Acid Attack: My Story


Acid Attack: My Story

Documentary looking into the rise in acid attacks in the UK, focusing on a 2012 attack on Naomi Oni who was doused in acid after being stalked through London.


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Transcript


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.

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PHONE RINGS

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I just remember thinking, "Oh, my gosh, like, I've lost my face.

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"My skin is burnt and my eyes, like, I can't see."

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Naomi Oni says that when she saw her injured face for the first time, she

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-didn't want to live.

-A happy and confident young woman permanently

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disfigured in a deliberate, wicked and devastating act.

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I was 20 years old when I was attacked

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and you don't know anything at 20 years old.

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You're so naive.

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Like, you wouldn't think someone can do the worst to you.

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My story is one of betrayal and loss,

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and it's only now, five years on,

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that I'm ready to talk about it.

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Since my attack, I've had to do this journey to the hospital a lot.

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I have laser treatments three times a year

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and then I have to see my surgeon as well.

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-ANNOUNCEMENT:

-We are now approaching Stratford.

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It is very weird, especially passing Stratford to get to the hospital.

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Like, it's just like, "Wow.

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"I used to work here."

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Someone was able to just follow me all the way from Stratford, home to

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throw acid in my face.

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Yeah.

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Are you ready?

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Yeah? I'm starting on your forehead now.

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-How's that feel?

-OK.

-OK?

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I think I'm at the stage of acceptance, which oddly enough

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feels like the most difficult stage of the whole situation.

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Most uncomfortable.

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-Would you like a bit of ice?

-Yes, please.

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Because you've had the moment to grieve,

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you've had that moment of resentment, you've had that moment of anger,

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and now you're just left with you.

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I'm very grateful that they've...

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you know, they've taken the time out to actually be gentle with me.

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Like, you know, they get, like, I'm a young girl and it's a lot to deal

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with. Like, your physical...

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Especially your face.

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Your face. That is so much, like, to deal with and...

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Yeah.

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But five years ago, when I was 20, life was very different.

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I'd just got my first job.

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It was at Victoria's Secret, Westfield in Stratford.

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MUSIC: Titanium by David Guetta feat. Sia

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When I did get the job, I was like, "Oh, they do beauty there."

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"You guys have to put me on beauty, because that's what I like."

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So they put me on the beauty section.

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I had a boyfriend.

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I just felt like, yeah, "I'm becoming a young adult.

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"I'm getting there."

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I had Naomi on the 11th

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of February 1992.

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I was so happy. I wanted a girl.

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I wasn't expecting her to be pretty

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like that. She was very pretty. Yeah.

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My mum, she's lovely.

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Her name is Marion.

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She's albino, so she's very fair in complexion.

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It can affect their eyes as well,

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so I had to be her carer because of her eyesight.

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And especially because I'm her only child as well,

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so I've always had that, like, "I have to look out for my mum."

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MUSIC: Pretty Hurts by Beyonce

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My mum has always gone out of her way to make sure I feel comfortable

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about my physical appearance,

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because I can only imagine how she probably would have felt being a young woman

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and having people treat you according to the way you look

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physically. So, she's always wanted me to be smart, to be clever,

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to be well-spoken.

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Because when you do look different,

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the way you come across becomes more important than your physical

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appearance and it has to be, because it's how you're going to get through life.

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My name's Vida

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and I know Naomi because we are school friends.

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I just remember us being told off a lot by the teachers for not actually

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listening in class, but

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-it was fun.

-My name is Phyllis.

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I went to school with Naomi, secondary school.

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She was just a normal girl.

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We had a lot of common interests, like music and fashion

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-and celebrities and all that stuff.

-Phyllis,

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Vida, and then there was another girl called Mary,

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were my closest friends.

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But I noticed that other girls would try and find every way to make you

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feel bad about yourself.

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Girls were just mean, if I'm honest.

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Girls were very mean.

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I mean, from face value it was easy to assume it didn't bother her,

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but myself and Phyllis, Mary, we were more

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aware of how insecure she was.

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So, during break times, people might say, "Oh, look at her hair."

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Or, "Too much make-up," and she would just be like,

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"Shut up and leave me alone."

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But then in class she would get teary.

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So, Mary,

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she mentioned that she was quite bullied by the girls in the year above

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and, like, I kind of saw that in her,

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so I kind of felt protective over her and maybe sometimes she felt

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like the way people treated me was quite unfair.

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I just felt for her and it was just, like,

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natural of me to want to feel like I should protect her or be her friend.

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But I think Mary and Naomi both sought validation from each other because

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they had this common ground of, "No-one really gets me," almost,

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and they just got each other.

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Knowing that I was loved and accepted by my friends is something that I took for granted,

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but that all changed on December 29th 2012.

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I remember that day, December the 29th.

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It was Christmas time. I was just like, "Damn, everyone is at home.

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"My mum is cooking and I'm going to work. Really?"

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And I remember that day.

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I bought myself - because they were doing like Christmas sales -

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I bought myself a really nice pink, big, like,

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fluffy pink Victoria's Secret robe.

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-ANNOUNCEMENT:

-The store will be closing in five minutes.

