Student whose name was used by a convicted sex offender to stage a fake £10,000 funeral in London is found dead in a river in Latvia


The mystery of an elaborately staged £10,000 fake funeral at an historic London church took a new twist today – as the body of the man who was supposedly to be buried that day was discovered in a river in Latvia.

The bizarre funeral at the London Oratory church last month sparked international media attention when it emerged that the presiding vicar had dramatically stopped the service – upon realising that it was being filmed, that the mourners were paid actors and the coffin was empty.

The name used for the ‘dead man’ at the fake funeral was Lauris Zaube – a 23 year old Latvian man who had been missing since the early hours of 1 January.

Today it emerged that Zaube’s body has been found drowned after he wandered off alone from a New Year’s Eve party in the Baltic country.

The body of business management student Lauris Zaube, 23, was found in the River Lielupe in Latvia on March 26

The body of business management student Lauris Zaube, 23, was found in the River Lielupe in Latvia on March 26

Convicted paedophile Jacky Jhaj, 38, organised the bizarre fake funeral with an empty coffin

Convicted paedophile Jacky Jhaj, 38, organised the bizarre fake funeral with an empty coffin 

Jhaj hired a group of actors to pretend to be mourners and arranged the entire service online (pictured)

Many of those in attendance wore long black coats and puffer jackets, with black clothes underneath

Jhaj even hired a director to film the funeral using cameras set up inside the historic London church

Police in Riga search for missing Lauris after he went missing in the early hours of January 1

Police in Riga search for missing Lauris after he went missing in the early hours of January 1

The extraordinary fake funeral had sparked huge interest in who had gone to such lengths to stage it and why until MailOnline was able to establish that the organiser was an exhibitionist would-be influencer with a track record of staging strange events to be filmed.

That organiser was Jacky Jhaj, 38, a convicted sex offender, who has on at least two occasions posed as a film producer or film star – once hiring dozens of young extras to shoot a fake film premier in Leicester Square to boost his online following.

The name Jhaj used for the supposed dead person when booking the Oratory was that of Zaube – the 23 year old Latvian missing since the early hours of New Year’s Day – and he pretended to be Lauris’s mourning brother during the bogus event.

But despite having been supposedly ‘buried’ that day, Lauris was still missing – until it emerged today that his body has finally been found in a river in Latvia.

Lauris is believed to have drowned after accidentally falling in after leaving the party near the Latvian capital Riga.

Gita Gzibovska, a senior specialist of the public relations division of Latvian state police, confirmed that his body was recovered from a stretch of the river at Spunciems around two miles from the guest house which he disappeared from.

She added: ‘Forensic examinations have been ordered, but at the moment there are no indications that a criminal offence has been committed against Zaube.’

Lauris had vanished from the party attended by 80 people which took place at a hired guest house in the hamlet of Straupciems on a remote island around 20 miles from Riga, the capital of Latvia.

The funeral was meant to be that of 23-year-old Latvian man Lauris Zaube (pictured), whose body was found in a river lsat month

The funeral was meant to be that of 23-year-old Latvian man Lauris Zaube (pictured), whose body was found in a river lsat month 

Some of the mourners ¿ who turned out to be hired actors ¿ have not been paid for attending the funeral service at the London Oratory (pictured)

Some of the mourners – who turned out to be hired actors – have not been paid for attending the funeral service at the London Oratory (pictured)

Father Rupert McHardy, 49, (pictured) had prepared a sermon and was in his robes, ready to start the service at the London Oratory on Brompton Rd, South Kensington

Father Rupert McHardy, 49, (pictured) had prepared a sermon and was in his robes, ready to start the service at the London Oratory on Brompton Rd, South Kensington

His friends realised he was missing and used a mobile phone app to track him as he apparently walked along a man-made earth bank, built as a flood defence beside the River Lielupe.

But his phone signal disappeared at 3.30am after he had walked for two miles in the darkness, wearing only a white T shirt on his upper body to protect himself from temperatures of up to -8C, having left his jacket behind.

When his friends reached the scene at 4am, they found it was at a spot where the earth bank, known locally as a dam, was blocked by a former farm building being renovated as a riverside home.

Searches involving divers, tracker dogs, a drone and volunteers were carried out along the river and in numerous water-filled ditches, but no body was found until last week – with news of the discovery breaking today.

Last month, MailOnline revealed that Lauris and Jhaj were previously known to each other after they appeared alongside one another in a music video – which sparked speculation Lauris may still be alive.

But the grim discovery of his drowned body effectively quashes speculation that the young man had cooperated with Jhaj to fake his disappearance for the fake funeral.

And it also effectively proves that Jhaj had lied when he told undertakers and church officials that he would bring cremated remains to the funeral service.

Lauris’ family had held out hope that he might have wandered off after suffering a mental breakdown or some form of amnesia, possibly after banging his head. But these were dashed when his body was discovered last week.

The funeral directors who arranged the service in March were initially told by Jhaj that they would be collecting a body and a place was reserved for burial at Brompton Cemetery in Fulham, West London about a mile from the London Oratory Church.

But the day before the funeral at the Catholic Church they were told they had to collect cremated remains from the family home of the victim.

Jhaj pretended to funeral directors that he was a brother of Lauris called Clyde, even though the Latvian does not have a brother of that name.

A horse drawn carriage, two vintage cars, men in top hats, a full choir and even a videographer were all arranged for the service after the bill of more than £10,000 was paid in advance.

A worshipper at the London Oratory recognised Jhaj as being at the fake funeral when shown pictures of him at his fake film premier in Leicester Square.

