly episode with her former friend behind them. So how did a teenager with so much to look forward to end up here?
Mndill Mahil grew up the youngest child in a conservative, upwardly mobile Sikh family. Her parents ran a B&B; her sister was a doctor; one brother went to medical school before going into IT, while the other became a police officer. Mahil thrived at her girls’ school, making friends and becoming a star pupil. But she also felt an outsider: while her classmates had boyfriends, traditional Sikh girls were not expected to socialise with boys. A marriage would be arranged when the time was right. Occasionally, Mahil found herself lying to her mother if she knew there were going to be boys present – at the school disco, for instance.
But she was religious herself, with a growing interest in Sikhism. At 17, Mahil wore a turban and considered becoming baptised; before that, she had been to conferences, a meditation course, boot camps and a Sikh martial arts club. It was at this club that she met Harinder Shoker, a trainee electrician who went by the name of Ravi. A friendship developed, which Mahil kept secret. The two were very different. Shoker wore hoodies, smoked cannabis, was far more streetwise. “He used to use slang and say ‘bruv’.” Mahil pauses, embarrassed. “I was a bit snobbish. It was cool to have a friend like that. He drove a car without insurance. That, to me, was like, woah!” She called him her “gangsta” friend, something that would come back to haunt her.
In August 2009, when she was 18, Mahil received a Facebook friend request from Gagandip Singh; he was a few years older, but they had a Facebook friend in common: Shoker. Mahil didn’t accept requests from strangers, let alone male strangers, so she asked Shoker about him; he had met Singh five years earlier at a Sikh temple. “Ravi said he was great, that he ran a Sikh TV channel and was Amritdhari – baptised. He said he was a ‘safe’ guy. So I accepted the request.” Now Mahil had two male friends she kept secret from her family.
A few weeks later, she met Singh in person for the first time. “Gagan was ambitious, respectful, progressive,” she says. “He was very active in Sikh youth work, and I liked that.” Not long after, Singh received shocking news: his father had been murdered in India after a business dispute. He became withdrawn and depressed; over the next year, Mahil says she became more a counsellor to him than a friend. But he saw it differently, and told her he loved her. He became more needy and possessive, Mahil says. By now, she was living with fellow students in Brighton. “A number of times he turned up unannounced and said, ‘If I can’t see you, I’ll kill myself.’” Mahil says it felt like emotional blackmail; she wasn’t in love, but she valued his friendship and worried about him.
She immersed herself in student societies, taking part in the Student Stop Aids campaign and preparing for a half marathon to raise money for Anti-Slavery International. But for the first time, she failed an exam. In August 2010, she returned to Brighton to resit it; for a few days, she was alone in the house.
The night before her exam, Singh turned up unannounced. He brought her flowers, wished her luck, then said one of his headlights had failed: could he stay the night? Mahil was reluctant, but he persisted. She told him he could sleep in the lounge, fetched him a blanket and said she had to revise. She says he began to cry. He wrote a message on his phone and asked her to look at it: “I think you should go or I will rape you.” She dismissed it as a weird joke.
As she worked in her room, he kept coming in. She told him he could sleep in the bed and took her books and laptop to the lounge. “He followed me. I was like, ‘For goodness sake, I need to concentrate.’ I went back to my room.” Exhausted, she fell asleep on her bed. She says the next thing she knew Singh was on top of her. “He pinned me down with his arms so I couldn’t move my wrists; his ankles were pinning down my ankles. I saw his kirpan, the dagger baptised Sikhs wear, which is meant to be a reminder to uphold what’s right and wrong. I looked at my phone on the desk. He said, ‘Don’t you dare.’”
Mahil says she has never described this night in detail, not even to her husband. Tears pour down her face. “It was a completely different person, like Jekyll and Hyde.” She remembers seeing Singh’s kachera, traditional white undergarments meant to symbolise sexual purity, as he assaulted her. “I was trying to struggle all the time. I felt so weak – like, why can’t I get out of this? All the self-defence classes I’d done. When he took the kachera off, I had this burst of energy and managed to fight him off.”