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I remember being at work, closing up, thinking, "Oh, yeah,

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"I'm happy to be going home."

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Everybody seemed to be in a good mood.

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I...

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I...

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I did my normal journey.

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Stratford to West Ham,

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and then from West Ham, I would get the train to Barking.

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-TUBE ANNOUNCEMENT:

-The next station is Barking.

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Change for London Overground and National Rail Services.

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And then from Barking, I would just about get the last bus home.

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I finished work at 11.30, so I probably got to Barking, like, after 12.

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I remember coming out of Barking Station and I remember I was hungry.

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Like, I remember being very hungry.

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So, I was like, "OK, let me just get some chicken wings and chips

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"and I'll eat them when I get home."

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I got on my bus and while I was doing this journey, I was on the phone to my ex-boyfriend,

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just talking. I was thinking, I need the company,

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especially when it was late.

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The bus took me to my bus stop, just opposite my house, Bromhall Road.

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I just remember getting off the bus and I don't know,

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something just caught my attention.

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I just felt like startled a little bit.

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I looked to the side of me and I remember seeing someone in just black.

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I just remember seeing black and I remember the person's face being covered.

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It was a very cold stare, just a complete cold stare.

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And I just remember thinking, "Whoa," like, "OK.

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"Just cross the road and go to your house."

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Before I knew it,

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I just felt a hu-u-uge

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splash, and I just remember...

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SHE GASPS

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Like, literally like that, and I remember I immediately screamed.

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Screamed. I clenched onto my stuff.

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I was on the phone and I was screaming, like, running down my road.

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I did not look back

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and I remember getting to my door and banging on my door.

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BANGING

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Screaming, screaming, screaming.

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I was like, "It's burning! It's burning!

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"Acid, acid, acid."

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And my mum opened the door and I just saw my mum's face like...

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I went upstairs and at this time, she was in the bathroom.

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I just knew straight away that it was acid,

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and it was strong acid because of the way it smelt.

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To me, I thought my skin was dissolving.

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Like, I was just going to, I don't know, corrode away.

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So we opened the shower and just doused her in water.

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I looked down and I realised that her jeans were falling apart.

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And then I thought, "Wow.

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-"This is everywhere."

-And I could just feel the splashes of water,

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my skin is burnt.

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I just felt like, I don't know, just...

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How can I explain? You know when you put

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hot water in a glass and then you run it under a cold tap and it cracks?

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Like, it starts to break.

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That's how I felt.

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I just thought, "When can the ambulance and the police get here,

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"because I could be doing something wrong," but I just thought, "You can't go wrong with water and acid."

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Anything to dilute it.

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I just remember mucus just flowing down my face,

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like, my face was like purply, pink, green.

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I don't even know, it was just multicoloured.

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So I just remember literally

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humming, just humming in my head, trying to, like...

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not freak out, and I remember when the ambulance came

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and...

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SHE SIGHS

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I just remember seeing my mum so frozen.

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I said, "Please, Mum, go with the rest of them."

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And I told my aunt, "You need to come into the ambulance with me."

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I did not want my mum to come

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because I didn't want my mum to freak out.

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They were like, "OK, we are transferring her to Broomfield Hospital,

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"it's a burns unit."

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I was just like, "A burns unit?"

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I gave up. I don't know if my body just shut down.

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I remember coming into the hospital.

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It was like an episode of ER.

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I don't know if I was on the bed, I don't know if I was on the table.

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I just was getting poked and touched.

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And I could just hear voices in the background.

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"Burns," something, something "degree burns."

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My name is Naguib El-Muttardi,

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I am a consultant plastic reconstructive and burn surgeon,

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St Andrews Centre, Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

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When we saw Naomi, the injuries were mainly on

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the right side of the face,

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the front of the scalp, the middle of the scalp,

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on the side of the nose, upper lip, part of the neck,

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the right forearm and hand

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and on the left thigh.

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So that was the extent of the injury.

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We usually see these attacks in young men,

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so at that time, it is not that common to have it in girls,

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but, unfortunately, she was one of those victims.

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From the beginning we knew that it is very deep.

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We knew that it is a full thickness damage to the skin,

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and she needs lots of surgeries to heal it and reconstruct it.

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So if you come across somebody who's been attacked with acid,

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I think the first thing we should do is remove any clothes

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which are soaked with the acid.

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You should cut it rather than pull it over,

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and straight away we should be starting the irrigation with water.

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This is really important in minimising the contact.

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Preventing the penetration of the acid

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should be done within ten seconds.

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The injury which acid can inflict is much more serious than a knife,

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I think.

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I think it is both physically and psychologically distressing,

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because it's a disfiguring injury.

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The one who is attempting to assault with acid, he doesn't want to kill,

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but he wants to disfigure and make permanent marks on that person.

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I can't understand why anybody would do what they did.

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I think that's when I started to actually realise the severity of

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what had actually been done to me.

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My face was... I felt like my face was literally ten times the size and my eyes were so swollen.

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I just remember mucus was always running.

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It wasn't even tears. I just remember sometimes I would have to wipe,

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like, mucus, mucus, mucus, mucus, mucus.

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That's all it was. Pus, yellow stuff just coming out of my eyes.

