LAURA

From the revised version of ‘Laura’s Voice Whispers from an Angel’.

Laura was born in Johannesburg South Africa on 1 July 1976 and spent her childhood years in South Africa and Portugal. After qualifying as a beauty therapist and masseuse she left South Africa for Dubai in 2007 and lived mainly in the Middle East until her death. She was thirty-eight years old.

She was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. She had many surgical procedures to correct it but was always self-conscious and on the defensive in an attempt to protect herself. She would often place her hand in front of her mouth when she was in public so that she wouldn’t be subjected to stares and gossiping. Or teasing. People can be so cruel.

Her childhood was very unsettling. Her father and I parted company after being together for four years. After about two years, Laura went to stay with her father as I was battling financially to provide for Laura and her older brother Brandon, and for other personal reasons. I didn’t have anything to offer and the future looked bleak. In December 1983 her father left for Portugal to get married, taking Laura with him. She was seven years old. Three years later they were back in South Africa and Laura came to live with me.

In the meantime, I had married my husband William and was pregnant with our son Matthew. The early years of our marriage were beautiful until my elder son became very rebellious, which eventually spilt over to Laura, and they would often both sneak out at night, often making their way to Hillbrow. She later developed anorexia nervosa and then bulimia. She went to a psychologist who specialised in eating disorders but ultimately she only conquered her eating problems many years later when she was living on her own in the Middle East.

Laura as a teenager

My marriage was spiralling out of control and I eventually left William, leaving Laura and Matthew with him until the divorce was finalised and I would be in a position to buy a home for the three of us. Brandon had left home years earlier. The divorce did not go through and William and I reconciled.

Laura was becoming increasingly difficult so I asked her to leave and find somewhere else to stay, which she did.

William and I decided to move to Durban and build our dream home in an exclusive estate north of the city. Sadly the reconciliation was short-lived, and a few years later I met Rod Sykes whom I would marry, and I left William. Laura was in Portugal at the time of our divorce but returned to South Africa to live with William until the sale of our house went through after which they moved to Cape Town.

Laura
Laura with her ‘baby’ brother Matthew

William wanted Laura to have a tertiary qualification so she attended a college in Johannesburg where she studied beauty therapy and massage. It was not the first time that Laura had studied beauty therapy. William and I had sent her to Camelot International in Houghton a few years earlier but she stopped attending lectures after a while. This time she completed her course. She returned to Cape Town (and William) until she left for the Middle East in 2007.

She loved William like a father, her William ‘Dad’. When she arrived in Dubai she was employed by the Six Senses Spa at Jumeirah Madinat but was retrenched in 2009 when the Debt Crisis hit the emirate. For the remainder of her life, her journey took her to Oman, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, with a very brief sojourn in India and a year’s stay in Portugal. But she would always return to Dubai. In a message to one of her friends, Asima, (name changed to protect her identity), she wrote,

“For me, Dubai is my world but maybe not good for my future. Allah knows and I ask Him to guide me.”

Laura would visit the family in South Africa every couple of years but she was very mysterious about her life in the Middle East, especially about her relationship with an Emirati whom she met towards the end of 2009 in Zighy Bay, Oman. She wouldn’t even tell me his name.

Laura and I would often have no contact with each other over extended periods of time. It wasn’t unusual for us as we never had a relaxed and easy relationship with each other. We were both fiery and reactive. She always said it was because we were so alike, something I always denied.

Part of her description in the ‘About you’ section on her Facebook page read, “For how I am to you depends on chemistry.”

Our chemistry brought out the worst in each other and we would engage in petty arguments which would quickly escalate out of proportion, both of us standing our ground, with Laura usually having the last word. Afterwards, we would distance ourselves from each other.

Her visit to South Africa in 2012/2013 was disastrous, from the time she stepped off the plane until she left for Kolkatta, India on 1 March 2013. Throughout her stay, I realised that she didn’t want to be in South Africa. Her heart and soul were with the mysterious Emirati and Dubai.