She says Singh immediately turned back into the decent young man she knew. He was apologetic and tearful. “He said, ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry.’ And I said, ‘Get out, I’ll call the police, just get out.’” Before he left, he made a strange request. “He said, ‘Can I tell a friend about it?’ And I said, ‘Yes, just get out.’”
The following day Mahil was a wreck. She took the exam, but she never told the police. “I thought it was my fault. I let him stay – no good Sikh girl does that. What if my family found out, what if the community found out? Who would believe me anyway? They would say I was leading him on.”
Paji [brother] I broke your promise and tried to rape my best friend I don’t know what to do help
She needn’t have feared being accused of making it up: Singh did tell a friend, later referred to in court as “Sonny”. Also a baptised Sikh, Sonny was eight years older than Singh, who saw him as a mentor. After Singh’s death, police found his message on Sonny’s phone: “Paji [brother] I broke your promise and tried to rape my best friend I don’t know what to do help.” Sonny told police he had kept the text, “in case Gagandip should need reminding to be a good Sikh”.
Meanwhile, Mahil told her friend Shoker about the assault. The next month, Shoker introduced her to his friend Sonny, who said he’d heard she had been through a rough time; it was the same Sonny Singh had confided in. “He seemed a good-natured guy,” she says now. “Respectful, humble, quite wise, a bit older.”
As the weeks passed, Mahil began to put the assault to the back of her mind. But in November, Shoker told her Sonny had discovered Singh had behaved inappropriately with other young women. Sonny, he said, wanted to meet Singh to remind him how important it is for a good Sikh to respect women –but Singh was no longer answering his phone to either of them. He suggested Mahil arrange to meet Singh; then he and Sonny would join them. It wouldn’t be hard: Singh was bombarding her with texts asking for forgiveness. But Mahil didn’t want to see him again, nor did she like the idea of tricking him. In early February 2011, phone records show she texted a friend to say: “Can’t lie to some1 … even tho he did the worst thing he cud to me.”
But Shoker pressed her: he said she owed it to the other women Singh had allegedly harassed, and this made her reconsider. Around this time, she noticed Shoker’s feelings towards her changing. He told her he loved her; she said she didn’t feel the same, but saw him as a close friend, which he seemed to accept.
On 18 February, Mahil told her brother, also called Harinder, that a man had tried to rape one of her friends. Would it be wrong to trick the man into meeting somebody who would give him a serious talking to? Harinder said he thought that was fine. She was too ashamed to say she was talking about herself. Mahil asked Harinder if he would meet Sonny, too, and tell her if he seemed genuine; she says she worried about the impact on Singh if a confrontation was handled wrongly. The following day, Harinder met Sonny in Woolwich, south London. “I was quite religious at the time,” he says now. “There are hardly any Sikhs where I live, so it was an opportunity to meet somebody new. We talked mainly about Sikh youth politics, then he said, ‘Gagan is in trouble and needs help. He keeps calling girls, and harassing them.’ If you decide to stick to a strict religious path but fall off it, you rely on the people around you to tell you right from wrong. In that context, a meeting made perfect sense.”
Did Harinder know Singh? “We had met two or three times, and I understood Mundill knew him. I didn’t know how friendly they were.” Was there any suggestion of violence from Sonny? “Oh God, no. The question wasn’t even raised in my mind.” A day later the pair met again, this time with Mahil, and she agreed to set up a meeting. In her police statement a week later, she said she invited Singh to her house so she’d “feel safe”, with her housemates present.
Mahil asked Singh over for 11pm on 25 February, to discuss the assault and their friendship. Why so late? “We were students; 11pm wasn’t late. Often we didn’t go to bed till 3am.” She had told her housemates about the assault. Now she told them Singh was coming to talk, and Shoker and a respected older Sikh were going to give him a lecture. She thought they would do this in the lounge, and asked her housemates if they’d leave them to it; it might be tense.
