Lauren Richardson: Woman at centre of Zayn Malik controversy 'sent death threats' by fans

Richardson was 'hounded' by abuse from users who told her 'we want to see you, we're going to hunt you down'

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The Independent Online

The woman at the centre of a huge furore for being photographed with Zayn Malik has described the disturbing death threats she received after the singer left One Direction.

Lauren Richardson shared a picture on her Instagram account of Malik with his hand around her stomach after meeting the star in Thailand, incurring the wrath of thousands of Directioners.

The 26-year-old Community Sports Officer's picture sparked an onslaught of abuse that is still continuing today, with social media users leaving insulting, aggressive and threatening comments on her Instagram page. 

Speaking ahead of her appearance in ITV's reality TV show Love Island, Richardson recalled receiving two rounds of abuse from furious fans; the first after publishing the picture on her Instagram and the second after the news broke that Malik had quit One Direction.

A photo posted by Lauren x (@laurenrich_x) on

"They just hounded me like, 'We hate you, you should die, you're a homewrecker'," she told Digital Spy. "They'd put little pictures up of gun faces - 'Share your location, we want to see you, we're going to hunt you down'. It was quite extreme at the time.

“Every picture I put up, there's just hate on there... And even now, I could put a picture up today and there'd still be hate on my trail or people not liking what they see."

Malik was accused of cheating on his fiancé Perrie Edwards and returned to the UK days later, citing stress. He announced his departure from the band shortly after. But Richardson stressed the picture was innocuous and had been blown out of proportion.

"I'd gone into the nightclub where he was, not knowing that he was in there. I'd gone in there because I think it was a free bar for three hours - that's the reason I was there!

"They were in the VIP area, so I managed to get in there. I asked for a picture, had the picture and then I posted it and it went absolutely mental.

"There's no juicy story behind it which I think everyone was dying to hear - it's just a picture."

The Cybersmile Foundation said Richardson’s experience highlights the far-reaching effects of cyber-bullying on a victim’s life. A spokesperson for the cyber-bullying charity told The Independent: “Until a person experiences this kind of bullying, or someone close to them does, it can be difficult to fully understand how devastating it can be.

"Quick judgments and harsh comments may seem like nothing to people sat behind their computers or on their mobiles, but online bullying follows people around the clock and can feel impossible to escape from, or imagine ending.”