A romantic spark can make people act on impulse and do the most unexpected things in pursuit of love. As 24-year-old Sophie Stevenson from Stoke in central England can now readily testify with a heavy heart. In late September 2017, this young bartender hopped hopefully on to a flight to Amsterdam. She was excited at the prospect of being reunited with the man who had swept her off her feet the month before.
Stevenson traveled 40 miles from her home town to Manchester in order to board a plane to Amsterdam. This is the capital city of her new love interest’s native country, the Netherlands. She had been messaging with 21-year-old student Jesse Mateman up until the flight’s departure time. Stevenson most likely boarded the plane with visions playing in her head of romantic walks along Amsterdam’s famous canals. Her excitement must have been building with each minute of the flight that passed. So, by the time Stevenson touched down in the Netherlands, she couldn’t wait to get back in contact with Mateman.
But there was no message or call from the Dutchman when she landed. She later claimed that hours passed by with nothing to be heard from Mateman. And Stevenson says that when she did hear from the student with whom she shared so much affection, she wished he hadn’t bothered. All of her romantic fantasies were shot down in flames. She said that Mateman’s cruel response made her realize that she was not a woman in love, but a victim of a heartless prank. What’s more, Stevenson was stranded in a foreign country, some 500 miles from home.
The love story between Stevenson and Mateman did not have a conventionally romantic beginning. The young couple first crossed paths while on separate vacations in the stunning Catalonian capital of Barcelona. They had each travelled to the city with friends, but all concerned were unfortunate in their vacation schedules. They had chosen August 2017 for their visits, and were caught up in an atrocity.
“I went to Barcelona with my friend Michelle and we arrived the day before the terror attack,” Stevenson told U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail in October 2017. “On [the day of the attack], we were so lucky, we’d just nipped out to buy some drinks and food, and we were sitting on the terrace when we started hearing gunshots. When we looked over we saw people running everywhere, it was really scary.”
The terrorist attack on August 17 saw an individual drive a van into unsuspecting crowds on Las Ramblas, a busy thoroughfare in central Barcelona. Tragically, 13 people died as a result. And the horrific incident took place just one minute’s walk from the hotel where Stevenson and her friend were staying. Immediately after the attack, the hotel went into lockdown and that’s when Stevenson met Mateman for the first time.
The Dutchman and three of his buddies were also staying at the hotel. With the doors locked as a precaution, the five young people had no option but to hole up inside. Meanwhile, outside on Las Ramblas, the authorities did their best to cope with the aftermath of the attack and restore order. During their temporary incarceration and afterwards, Mateman and his friends clicked with Stevenson and her chum. She explained, “We were there for four more days, and we felt safe while we were with them, so we hung out loads.”
After all the drama they went through on the day they met, things rapidly took a romantic turn for Stevenson and Mateman. “We slept together in Barcelona,” she later revealed to U.K. tabloid The Sun. And she alleges that the couple’s whirlwind romance did not blow out after the vacation ended. “When I came back to the U.K. we carried on talking every day,” she said.
Back in Stoke, Stevenson’s mother, Julie, watched on as her daughter giddily embarked on a new long-distance relationship. “He would call her every day and Sophie was so excited and would go off and take the call,” the mom told the Daily Mail. “He said he wanted to come and visit her in Manchester and was planning a visit.”
But Mateman claimed he couldn’t make it over the English Channel as quickly as he would have wished. Julie recalled, “[He] said he could not wait, and asked if Sophie would come over to Amsterdam.” Mateman is from the small town of Doetinchem in the East Netherlands, close to the German border. According to Stevenson, the plan was that each of the young lovers should meet and stay in a hotel in the Netherland’s capital. So Stevenson booked a flight and a hotel for them both in Amsterdam, which cost her approximately $464.
So, with much anticipation, Stevenson boarded her flight on September 29, 2017. From all appearances, Mateman was also having a hard time containing his excitement. Mom Julie remembered Stevenson telling her about the young man’s ardor. She told the Daily Mail, “As she was getting on the plane, he was calling her and telling her he couldn’t wait to meet her at the hotel.”
But not only would Mateman never show at the hotel, he wouldn’t even appear at the airport as Stevenson said he had promised. “I called him a bunch of times and he didn’t answer,” she later said. “I waited at the airport for two hours and hadn’t heard anything. I was really starting to panic about being abandoned.”
Fortunately, Stevenson was able to find a free shuttle bus to her hotel, where she waited and waited to hear from the missing Matemen. “Six hours later he finally messaged me – on Snapchat,” she said. “At first, I thought, he’s going to tell me that something’s happened, that he’s on his way or something,” she told a U.K. television magazine show, ITV’s This Morning. “And then I opened the message.”
Stevenson says she opened the Snapchat in her lonely hotel room and instantly realized she had been duped. “It said, ‘You’ve been pigged,’ two pig emojis,” she recalled. She immediately felt sick, she told the Daily Mail, because she was well aware of what Mateman had meant with his mean message. “‘Pulling a pig’ is where a guy tries to [pick up] the fat, ugly girl,” she explained.
Devastated, Stevenson made an emotional call to her mom. Julie later said, “I couldn’t believe it and felt devastated for Sophie as she had so been looking forward to the trip.” Her daughter also said that she was terrified to be alone in Amsterdam. Stevenson recalled, “I was in a foreign country, on my own, and the guy that I liked had just abandoned me.”
A thoroughly dejected and alone Stevenson caught the next flight home. She alleges that Mateman blocked her number immediately after sending his cruel message. So, unable to get any response from him, Stevenson decided to tell the world her story and perhaps stop others from playing the “pull a pig” prank. The wronged woman has received nothing but positive support from everyone who has heard her tale of woe. Her story may well have reached millions, as it has been covered extensively in several newspapers, on TV and online.
After her story broke, Stevenson even had to post on Facebook to emphasize that she did not want money or donations from well-wishers. She wrote, “While I am grateful for people going to such caring lengths, money was never my motivation for this, it was the awareness!” Her post continued, “I would appreciate… any existing donations please put to a relevant charity. Thank you for the support nonetheless. It really, really means a lot!”
The court of public opinion was much harsher on Mateman, who has since spoken out in an attempt to refute some of Stevenson’s claims. Although Mateman concedes that the two slept together in Barcelona, his story differs thereafter. Yehudi Moszkowicz, the young man’s lawyer, said in a statement, “If Mateman [used] the word pig in a text message to Stevenson – which he cannot remember – it could only have been [sent] during his stay in Spain and can only relate to the way in which they had sex.”
Even with this explanation out there, people have still turned on the young Dutchman. But Mateman is adamant, telling the Daily Mail, “There was no romance with Sophie… That is just fantasist rubbish and it is ruining my life.” He also claimed the story was adversely affecting his family. Mateman told the British tabloid Metro, “My parents, my sister and I [were] threatened. It’s a witch hunt.”
But Stevenson stands by her side of the story, and her reasons for sharing it with the wider world. “Given the circumstance of how we met, you think that he’d be slightly more sensitive,” she told the Daily Mail. “I am furious that this happened and it’s so dangerous. I want people to know what happened to me so that this never happens to anyone else.”