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I think that's when I realised it's burning my eyes.

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They said, "There's a lot of it in your eyes and we're going to have to

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"wash it out with saline."

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So, they then have to touch my skin,

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stretch my eyes open to wash a corrosive substance out of my eyes with the

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rest of my face burned.

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And I just remembered water, like, in my eye, in my eye, in my eye,

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in my eye, in my eye,

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and I'm trying to blink, but at the same time open my eyes, because I don't

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want to go blind. Like, I don't want to be blind. Like...

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that's not my portion.

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"I don't want to be blind," that's what I keep thinking.

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From the way she talks about it now, I think nobody expected that she was

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going to get her sight back.

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The prognosis for one of the eyes was really bad and they said she

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would have SOME in the other eye, I think.

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And it was only then I realised, "God, the acid...

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"it just kind of worked its way through."

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After the attack, I had two major facial reconstruction surgeries.

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They took skin from my thighs to replace skin damaged on my arm, shoulder,

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other thigh and almost half of my face.

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No-one actually really showed me how to put make-up on as a burn survivor.

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I kind of had to practise, practise, practise as I went along.

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So, this is like the most important process of my make-up, because

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obviously it helps

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bring my complexion.

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I try to match my

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foundation as close to my neck as possible.

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When you're rubbing it, you have to be careful because it's not like skin, is it?

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It's skin that was taken from my thigh to be put on my face,

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so if you cut your skin it's not going to grow back.

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I lost my eyelids,

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so they had to take skin from behind my ears to create an eyelid.

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I don't know if you can see that round shape.

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They kind of had to create eyelids for me.

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I used to look in the mirror and I would just feel so hurt.

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So, so hurt that...

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..this thing is so destructive,

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it's actually made me look unrecognisable.

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Initially my face was quite flat.

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I remember my nose and under my eye were literally the same level.

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So when I had to do my make-up, I'd have to do so much contouring to

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basically make my face more 3D.

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So, yeah, I would say I've come a very long way.

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A week after the attack, I was still in hospital,

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not knowing who had done this to me and not being able to see.

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But then my eyes started to open a bit.

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My vision became like patches, like little dots,

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and I think there was a day where,

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you know, when your screen is black and I was picking it up to use it,

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and I remember I caught my reflection

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and I was just like...

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I was a bit scared. I was like, "That does not look like me."

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So, at this point, it was the local police officers

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who were trying to find out who had done this to me.

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The police were even asking me,

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like, "Have you ever been threatened that somebody was going

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"to throw acid at you in the past?" And I said...

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"Funny enough," I said, "Yeah,

0:19:510:19:53

"like, someone actually has weirdly enough threatened to throw acid at me in the past."

0:19:530:19:59

And I explained to them, I said,

0:19:590:20:01

"Oh, one time, me and my friend Mary, we fell out.

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"And she threatened that she was going to throw acid at me," but I was like,

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"That was so long ago." I explained to the officer

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that Mary had messaged me to see how I was and she's been calling me, like,

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since I've been in the hospital. So I was, like, she's completely concerned,

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like, that I'm in the hospital.

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Like, that's a friend, because that's how a friend reacts.

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It happens the day before New Year's Eve,

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when resources are low in any case.

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And Naomi was the only witness to the offence.

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It is not an easy investigation for the officers to deal with

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and this went to the local police.

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There was extensive house to house done.

0:20:410:20:43

But there was nobody that saw anything

0:20:430:20:46

apart from Naomi screaming down the street

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as a result of this attack.

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So, trying to prove who actually carried out this offence is very

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difficult. The identification goes out the window.

0:20:590:21:02

We're talking about an incident that happens in the middle of the night,

0:21:020:21:05

you have street lighting to rely on

0:21:050:21:08

and the suspect was wearing a full niqab,

0:21:080:21:12

which only allowed the...

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the eyes to be shown.

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It was six weeks after I was attacked that Mary

0:21:190:21:22

was brought in for questioning.

0:21:220:21:26

The time now is 13.29 on February 22nd 2013.

0:21:260:21:33

Eventually, local officers arrested Mary.

0:21:330:21:36

They had arrested her on the basis that Naomi had said her friend had

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-threatened her before.

-Do you want to tell me how you know Naomi?

0:21:410:21:45

Yeah, I've know Naomi since secondary school.

0:21:460:21:49

How would you describe your relationship with Naomi?

0:21:490:21:52

Yeah, I think we're quite close, like, we speak regularly on the phone.

0:21:520:21:55

The officer did point out that she said something,

0:21:550:21:58

we had an argument over a year ago.

0:21:580:22:00

And she says in the argument

0:22:000:22:01

that you said you wanted to throw acid in her face.

0:22:010:22:04

Acid? No.

0:22:050:22:07

Because that's a very particular...

0:22:070:22:09

-It's...

-..thing, I mean, acid attacks over here, especially, are very rare,

0:22:090:22:15

so why pick a comment like that?

0:22:150:22:18

I cannot remember saying that.

0:22:180:22:21

I know when she told me this happened to her, I was just, like...

0:22:210:22:23

why? Why would...?

0:22:230:22:25

Why? I just don't understand.