Mahil drove to Brighton station to collect Sonny and Shoker, off a train from London. But instead of Sonny, Shoker introduced her to another 19-year-old. “This is Jason,” he said. In fact, it was Darren Peters, an old schoolfriend of Shoker’s – a bike mechanic and a petty criminal with a record for car theft.
Surely this must have seemed a big change of plan? Peters would not be giving Singh a lecture on Sikh morals. “It just seemed like a normal uni thing, where everyone brings their friends. When I look back, that’s another ‘what if’ moment. If I’d said, ‘Where’s Sonny, why’s he not here? This is dodgy.’ It didn’t occur to me to question all these things till afterwards.”
But she did ask Shoker on the way back to the house. Sonny would be around later, he said. She bought food for the two men and cooked supper, introducing “Jason” to her housemates; they already knew Shoker.
Meanwhile, Singh was on his way in his sister’s Mercedes; his BMW had broken down. At 4pm, he had texted Mahil: “Can we talk civil or do you just want me dead?” Phone records released in court show she texted a number of times to say he shouldn’t come if he was anxious; they could chat another day. She dreaded the encounter, Mahil says now, and hoped he would turn back.
Singh arrived at 11pm. “I answered the door and he came with a teddy bear, and that threw me right off. I saw him how he used to be. He was friendly, and it made me feel confused.” She had asked Shoker and Peters to wait in the lounge so she could speak to Singh alone in her room. But when she walked in to her room, the two men were still there; before she could ask them to leave, Peters had pushed Singh against the wall and punched him. “When he threw the punch, I dropped the teddy bear. I ran out. I’d never seen anyone punched before. I ran up the stairs to find my housemates. I was hyperventilating, shaking. Even when Gagan called my name, I didn’t know what to do.”
Why didn’t she go back downstairs with her friends to help Singh? (The lounge and her bedroom were in the basement.) She shakes her head. She says she was petrified, and it is something she will never forgive herself for. Police reports suggest the attack lasted 20 minutes: what was she doing during that time? Mahil says this is inaccurate; the attack lasted around five minutes. “Two of my housemates were cuddling me, trying to calm me down.”
The last thing she heard before the men left the house was movement at the basement back door, and Shoker saying he had hurt his hand, then a car driving away. She and her friend Live checked the front door, back door and basement room; they were gone. In her bedroom, her duvet was missing.
“I was trying to make sense of it all. Where were my bedsheets? I was annoyed they’d not eaten the food. I said to my friend, ‘I’ve made them so much food! Why didn’t they eat it?’” Her friends made her a cup of tea and gave her a piece of the key lime pie she had bought for Peters and Shoker – a detail later picked up on by reporters. “They said I was eating pie while waiting to have my victim killed. It couldn’t be further from the truth.” Why didn’t she call the police? Again, she says she doesn’t know. She called Shoker at 2.30am and he didn’t pick up. At 2.50am he called back. Mahil asked what had happened: was Singh OK? He said everything was fine; they had taken him to see Sonny. At 4am, Mahil went to sleep in Live’s room.
That morning, Singh’s sister Amandip called Mahil. She said her brother had not returned home, and she had heard he was visiting her the night before. At first, Mahil told her she had not seen Singh; then she said he had come to the door, but she had not let him in. Why? She says she panicked. How could she tell Amandip the last time she saw her brother he was being punched? And that she had not thought it worth calling his family or the police?
She rang Singh, but there was no answer. She rang Shoker and told him Amandip had called: was Singh OK? Shoker was evasive. Then she got a series of texts from friends saying they had heard a rumour, from people working at Singh’s TV channel, that he had killed himself. She was distraught. “I thought, because I betrayed his trust and lied to him, he’d gone and killed himself.”