Laura shared this photograph of Mubarak as we were making arrangements for her to return to South Africa.

Tensions ran high and we avoided each other as much as possible. At one point I gathered all the gifts that Laura had given to me over the years and gave them all away. I didn’t want to own anything that came from her.

Our relationship deteriorated even further to the point where I didn’t ever want to see her again. As we waved goodbye to each other just before she disappeared out of sight in the departure lounge at Cape Town International Airport, I didn’t realise it would be the last time I would see her alive.

After Laura’s death, the Dubai Police ignored the request I had made, via Luis Camara Deputy Head of Mission and Consul from the Embassy of Portugal in Abu Dhabi, as to where she had been staying in the days leading up to her death. Laura had dual nationality, South African and Portuguese, and she had entered Dubai with her Portuguese passport.

Her handbag arrived on 7 January along with her ashes and the coroner’s report in Arabic and translated into English, issued by the Government of Dubai.

In it was her iPhone which was fortunately not password protected. The language had been changed to Arabic by the Dubai Police. I changed it back to English.

With the phone came the identity of her love interest, Mubarak bin Fahad, his telephone number and email address. And a photograph of him.

Mubarak bin Fahad

I also found WhatsApp messages between him and Laura which they had exchanged over the last few days before her death, and on the day of her death at 3:43:56 PM, she received the last message from him. “Yes.”

There is no suggestion that Mubarak was responsible for Laura’s death.

Her most precious possession was not in her handbag, a Shiva-Shakti pendant which she always wore on a long black cord around her neck, the pendant nestling between her breasts, out of sight beneath her abaya. It represented her and Mubarak, her Twin Flame.

Shiva-Shakti

There was also a Blackberry phone and two small memory cards in a sealed transparent plastic bag. The back cover was slightly damaged and there was no battery or charger, or sim card. I had a similar phone so I used my battery to try and recharge the phone but it would not switch on. It was only months after visiting Dubai in March 2015 that I realised that Laura had been carrying the phone when she fell to her death. I never thought that anything could survive a fall from that height. I tried to access the phone once again except this time I used the back cover of my phone. It worked but was password protected.

Her watch was also in the plastic bag, one side of the metal strap missing, and the face of the watch, unscratched and intact. The time was Dubai time, two hours ahead of South Africa.

There were two empty envelopes and a gold bill folder with the Abidos Hotel Apartments Dubailand logo embossed on them. The invoices had been removed. At last, I knew where she had been staying and was able to locate her ‘hidden luggage’ and arrange to have it sent to me in South Africa.

In her luggage, apart from her clothing and documents, were her computer and another Blackberry phone which was again password protected.

In her toiletry bag, I found the Shiva-Shakti pendant. The long black cord was missing.

Amongst her documents was a Certificate for Accepting the Islamic faith, dated 19 June 2004. She had been studying in Johannesburg at the time. There was also a Certificate of Embracing Islam in April 2014 which she had received she had received from the Dubai Court. She had chosen Noora as her Muslim name, meaning light. Many years earlier, before she left for the Middle East, she started calling herself Nura, and then Noura. I had not realised that Laura had been so serious about Islam.

In part of an email she sent to Mubarak, she said, “Because of you I have become closer to Islam, and the mystery of Allah and His love.”

She loved cats and had adopted street kittens on two separate occasions. She found the first one in 2008 when she was working in Dubai but had to give her away when she left to work in another country. Its name was Shakti. The second cat found Laura in Doha, Qatar, “A skinny little kitten that turned into a Golden Princess.”  On the cover of her phone is a photograph of her beloved cat. Laura worked in Dubai for five months before making her final return to Dubai on 18 October 2014.

Laura with Shakti
Golden Princess

When she left Qatar she gave Golden Princess to an Egyptian woman, Germeen Bebawy, who would find good homes for cats that had either been abandoned or given to her when owners could no longer keep them. Months after Laura’s death Germeen let me know that Golden Princess had finally been placed.