0:22:250:22:27

She said they had had disagreements in the past,

0:22:270:22:31

but it's like friends and they fall in, fall out

0:22:310:22:34

and there wasn't any other evidence to really tie Mary into it

0:22:340:22:38

from the borough perspective.

0:22:380:22:40

She was released from the police station.

0:22:410:22:44

She was given a bail date,

0:22:440:22:45

so I can understand how frustrated the family were.

0:22:450:22:49

Two months and really,

0:22:490:22:51

there's nothing that you could hang your hat on

0:22:510:22:54

for progress in that investigation.

0:22:540:22:57

I just remember thinking, "Oh, I've lost my face.

0:22:590:23:03

"I'm going to be bald.

0:23:030:23:05

"I'm not going to have eyebrows

0:23:050:23:07

"and I'm going to have thighs for a face."

0:23:070:23:09

And I remember when, like, people would ask me, like,

0:23:110:23:13

"It must be somebody close to you, somebody close to you,

0:23:130:23:15

"somebody close to you." And I was like, "People I know, like,

0:23:150:23:18

"wouldn't do anything like that to me."

0:23:180:23:20

Anyone that knows me, I don't think is crazy enough.

0:23:200:23:22

People just ask, "Was she rowing about a boy?"

0:23:230:23:26

And I said, "Not that I know of."

0:23:260:23:28

I thought, "Do you know what? She's just a normal kid."

0:23:280:23:32

There was nothing way out.

0:23:320:23:35

The police were even asking me, like, "Oh, have you ever been in a gang?"

0:23:350:23:39

And that's when I started to think "Oh..."

0:23:390:23:43

Like, things are just making a turn for the worse.

0:23:430:23:45

It became, "Tell us the truth.

0:23:450:23:47

"Have you ever been in a gang?"

0:23:470:23:49

So when the police came and asked certain questions,

0:23:490:23:53

it was hard not to think they were fishing for information, but again,

0:23:530:24:00

I tried to be objective and thought, "You know what?

0:24:000:24:03

"They have to pursue all their lines of inquiry."

0:24:030:24:06

I had been in hospital for weeks and I was just about to be discharged.

0:24:080:24:13

The police had taken my laptop and found some of my Google searches

0:24:130:24:16

on Katie Piper and eyelid surgery.

0:24:160:24:18

So, the police found these things

0:24:190:24:21

and that led them to, like, investigating me.

0:24:210:24:25

Like, if I did it, if I threw acid on myself.

0:24:250:24:29

My uncle just said, "The way it's looking, it's not looking good.

0:24:290:24:32

"They're not coming to us with any information,

0:24:320:24:34

"so let us go to the press."

0:24:340:24:38

What I can't believe is that you

0:24:390:24:40

were just discharged a week and a half ago.

0:24:400:24:42

I mean, you've had such an ordeal.

0:24:420:24:45

How many operations have you had?

0:24:450:24:47

I had two within four weeks.

0:24:470:24:49

This person is still out there?

0:24:500:24:52

-Yes.

-And police don't know who they are?

0:24:520:24:54

-No.

-What the motive was?

0:24:540:24:56

There's no clue as to the motive?

0:24:560:24:57

-No.

-So they have to remain open-minded

0:24:570:25:00

about what happened that night?

0:25:000:25:02

Yes.

0:25:020:25:04

What do you say to them, if they happen to be watching?

0:25:040:25:07

Just, I just want them to realise the pain

0:25:070:25:10

they've put myself and my family through.

0:25:100:25:12

And I hope they don't do this to anybody else,

0:25:120:25:15

and I just want them to know that whatever they tried to do to me,

0:25:150:25:18

they failed in doing what they were doing and actually they made me a

0:25:180:25:22

stronger person.

0:25:220:25:23

I'm actually happy.

0:25:230:25:26

And whoever they are, if they can just come out

0:25:260:25:28

and just reveal themselves,

0:25:280:25:30

I'd like to know, you know, why? I don't hate them.

0:25:300:25:32

-I just want to know why.

-Oh, gosh...

0:25:320:25:35

-Come over here.

-Come here.

-Oh, dear.

0:25:350:25:37

-SOBBING: Thank you.

-Oh, not at all.

0:25:370:25:38

You sit there like that and hopefully, at some stage,

0:25:380:25:41

you'll be able to get some sort of an answer as to why this happened and why they did this to you.

0:25:410:25:44

-I hope so, too.

-And hopefully someone will catch them so they don't do it to

0:25:440:25:47

-anybody else.

-Exactly. I don't want them to do it to anyone else.

0:25:470:25:50

I don't want other girls or other people having to go through what I've gone through.

0:25:500:25:54

At Scotland Yard there's big media type rooms there,

0:25:550:25:59

where they monitor television...

0:25:590:26:02

constantly.

0:26:020:26:04

And this came up on a morning show, I believe,

0:26:040:26:08

Philip Schofield-type thing.

0:26:080:26:11

And you have a young lady on there that's clearly been the subject of an attack,

0:26:110:26:17

and then that rings alarm bells at Scotland Yard.