Soon after, she got a disturbing call from Shoker, who told her: “I’m ready to go to jail for you for 21 years.” She was terrified, and told Live. (In court, this call was used against both Mahil and Shoker as proof that they had planned to kill Singh. Although Live was a witness for the defence, and remains a close friend of Mahil’s, the prosecution also made her their key witness.)
That afternoon, Live told her the BBC was reporting a body had been found in a burned-out Mercedes in Blackheath, not far from where Shoker lived.
Mahil called her brother Harinder and told him what had happened; they agreed she should call the police. She told an officer she had received texts from friends suggesting Singh had killed himself and heard the reports of a car with a body in it – a car like the one Singh had been driving.
Mahil was asked to attend Lewisham police station immediately, where she had a five-minute conversation with an officer. She tried to summarise her friendship with Singh, the sexual assault, the fact she had invited him over to confront him. She told them Singh had come to her home and left. But she left out two crucial facts: that Shoker and Peters were also there, and that she had seen him punched in the face. At 9.40pm on 26 February, Mahil was arrested on suspicion of murder. She spent the night in the station cell. Why didn’t she tell the police the full story? “I panicked,” Mahil says again. She looks drained. “I can’t explain it more than that.”
On the evening of 27 February, she was formally interviewed under caution in the presence of a duty solicitor. This time, Mahil says, she told them everything she knew. But the police did not accept her version of events, and nor did the Crown Prosecution Service – she had omitted key details in her first interview and lied to Singh’s sister, why would she be telling the truth now?
At 6.50am on 28 February, Mahil was charged with murder. “I had to go to a magistrates court where they said, ‘She’s remanded to custody.’ And I sat in the cell thinking, I don’t know what that means. I thought it was like custody of children – something that protected you. I didn’t realise I was in prison.”
Shoker and Peters were also charged with murder. Mahil discovered the chronology of what had happened on the night of Singh’s death from a television in the induction room at Holloway prison. A news report said that Singh had been savagely beaten, wrapped in a duvet, taken from her house and put in the boot of the Mercedes. His hands had been tied with a satnav cable. The autopsy later suggested he was unconscious when the car was set on fire.
The trial began at the Old Bailey in London on 5 December 2011. Mahil, Shoker and Peters all pleaded not guilty to murder. On the stand, Shoker said things had got out of hand; the plan had been to take Singh back to London, where Sonny could talk to him. The defence for both men pointed out that, if the plan was to kill Singh, it was extraordinary that they had turned up without a weapon or means of restraint. When cross-examined by the defence, Shoker acknowledged that Mahil had been told Singh would simply be given a tough talking to; if the men intended any violence, she did not. But the prosecution argued that Shoker was infatuated with Mahil: of course he would protect her in this way.
What of Sonny, whose idea the meeting was, according to Mahil and Shoker? Interviewed under police caution on 6 April 2011, he said he had driven Shoker and Peters to Charlton station on 25 February, but didn’t know they were going to Brighton.
He also admitted meeting them later that night, at Shoker’s home in Shooter’s Hill, Greenwich, where Sonny’s VW Golf was being kept as a favour. “I got a call from Ravi at 1am: he thought someone had been messing around with the cars. I was not pleased, but drove over.” Sonny said he checked the cars and left. Shoker and Peters had arrived in Singh’s Mercedes; at this point, he would still have been alive.
Sonny told police he had never met Mahil or her brother. He was not called as a witness for the prosecution or defence, though the jury asked twice when he would give evidence; it was not clear to lawyers on either side that he would further their case. The Guardian contacted his brother and local temple, who said they would pass on our request for a comment. Sonny did not respond.
On the stand, Peters and Shoker turned against each other. Shoker blamed Peters for the violence, saying he had bought the petrol, poured it over Singh and the car, and set fire to it; Peters claimed he had simply done the driving and not witnessed the attack. He said he had been hired by Sonny to break into the Mercedes, and that when he had earlier tried to withdraw from this plan, Sonny had threatened him. Peters also claimed it was Sonny who had said they had to “get rid of the car”.