Laura once picked up a baby dove that was lying on a Saudi Arabian beach and took it home. She looked after it for a week or two until it was strong enough to fend for itself, after which she released it in the same place where she had found it. She wrote a little note to the dove, and an email to Mubarak, speaking about the little dove.

Baby dove

As a child, Laura did not approve of being guided or controlled. She was stubborn and determined and once she made up her mind, nothing could change it, even if she knew she was in the wrong. She was forthright and transparent, tactless, and due to her fiery temperament, she would often voice her opinion about the spas where she was working, criticising the staff and managers, and would ultimately end up leaving with no reference to help her secure new employment.

She could also be beautiful and happy when she was in the right environment, her brown almond-shaped eyes softening as she smiled. She loved nature and animals and had a special way with birds. They would perch on her fingers and not fly away.

And she loved her family.

She was mainly positive about life, intuitive and sensitive, and would walk away from negative people. But she could also be moody and unpredictable, her moods often influenced by the full moon. She was a fighter and a survivor. Or so I thought.

Laura also had a childlike innocence and purity that gave her a sense of serenity in the face of so much adversity. Her defiance hid the hurt and pain which were her daily mantle. Everyone hurt her. I hurt her. I didn’t realise how fragile she was.

15 April 2014, Laura was back in Dubai, from Portugal. 

Her love for Mubarak, her need to be loved by him, brought out an intense vulnerability in her.

To her friend Asima (name changed to protect her identity), she said,

“And after three weeks I was here I told him I was here…but still did not see him…nor want to right now! If I am meant to be with him it will happen. But Allah brought me back here so will see and be patient meanwhile.”

In another message to the same friend, she said, 

“Mubarak messed me so much. I fell so hard, until the end, because I needed to know the truth. I could not let go of him until life forced me to. I stuck it through to the end even though I knew I was falling and he would not pick me up. I had to see it to the end…but my feelings for him are not that easy to forget. But it is a part of my path in life. I had to walk that way. I feel, yes, I control my life. But life controls us if you understand. Everything that happened since I met him, and things that happened before I met him, all pointed to him.”

By the end of her life, Laura had become a sad, disillusioned, almost tragic figure, but she had found peace and strength in her religion and trusted in Allah to guide her. Always a loner, she had become more withdrawn and isolated, almost friendless. Facebook became her best friend, where she would share her life in cyberspace. We would often miss each by minutes in the early morning but she would often be back in the afternoon or evening when I wasn’t there. Sometimes she would choose the ‘only me’ posting option which only she could see, or she would customise some posts, excluding me and family members.

A selfie taken days before Laura’s death

After the shock of Laura’s death her Facebook page, iPhone, computer and documents, have filled some of the gaps in her life which she concealed from me and from which I have tried to make sense of her suicide, but of course, there is never any sense to suicide and unanswered questions will always remain.

At the time of her death, we were estranged. She often told me that I didn’t know her and that she was sorry we didn’t understand each other.

From Laura…1 March 2009…’Laura’s Voice WHISPERS from an ANGEL’.

“Who can turn raindrops into sunshine…and teardrops into smiles!!?” 

Laura

“I’m Free,” a poem written by Anne Lindgren Davison and recited by Laura’s William ‘Dad’ at the small memorial service which we held on the beach in Hout Bay, South Africa.

“Don’t grieve for me for now I’m free,

I’m following the path God laid for me

I took his hand when I heard him call,

I turned my back and left it all

I could not stay another day,

To laugh, to love, to work or play

Tasks left undone must stay that way,

I’ve found that peace at the close of day

If my parting has left a void,

Then fill it with remembered joy

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,

Ah yes, these things I too will miss

Be not burdened with times of sorrow,

I wish for you the sunshine of tomorrow

My life’s been full, I’ve savored much,

Good friends, good times, my loved one’s touch

If my time seemed all too brief,

Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief

Lift up your heart, rejoice with me,

God wanted me now, He set me free.”

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