0:26:170:26:21

And it just so happened that when the request came in

0:26:210:26:24

from Scotland Yard for this particular case to be reviewed,

0:26:240:26:28

it was my team that was on-call.

0:26:280:26:31

I do feel like the press interest made the police up their game

0:26:310:26:34

and relook into the situation, and that this situation is, you know,

0:26:340:26:40

for it to go to the homicide team, that's pretty serious.

0:26:400:26:43

After my attack, I didn't really get in touch with my friends.

0:26:470:26:51

I didn't want to talk to many people.

0:26:510:26:53

Vida and Phyllis were out of London at university,

0:26:530:26:56

so they only found out when I went public.

0:26:560:26:58

Naomi Oni - a happy and confident young woman,

0:27:020:27:05

who dreamed of working in the beauty industry,

0:27:050:27:08

permanently disfigured in a

0:27:080:27:10

deliberate, wicked and devastating act.

0:27:100:27:13

I remember it very clearly.

0:27:140:27:16

I was on the way home. My phone is always on vibrate.

0:27:160:27:18

-I just remember my phone kind of...

-SHE BUZZES

0:27:180:27:21

..all the time.

0:27:210:27:22

And then I got a call from my cousin.

0:27:220:27:24

And he's like, "Why haven't you looked at my WhatsApp?

0:27:240:27:27

"You haven't said anything." I said "Why? Why?"

0:27:270:27:29

"Look at WhatsApp." I looked at my WhatsApp

0:27:290:27:31

and there was, literally, message after message. It just said, "Victoria's Secret."

0:27:310:27:34

It was like a link and it said, "Victoria's Secret."

0:27:340:27:36

And I kind of thought, "What is this?"

0:27:360:27:38

And I clicked on it. And I just remember seeing the image

0:27:380:27:41

and thinking, "Oh, my God.

0:27:410:27:44

"Oh, my God."

0:27:440:27:45

I saw the pictures that came out when she was in hospital

0:27:470:27:49

and it was still black.

0:27:490:27:51

I was thinking, "No-one deserves that."

0:27:510:27:54

Like, I wouldn't even wish that on my enemy,

0:27:540:27:56

but no-one deserves that.

0:27:560:27:58

And I thought, "I swear I just saw her, like, less than a month ago.

0:27:590:28:02

"And she's like a different person now."

0:28:020:28:07

Yeah...

0:28:090:28:10

My face was black.

0:28:100:28:13

My eyes were swollen.

0:28:130:28:15

I was terrified.

0:28:160:28:18

And I remember when I came out into the press,

0:28:180:28:21

and obviously people had seen, like, on the news and stuff.

0:28:210:28:25

And I remember Mary messaging me saying, "Oh, my gosh.

0:28:250:28:28

"It doesn't even look like you."

0:28:280:28:30

I just kept thinking, "Who would do that?"

0:28:340:28:36

Then the press found out that the police had this theory I'd done this to myself

0:28:380:28:42

and that was all they seemed to focus on.

0:28:420:28:44

I don't understand.

0:28:460:28:47

Why am I in the hospital? Why is this happening to me?

0:28:470:28:49

You know, why was I even attacked in the first place? Who did this?

0:28:490:28:52

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

0:28:520:28:55

But instead, all the questions

0:28:550:28:58

ended up on me.

0:28:580:29:00

When they said Naomi did it to herself, like, I just thought,

0:29:040:29:08

"I can't believe they're saying that."

0:29:080:29:09

Naomi is not the type, she's not, she would never do that herself.

0:29:090:29:13

I don't know anyone that would actually do that to themselves.

0:29:130:29:16

There was a whole story about some celebrity person

0:29:160:29:19

who had acid poured on her face

0:29:190:29:21

and people were drawing parallels, and I'm just thinking, "Wow."

0:29:210:29:24

You know, where did that all come from?

0:29:240:29:27

It was portrayed in the media that,

0:29:270:29:30

because she was researching Katie Piper,

0:29:300:29:33

then, you know, she almost planned it because she saw, like, the outcome for

0:29:330:29:37

Katie Piper's life after and thought, "Oh, maybe if I did this to myself..."

0:29:370:29:42

And it's terrible

0:29:420:29:44

to say that somebody would attack themselves to look like

0:29:440:29:47

or to be like a survivor.

0:29:470:29:50

It is not a joke.

0:29:500:29:52

It was tough hearing, like, kind of nonsense, can I say,

0:29:540:29:57

like, kind of being put out about

0:29:570:30:02

who my friend is as a person.

0:30:020:30:03

It's like, do you really want to hear my story or are you looking

0:30:030:30:08

for a secret that I'm hiding or me to say something extra?

0:30:080:30:13

Like, I was attacked on my way home from work.

0:30:130:30:16

That's all I know.

0:30:160:30:18

Like, I was attacked on my way home from work.

0:30:180:30:21

I did not know what somebody else had in store for me.

0:30:210:30:23

Two months after the attack,

0:30:260:30:27

and the homicide team are now leading the investigation.

0:30:270:30:30

We went straight back to the start,

0:30:310:30:34

right back to the very beginning, examining every piece of CCTV.

0:30:340:30:38

And it was very shortly after we started that,

0:30:380:30:42

that we picked Naomi up, coming through Barking Station.

