Jully 29, 2012
Reporter: Rahni Sadler
Producer: Alex Garipoli
British model and television presenter Katie Piper once had a budding entertainment career. She’s more famous than ever now, but for very different reasons. An acid attack organised by a violent ex-partner left Piper with a painfully scarred face, and turned her into a role model for women the world over struggling to recover from the disfiguring trauma of acid attacks.
As English criminologist Dr Aisha Gill explained to Sunday Night, the attacks are usually “horrific, premeditated and used to punish women for perceived transgressions.”
Belgian mother of two Patricia Lefranc saw the warning signs before her attack. The divorcee owned and managed an apartment building in Brussels, and four years ago started a relationship with one of the tenants, Richard Remes.
Five months later, she discovered that Remes was suspected of having killed the baby of an ex-partner and broke the relationship off.
But on December 1, 2009, Remes posed as a motorcycle courier and buzzed her intercom. When she appeared at the door, he threw a beaker of sulphuric acid on her and then savagely beat her. Before leaving, he produced a second container of the acid and repeated the attack.
“I saw my skin peeling off. I saw my hair on the floor of the corridor. I saw myself dying,” Lefranc told reporter Rahni Sadler.
Piper’s attack shares similarities with that of Lefranc, whose attacker was convicted of attempted murder in March this year.
In March 2008, Piper was on a busy city street when a man threw sulphuric acid in her face. The attack, which blinded her in one eye, was arranged by her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Lynch, and carried out by an accomplice, Stefan Sylvestre. Lynch and Sylvestre were arrested and are serving life sentences in prison for their crimes.
Since the attack, Piper has appeared in documentaries, penned two autobiographies and created her own charitable foundation. Intensive surgery has softened much of the effects of the attack.
“It’s not what happens to us that defines us, it’s how we deal with it,” Piper told Sunday Night.
Still suffering extreme facial disfigurement several years after her attack, Lefranc has hit a wall with her treatment in Belgium. Doctors there tell her there’s little more they can do to repair her face.
While in London, Sunday Night arranged for Lefranc to have an appointment with the doctor who helped restore Piper’s natural beauty, who offered her a more hopeful outlook.
Before we left her, we showed Lefranc a computer simulation – produced by a forensic lab in Washington - of how world-leading procedures may be able to help reduce her scars.
INFO: Purchase Katie Piper's book, Things Get Better, HERE
CONTACT SUNDAY NIGHT