Father Rupert McHardy, 49, who was due to conduct the funeral said of the organiser: ‘I saw him in the church and he was wearing dark glasses and whenever I looked at him, he turned away. I have no idea who he is and why he would do such a thing.’

Video footage from inside the fake funeral showed people dressed in smart suits for mourning

Video footage from inside the fake funeral showed people dressed in smart suits for mourning

Dozens of child actors as young as six were recruited as supposed film extras dressed in school uniforms for the event

Dozens of child actors as young as six were recruited as supposed film extras dressed in school uniforms for the event

Jhaj previously held a similar event in which he hired young girls to pretend to faint as he walked up and down a red carpet

Jhaj previously held a similar event in which he hired young girls to pretend to faint as he walked up and down a red carpet

The priest had prepared a sermon and was in his robes, ready to start the service when the choirmaster warned him that something was suspicious.

He added: ‘I have never been involved in anything like this and it is very disrespectful to the church.’

Fr Rupert described mourners who turned out to be actors as being respectful and polite, although one complained about not being paid.

Sexual predator Jhaj from Feltham, Middlesex, was jailed for four years in 2016 for four counts of sexual activity with two 15-year-old girls.

He pretended to be a top Hollywood film producer as he befriended the girls, plying them with alcohol and giving them lifts to parties, before sexually assaulting them.

The fake funeral, however, was not the first event Jhaj had created.

In November he staged a fake red carpet outside the Odeon Luxe cinema in London’s Leicester Square involving dozens of young children and teenagers hired as supposed film extras.

The child actors, some aged as young as six in school uniforms, were asked to pretend to faint as Jhaj paraded up and down in a red tuxedo as if he were a film star at a premier.

The Met Police are believed to have launched a fraud investigation, although Scotland Yard could not confirm its involvement.

His friends realised he was missing and used a mobile phone app to track him as he apparently walked along a man-made earth bank, built as a flood defence beside the River Lielupe.

But his phone signal disappeared at 3.30am after he had walked for two miles in the darkness, wearing only a white T shirt on his upper body to protect himself from temperatures of up to -8C, having left his jacket behind.

When his friends reached the scene at 4am, they found it was at a spot where the earth bank, known locally as a dam, was blocked by a former farm building being renovated as a riverside home.

Searches involving divers, tracker dogs, a drone and volunteers were carried out along the river and in numerous water-filled ditches, but no body was found until last week – with news of the discovery breaking today.

Last month, MailOnline revealed that Lauris and Jhaj were previously known to each other after they appeared alongside one another in a music video – which sparked speculation Lauris may still be alive.

But the grim discovery of his drowned body effectively quashes speculation that the young man had cooperated with Jhaj to fake his disappearance for the fake funeral.

And it also effectively proves that Jhaj had lied when he told undertakers and church officials that he would bring cremated remains to the funeral service.

Lauris’ family had held out hope that he might have wandered off after suffering a mental breakdown or some form of amnesia, possibly after banging his head. But these were dashed when his body was discovered last week.

The funeral directors who arranged the service in March were initially told by Jhaj that they would be collecting a body and a place was reserved for burial at Brompton Cemetery in Fulham, West London about a mile from the London Oratory Church.

But the day before the funeral at the Catholic Church they were told they had to collect cremated remains from the family home of the victim.

Jhaj pretended to funeral directors that he was a brother of Lauris called Clyde, even though the Latvian does not have a brother of that name.

A horse drawn carriage, two vintage cars, men in top hats, a full choir and even a videographer were all arranged for the service after the bill of more than £10,000 was paid in advance.

A worshipper at the London Oratory recognised Jhaj as being at the fake funeral when shown pictures of him at his fake film premier in Leicester Square.

MailOnline revealed that the pair were known to each other after they appeared alongside one another in a music video. Pictured: Lauris

MailOnline revealed that the pair were known to each other after they appeared alongside one another in a music video. Pictured: Lauris 

The guest house where Lauris disappeared from during a New Year's Eve party earlier this year

The guest house where Lauris disappeared from during a New Year’s Eve party earlier this year

Authorities in the eastern European country have now confirmed his body was recovered from the River Lielupe on March 26

Authorities in the eastern European country have now confirmed his body was recovered from the River Lielupe on March 26 

Authorities searching for the body of Lauris earlier this year

Authorities searching for the body of Lauris earlier this year 

Father Rupert McHardy, 49, who was due to conduct the funeral said of the organiser: ‘I saw him in the church and he was wearing dark glasses and whenever I looked at him, he turned away. I have no idea who he is and why he would do such a thing.’

The priest had prepared a sermon and was in his robes, ready to start the service when the choirmaster warned him that something was suspicious.

He added: ‘I have never been involved in anything like this and it is very disrespectful to the church.’

Fr Rupert described mourners who turned out to be actors as being respectful and polite, although one complained about not being paid.

Sexual predator Jhaj from Feltham, Middlesex, was jailed for four years in 2016 for four counts of sexual activity with two 15-year-old girls.

He pretended to be a top Hollywood film producer as he befriended the girls, plying them with alcohol and giving them lifts to parties, before sexually assaulting them.

The fake funeral, however, was not the first event Jhaj had created.

In November he staged a fake red carpet outside the Odeon Luxe cinema in London’s Leicester Square involving dozens of young children and teenagers hired as supposed film extras.

The child actors, some aged as young as six in school uniforms, were asked to pretend to faint as Jhaj paraded up and down in a red tuxedo as if he were a film star at a premier.

The Met Police are believed to have launched a fraud investigation, although Scotland Yard could not confirm its involvement.



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