0:30:420:30:46

And then you keep watching it,

0:30:460:30:47

and then you see a woman walking through the same barriers

0:30:470:30:52

ten, 15 seconds behind, wearing a full niqab, following Naomi.

0:30:520:30:56

It was almost like we're trying to be detectives.

0:30:580:31:00

We were trying to work it out ourselves,

0:31:000:31:02

it's like, "Who would do that though?

0:31:020:31:04

"Like, is it someone we know?"

0:31:040:31:05

Is it this? Is it that? Is it that?

0:31:050:31:06

And we just kind of, everyone, every name kind of popped up and then,

0:31:060:31:10

a particular name popped up and it was just like, no.

0:31:100:31:13

Then, we were kind of silent on the phone, like...

0:31:130:31:15

Vida called me.

0:31:150:31:18

And we were just talking about the whole situation.

0:31:180:31:20

And we just said to each other, "What if it's Mary?"

0:31:220:31:24

Without seeing any, without anything.

0:31:240:31:27

Mary could be quite unpredictable.

0:31:270:31:29

She came from being polite and quite well-spoken to just being quite

0:31:290:31:34

passive aggressive and unresponsive almost.

0:31:340:31:38

Back in school, like, you'd be scared of Mary.

0:31:380:31:41

Not because you're scared that she's going to beat you up or...

0:31:410:31:44

It was just, there was just something about her that was just scary.

0:31:440:31:48

You then go backwards again to a previous station

0:31:490:31:53

and you see her coming out with her friends.

0:31:530:31:56

And at a bit more of a distance this time,

0:31:560:31:59

you see the same figure in a niqab appearing to mirror Naomi's movements.

0:31:590:32:04

And everyone's like, "Oh, it must be her, it must be her."

0:32:040:32:07

And it's like, "No, no." But everyone was, like, saying it,

0:32:070:32:10

but convincing themselves, "No, no, no.

0:32:100:32:11

"We don't want it to be true.

0:32:110:32:13

"We don't want it to be true at all."

0:32:130:32:15

This person is present at Westfield shopping centre,

0:32:150:32:19

all the way through to Barking Station.

0:32:190:32:21

And then, they both head off together towards the bus.

0:32:220:32:26

So when you piece all this together,

0:32:260:32:28

you have verification of what Naomi's been telling us all along.

0:32:280:32:31

That lady had a distinctive handbag.

0:32:320:32:36

And when we reviewed the custody images

0:32:370:32:41

that we had when Mary was originally arrested,

0:32:410:32:45

it looked like she had exactly the same bag.

0:32:450:32:48

And then you got thinking, "No, no.

0:32:520:32:55

"This looks like it's got potential."

0:32:550:32:58

When we had her come back in on bail,

0:33:000:33:02

this warrant was done at the address

0:33:020:33:05

and the bag was recovered and, long story short,

0:33:050:33:09

it has traces of damage that is typical of an acidic acid.

0:33:090:33:16

And she changed her status on WhatsApp following the attack to Freddy Krueger.

0:33:160:33:24

And a, "Who looks like Wrong Turn now?"

0:33:240:33:27

Pretty quickly, she removes that,

0:33:270:33:30

but not before several people have seen it.

0:33:300:33:33

Why would you do that? That just shows you

0:33:330:33:35

what a cold, calculating woman she is.

0:33:350:33:38

I didn't hear much

0:33:380:33:40

and then, all of a sudden, we heard that they might have somebody.

0:33:400:33:43

And we thought, "Who?"

0:33:440:33:46

And they said it was somebody she knew, it was a friend.

0:33:460:33:49

And I thought, "No..."

0:33:490:33:51

I can't remember who called me,

0:33:510:33:53

and she was like, "Oh, my God!

0:33:530:33:55

"You'll never guess who."

0:33:550:33:57

I said, "Don't tell me.

0:33:570:33:59

"Don't tell me." It's like, "Yeah, it's Mary."

0:33:590:34:03

I wasn't shocked at all that it was Mary that did it,

0:34:030:34:07

even though it was her friend, but...

0:34:070:34:09

I wasn't shocked.

0:34:090:34:10

They were, like, "Naomi, we're afraid to tell you that Mary is

0:34:140:34:20

"the person behind the niqab."

0:34:200:34:23

And I just remember being so distraught.

0:34:250:34:27

I thought she was my friend.

0:34:300:34:33

And I couldn't understand why she did what she did.

0:34:330:34:38

Like, I just...

0:34:380:34:39

I couldn't understand it.

0:34:410:34:43

The next time I saw Mary was when I had to face her in court.

0:34:530:34:56

I wanted to look her in the eyes to know whether she'd really thrown the

0:34:560:34:59

acid at me and why.

0:34:590:35:01

Realising somebody that you thought was your friend isn't your friend,

0:35:020:35:07

it's a grief, yeah.

0:35:070:35:08

And actually, like, to be betrayed, like, I was...

0:35:110:35:16

For someone to lead you to your destruction basically...

0:35:170:35:21

..I was heartbroken. Just, everything all at once.

0:35:230:35:27

Mary Konye took the stand.