Anything Mahil said in court seemed to work against her. She called Shoker her “gangsta” friend, and the jury took it literally. She told the court she had agreed Singh would be taught a “serious lesson”, which the prosecution argued was an admission she had consented to violence. But, she says, she meant just that: a lesson from Sonny about Sikh values. When giving evidence, Mahil repeated that she never thought there would be violence. Not even a slap, she was asked by the prosecution. Well, maybe a slap, she conceded.
Why did she say that? “They kept asking: ‘Surely you must have thought this or that would happen?’ And you’re thinking retrospectively, well, what’s the worst I think could have happened? The reality was that I didn’t consider there would be any violence. I was expecting a religious, mentor-like man. I thought they were good guys.”
Her defence knew it was impossible to prove Mahil expected no violence, but argued all the circumstances pointed to that. If she had been masterminding a violent attack, would she have told her housemates, and invited the victim at a time when they would all be in? Would she have suggested he turn back?
The court heard outstanding character references for Mahil, in which a recurrent theme was her naivety. A former teacher said: “If Mundill has a fault, it could be said she is naive, believing all the people she comes into contact with are like her.” Her friend Sarah said: “I don’t think she thought anything bad happened in the world.” Her housemate, B, described Mahil as “something of an agony aunt. She used to spend hours talking to people about their problems, and do anything she could to help.” But it was her second statement to the police that left a lasting impression. She said she remembered Mundil saying she wanted Singh dead. Under cross-examination, B admitted she may have been confused about her second statement.
After nearly three months, the trial ended on 24 February 2012. Shoker was sentenced to 22 years for murder, Peters to 12 years for manslaughter, and Mahil to six years for GBH with intent. The prosecution conceded that she could not have foreseen that Singh would be set alight.
Mahil’s sentence was controversial. There were protests outside the Old Bailey by people who thought she should have been convicted of murder, while women’s groups claimed the assault should have been taken into account and lowered her sentence. But Mahil says she has never been interested in that defence, because it concurs with the prosecution’s narrative.
In sentencing Mahil, Judge Paul Worsley said: “He [Singh] was lured by you, Mundill, to your student house in Brighton where you intended, as the jury have found, that he suffer really serious harm. You had collected Ravi and Darren from the railway station for that very purpose.” Mahil was “manipulative, vengeful and deceitful”, Worsley said, adding: “You have sacrificed your outstanding character and future career.” The trial was widely reported as the “honeytrap murder”, with Shoker and Peters the “hitmen” and Mahil the ruthless figure at the heart of a “twisted love triangle”.
Even in jail, Mahil says she expected to be told it was all a mistake. But her appeal was rejected. There had been nothing wrong with the trial process, and there was no new evidence; it was simply her word against the prosecution.
At the appeal, the evidence cited to uphold Mahil’s conviction appeared damning. It was stated that Mahil had told police that Shoker and Peters had “pulled out sheets from a bag and put on black fingerless gloves” before Singh arrived. Mahil says this is not quite right; what she meant got lost in translation. “Earlier in the evening, I noticed Darren putting on black fingerless gloves, the kind you’d wear to keep your hands warm. I didn’t think anything of it. As for the sheet, when I was talking to Live later, I said I thought I’d glimpsed a sheet in my bedroom when I opened the door, but I was never sure. We’re talking a couple of seconds before I ran out.”
The appeal judges also said she had discouraged her housemates from investigating the struggle in her bedroom. Mahil disputes this: she says she could barely get any words out.
In jail, at HMPs Holloway and Send, Mahil was a model prisoner. She took courses, qualified as a personal trainer and worked in the prison gym. She also became politicised about the justice system. “I thought, ‘Why would [then justice secretary] Mr Grayling ban books? Books are good. Why are they turning all the single cells into bunk beds? Oh, it’s because they don’t have space. Why are there so many women here with severe mental health problems? They need help. I was trying to fix things.”
