'Heroine of Hackney' stranded in Gambia pleads to return home

EXCLUSIVE: Stranded British grandmother, 54, who was dubbed the ‘Heroine of Hackney’ for standing up to London rioters in 2011 issues plea to government to bring her back from Gambia during coronavirus lockdown

  • EXCLUSIVE: Pauline Pearce chastised looters during the riots in a viral rant
  • ‘Heroine of Hackney’ went to Gambia with her father, 84, for a family wedding
  • She accuses the government of neglecting the Britons stranded abroad

A British woman stranded in the Gambia by the coronavirus lockdown has issued an impassioned plea to the government to bring her and the other 200 Britons stuck in the west African tourist destination home.

Pauline Pearce was dubbed the ‘Heroine of Hackney’ after she chastised looters wrecking her east London neighbourhood during the 2011 riots in a spontaneous outburst that went viral on social media.

Now Pauline, 54, who went to Gambia with her 84-year-old father to attend her daughter’s wedding, has turned her anger on the government who she accuses of ‘doing s***’ to rescue the hundreds of Britons stranded there.


Pauline Pearce, who is stranded in the Gambia, has issued an impassioned plea to the government to bring her and other stranded Britons home

In an emotional video posted on Facebook Pauline said: ‘Gambia is beautiful but I want to come home. There are so many other of us that want to come home. We need to come home.

‘We are not getting no help. There are over 200 plus [Britons] out here that are stranded. We don’t have a clue about how we are going to get home or when we are going to get home.

‘What brought tears to my eyes was when my dad said to me: “Pauline I just want to go home. I’m too old now. If I’m going to die I want to die at home.”

She was dubbed the ‘Heroine of Hackney’ after she chastised looters wrecking her east London neighbourhood during the 2011 riots (pictured)

‘What do you say to an 84-year-old?’

She added: ‘We only came for a couple of weeks now we’re stranded here. And we’ve got no money. We’ve managed to rake up enough for another months’ rent. But we’ve probably got another two months or three months here.

‘We bought return tickets so why is no one sending for us? All the other countries have got their people home.

‘I’ve told everybody, I’ve emailed everybody, no one is doing s***! And it’s the same for everyone. No one is doing s***. No one is helping us!

‘People out here are suffering. It’s not just me and mine.’

Pauline (centre) went to Gambia with her 84-year-old father Wilbert (second right) to attend her daughter’s wedding

Breaking into West Indian patois she added: ‘I know it’s lock-down there [in Britain]. But I’d rather be locked down there, in me yard [home]. At least I’m in me yard [home].’

Pauline, who has campaigned against knife-crime, stood for Hackney Council as a LibDem candidate in 2018 and flew out to Gambia at the beginning of March to attend her daughter Iesha’s wedding, with her other daughter Serena and her 84-year-old father Wilbert Carlise Pearce.

But the family from Clapton, East London, became stranded when their return flight to the UK was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Foreign Office has urged Britons in Gambia wishing to return home to book tickets with commercial airlines that are still operating.

An Air Senegal flight is leaving Gambia’s Banjul Airport for London Stansted on Tuesday lunchtime and there are seats available.

Pauline, pictured at her daughter’s wedding, became stranded when her return flight to the UK was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We know it’s difficult for many British travellers abroad – especially those with challenging circumstances.

‘Our consular teams are doing everything they can, especially for those in difficulty, keep Brits informed on the latest developments and help them return – on commercial flights where they are still available or special charter flights as well.

‘We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.’

But Pauline claims she cannot afford the £681.51 per seat price, after spending her limited funds on accommodation.

She said: ‘We don’t have the money. It works out to nearly £3000 for four of us to come home. I’m fed up.

‘They’re telling me I’ve got to buy tickets with money that I’ve spent on accommodation.’

The campaigner, pictured with Paddy Ashdown, stood for Hackney Council as a LibDem candidate in 2018

On Saturday her friend Ian Roberts set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to get Pauline and her family home. By lunchtime today the fundraising had reached £1,629.

But Ian Roberts fears the money will not reach Pauline in time to make the Air Senegal flight.

He told MailOnline: ‘I only set this GoFundMe up on Saturday and we’ve already raised more than £1,600. But I’m worried about how long it’s going to take for the money to reach Pauline.’ 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/stranded-in-gambia?utm_source=facebook

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