0:35:310:35:34

Her defence formed around a line that had come out in the press about

0:35:340:35:38

the self-infliction.

0:35:380:35:39

Mary actually threw it because Naomi wanted her to throw it,

0:35:400:35:44

so Naomi got publicity.

0:35:440:35:46

And she was actually saying it to me, like, in such a strict way.

0:35:460:35:48

Like, "You threw it on yourself and you didn't think it would hit your

0:35:480:35:52

face." And I just thought, "Is this a joke?"

0:35:520:35:56

Like, "Are we all going to act like we're not adults?"

0:35:560:35:59

Who in their right mind would pour acid on themselves?

0:35:590:36:03

And that's the crux of the matter.

0:36:030:36:05

Would you do that to yourself?

0:36:050:36:07

She was... There were even times where she said,

0:36:070:36:09

"Oh, she remembers that night calling me and we were on the phone.

0:36:090:36:13

"And we were making, like, arrangements."

0:36:130:36:15

She latched onto certain aspects and certain stories that were in the

0:36:150:36:19

press and pieced together a defence around that,

0:36:190:36:23

but there was nothing to ever substantiate and support

0:36:230:36:27

this type of theory that they had hatched a plot together.

0:36:270:36:30

We had to prove that the person that was coming through the gate following

0:36:330:36:38

Naomi in the niqab was one and the same person, that was Mary Konye.

0:36:380:36:43

Yes, the bag, was one thing,

0:36:430:36:45

but there was something else individually specific to Mary Konye.

0:36:450:36:50

When I saw the CCTV, I knew straight away that it was Mary.

0:36:520:36:56

Mary has a distinctive walk.

0:36:560:36:59

She's always had it. It was Mary.

0:36:590:37:01

She puts weight on one side of the foot rather than the other

0:37:020:37:06

and it gives her a roll.

0:37:060:37:08

So we had an expert in gait analysis analyse the imagery that we had from

0:37:080:37:15

the CCTV, and comparing it,

0:37:150:37:18

the woman in the niqab to the woman in the custody office,

0:37:180:37:22

that it was one and the same person.

0:37:220:37:23

I think Mary is a very calculating person.

0:37:260:37:29

Devoid of any empathy or remorse.

0:37:300:37:33

After the incident, she even went to Naomi's birthday party that the

0:37:340:37:38

family arranged and she sat there and she's talking to the family,

0:37:380:37:42

she's talking to Naomi,

0:37:420:37:44

offering her sympathy, and for someone to do that,

0:37:440:37:47

you've got to be a very cold and calculating type of person.

0:37:470:37:50

I didn't know she was like that.

0:37:530:37:54

I was just shocked. I think more than anything, I was shocked.

0:37:540:37:57

And I was actually scared. Not even scared of her,

0:37:570:38:01

but scared of how I could really think that I knew somebody

0:38:010:38:05

for about ten years, to realise that I didn't know them at all.

0:38:050:38:10

Like, what is it that I was missing out on?

0:38:140:38:16

Like, how could I have avoided this?

0:38:160:38:19

There was an intense love.

0:38:210:38:24

It was motherly, it was sisterly...

0:38:240:38:27

romantically, maybe, at some point?

0:38:270:38:29

I don't know.

0:38:290:38:31

But then there was something in the middle of it that just was sour.

0:38:310:38:36

But it was almost like, when you love something so much,

0:38:360:38:39

there's going to be something about it that you hate

0:38:390:38:42

and that hate can just

0:38:420:38:44

make you do crazy things, I think.

0:38:440:38:46

So, Mary is a dark-skinned girl.

0:38:470:38:50

I've always thought she was a beautiful person,

0:38:510:38:54

a beautiful girl, but she didn't feel that way.

0:38:540:38:57

Her mum's of, like, a lighter-skinned complexion.

0:38:570:38:59

Her sisters were of a light-skinned complexion.

0:38:590:39:02

So maybe that caused her a lot of frustration.

0:39:020:39:04

A lot of black women feel that the lighter you are,

0:39:050:39:09

the more better-looking you can be.

0:39:090:39:11

Obviously you can't really change your features, but...

0:39:110:39:15

people just feel that to look better is to be fairer.

0:39:150:39:18

Which I don't think is true.

0:39:180:39:20

But I think that probably was a big thing for her.

0:39:200:39:23

When I saw Mary, I just...

0:39:230:39:26

I'd noticed she'd gone lighter.

0:39:260:39:27

Quite lighter,

0:39:270:39:30

and Naomi is light-skinned

0:39:300:39:32

and I know that they're friends.

0:39:320:39:33

So I just assumed that, OK, she's trying to look more like Naomi.

0:39:330:39:38

That's what I... That's what I felt.

0:39:380:39:40

The court heard Konye had disguised herself

0:39:400:39:43

and carried out the attack out of jealousy.

0:39:430:39:46

I don't honestly understand her type of person.

0:39:470:39:51

I really don't.

0:39:510:39:53

To this day, like, even the thought of her boggles my mind.

0:39:530:39:57

To me, a friend is somebody who loves you despite your flaws

0:39:570:40:03

and that's what friends should be like.