She also had to find a way of coming to terms with the fact that she had been jailed for her part in a vicious murder. “I told myself I was guilty of this because I lied to Gagan. That was my way of coping.”
How did her parents cope? “They were so supportive. They said, ‘We’re going to get through this together, just look after yourself, make sure you’re eating.’” She wishes she had been more open with them as a teenager: “Why did I ever hide anything from them? I’d built this perception that there were things I couldn’t talk to them about, that was self-perpetuating of the culture I was in. But my family were never like that. They would have understood.”
Does she feel any responsibility for Singh’s death? “I feel morally culpable, in terms of, what if I hadn’t lied to him and this had never happened? But from feeling guilty about lying to somebody to being responsible for his death – that’s just a massive disconnect.”
Mahil was released on licence in 2014, after serving half of her six-year sentence. She already knew a criminal record meant she could never become a doctor, but she was about to discover how limited her options were. “I can’t become a nurse, an accountant, a lawyer. I can’t become anything caring because of the violent record I have. I thought, what am I doing with my life?”
She went back to university and graduated from King’s College London in philosophy, politics and economics. In 2016, she married Varinder Singh Bola, a rising Labour star. The Daily Mail ran pictures of them taken before their wedding, under the headline: “Honey-trap woman appears every inch the happy bride as she gazes into her new husband’s eyes only yards away from where her former admirer was MURDERED.”
In January 2019, Bola won the race to be mayor of Redbridge. Singh’s sister Amandip told the Sun that Mahil had been allowed to “ingratiate herself into polite society… But she doesn’t deserve any of it. Not once has she ever admitted her guilt or apologised to us.” Four days later, Bola stood down.
At the time, Mahil was working for an organisation that supports victims of hate crimes. But when junior members of staff read about her conviction (which she had declared to the charity), they said they were uncomfortable working with her. “I’d been there five months with no problems. I thought, OK, if they don’t feel comfortable with me, I will resign.”
Does she understand why Singh’s family were upset at her being mayoress? “Of course.” Mahil says there isn’t a day that goes by without her thinking of him or them. “I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to lose your son or brother in such a way. The way he died…” She trails off.
Amandip Singh says she feels no pity for Mahil. Last week she told the Guardian: “Mundil says she is also suffering. If there were any truth in this, she would not have taken her pre-wedding pictures within walking distance of where Gagandip was murdered. She had been plotting this attack for months – there were several meetings between her brother and her gangster friends. She knew exactly what was going to happen that evening, and instead continued to eat her key lime pie with her housemates.”
Mahil now works for Working Chance, a charity that helps women with criminal convictions find jobs. She says it has given her a degree of self-belief. “For so long, people said, ‘Time is the best healer, you’ll be fine – keep yourself busy and active.’ But time hasn’t healed. Now, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t demonised.” She is also a trustee on three other criminal justice charities. “I just want to make good out of a bad situation. If I can help anybody else, that’s where I’m trying to head.”
But, she says, her workplace is still an exception when it comes to not judging her. “You don’t feel you can go to the temple, or to a dinner party, without people looking at you and thinking, ‘Oh, is that that girl, who did that to that boy? She killed someone, what a bitch.’”
A couple of months after we first talk, she tells us she has written to Shoker to let him know she is talking to a newspaper. He has now served nearly 10 years of his 22-year sentence. She says he rang her and apologised for ruining her life. How does she feel about him now? “Angry – but also sorry for him. I don’t think he intended to kill Gagan.”
Spend any time talking to Mahil and she comes across as a bright, kind woman. Yet she knows the best she can hope for is to emerge from this terrible crime as a weak, naive liar. Why is she willing to tell her story now, rather than quietly getting on with her life? Because, she says, she can just about live with that version of herself – weak and naive – but not with the idea that she ruthlessly plotted Singh’s death. “I’ve had death threats and attacks on my family,” she says. “There are moments when I’m hopeful that this can’t last for ever. But I still feel like I’m living in prison. It might not have those four walls, but the psychological prison I’m in is almost worse.”