0:40:030:40:06

And when I looked at her, I was like, yeah,

0:40:060:40:07

like, this is a person who I thought was my friend

0:40:070:40:10

and she's just a big coward.

0:40:100:40:13

Mary Konye, the suspect, has now been found guilty of the throwing of

0:40:140:40:20

a caustic liquid with intent to maim, disfigure.

0:40:200:40:24

All resulting from a trivial, insignificant argument that

0:40:240:40:30

everybody has in their everyday lives.

0:40:300:40:32

But Mary Konye has taken it so far that she has planned this,

0:40:320:40:37

disguised herself,

0:40:370:40:39

and followed Naomi on that night on the 29th of December 2012.

0:40:390:40:46

I wouldn't even want an apology,

0:40:460:40:48

because an apology now would be an insult.

0:40:480:40:51

What kind of an apology could she possibly give

0:40:530:40:56

when she knew what she was doing?

0:40:560:40:58

MUSIC: Diamonds by Rihanna

0:41:020:41:10

I met up with Naomi, I guess, a couple of months after and, literally, we...

0:41:110:41:16

I mean, it was funny, because I think for, like, 30 seconds

0:41:160:41:19

I just froze.

0:41:190:41:20

I was like, "Hi..." And she was like, "Hey," and hugged me and then we just kind

0:41:200:41:25

of stared at each other for like 30 seconds and didn't say anything.

0:41:250:41:28

I could hear her voice, I knew it was her.

0:41:300:41:32

She smelled the same,

0:41:320:41:34

she laughed the same.

0:41:340:41:35

It's almost like when I was looking at her face,

0:41:370:41:39

I was almost, like, in my mind moulding the Year Eight Naomi I cuddled.

0:41:390:41:44

But I just saw her heart still

0:41:460:41:48

and I was like, "She's still beautiful to me."

0:41:480:41:51

I think I remember writing that on her wall on Facebook.

0:41:510:41:53

Like, "You're still one of the most beautiful girls I've ever met."

0:41:530:41:57

Hi!

0:41:570:41:59

Ah, hi!

0:42:000:42:02

-Hi, Doll.

-How are you?

0:42:020:42:05

I'm good.

0:42:050:42:07

Look what I found.

0:42:090:42:11

-School pictures.

-Yeah, pictures.

0:42:110:42:13

Look at my weave.

0:42:130:42:14

You guys are not real friends, because this is not nice.

0:42:140:42:18

I like this picture.

0:42:180:42:19

Look what else I found, this one.

0:42:200:42:22

I have some pictures.

0:42:250:42:27

This is a picture of me.

0:42:270:42:29

You always laugh at this picture!

0:42:290:42:31

Every time I show... I used to bring this picture to school

0:42:310:42:34

and Phyllis used to be like, "Look at Naomi's cheeks."

0:42:340:42:36

-Wow... So cute.

-Look.

-I like this picture. And then look at this person.

0:42:360:42:41

Wow... She's just segregating herself.

0:42:410:42:44

And look, even look at the way she's looking at him, like...

0:42:440:42:47

-It's weird, isn't it?

-I like my outfit.

0:42:470:42:49

Yeah, you look cute, girl.

0:42:490:42:51

I don't know who I thought I was, but, yeah.

0:42:510:42:54

Aw, I love all these pictures.

0:42:540:42:55

Yeah, good photos, good photos.

0:42:570:42:59

-Memories.

-Memories.

-Yeah.

0:42:590:43:02

MUSIC: Read All About It by Emeli Sande

0:43:050:43:09

Every single day is different.

0:43:170:43:19

Every single day you learn something new.

0:43:190:43:23

Every single day you have to learn, you have to have a different type of

0:43:230:43:25

strength in different situations like...

0:43:250:43:28

it's hard. It's hard and just knowing the difference of how you're even

0:43:280:43:33

being treated when you go out,

0:43:330:43:35

and the way people look at you and the way people stare at you.

0:43:350:43:37

20 years, I didn't have to deal with that.

0:43:370:43:39

Like, and I have to deal with that now.

0:43:390:43:42

And no man is an island.

0:43:420:43:44

Like, I'm only human.

0:43:440:43:48

That's it. Like, I'm only human.

0:43:480:43:50

That was a nice conversation.

0:43:520:43:53

-Good.

-I liked that.

0:43:540:43:56

-Good.

-Yeah.

0:43:560:43:58

I liked that.

0:43:580:44:00

2012 Naomi Oni was doused in sulphuric acid after being stalked through London by someone disguised in a niqab. Since 2012, acid attacks have doubled in the UK, and now two acid attacks are carried out in the UK every single day, with 450 occurring each year in London alone.

Known as 'face melters', corrosive liquids have replaced knives as the weapon of choice for gangs and others wanting to inflict maximum damage on their unsuspecting victims.

The physical and psychological effects of these attacks are devastating. In an instant, a victim's life is irreversibly transformed, as are the lives of their family, children and partners.

This powerful film reveals the story behind one of the most shocking and bizarre acid attacks of recent years. It's a twisted story of betrayal, calculation and devastation. The film combines archive footage, stylised recon and interviews with the victim, police, family and friends.


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