Sunday Night

Sunday Night

The brave and the beautiful

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NADIA BOURIA: This is her, before.

RAHNI SADLER: Yeah, she's beautiful.

NADIA BOURIA: And this is her now.

PATRICIA (TRANSLATION): My life stopped on December 1 at 2:30pm.

DR AISHA GILL: These cases are horrific, they're premeditated and they're used to punish a woman for alleged transgression.

PATRICIA: This is me before the attack. My life was perfect. I was always smiling and smartly dressed and I always cared for myself. This is me, it is really me. This is very sad to look at.

RAHNI: Patricia Lefranc was a vivacious mother of two. Her daughter Marie was her spitting image. Patricia was divorced and managed a large apartment complex in Brussels where, newly four years ago, she had a chance meeting with one of the tenants. How did you end up in a relationship with Richard Remes?

PATRICIA: I knew Richard by seeing him. One day, he was in the lift and he said, "Would you like to have a drink?" and I said yes.

RAHNI: That drink led to a 5-month relationship. It wasn't until Patricia discovered a secret from his past that she began to have doubts. She learned that 20 years earlier, he'd been suspected of killing the baby of his then girlfriend. When she confronted him, his answer scared her.

PATRICIA: He told me he was lucky he was never convicted. Then, I put an end to the relationship and the harassment started.

NADIA: He was always writing her emails, calling her, "I love you, I miss you, come back. I cannot live without you."

RAHNI: Investigative reporter Nadia Bouria covered Patricia's story for Belgian television. Before the attack, his behaviour seemed innocent enough to everyone except Patricia.

NADIA: At that time, he was wearing a T-shirt with her photograph with "I love you" and the people thought "Oh, he's so lovely. He loves her so much" but she was scared.

RAHNI: Her rejection ate at him. On December 1, 2009, Richard Remes buzzed Patricia's intercom. Posing as a motorcycle courier, his face was disguised, his voice muffled. Patricia had no idea it was him.

PATRICIA: The doors of the lift opened and there, my life fell apart.

RAHNI: In a premeditated attack, Remes threw a beaker of sulphuric acid at Patricia and then beat her.

PATRICIA: He didn't say a word, not a single word.

RAHNI: Remes had come prepared with a second container of acid and, for the second time,he threw acid in Patricia's face. Then, he ran away. With skin burning and in untold pain, Patricia dragged herself out here to the street. Fearing Richard Remes would return to attack a third time, she hoped there'd be someone out here who might help her. She had to crawl all the way along the footpath to the foyerof the building next door. It was here the supervisor found her and raised the alarm.

NADIA: Her bra. This is awful.

RAHNI: It was burnt to that extent?

NADIA: Yes. This is the T-shirt with "I love her" and this is her clothes.

RAHNI: What do you imagine was going through the head of somebody who would perpetrate that kind of violence?

AISHA: Just utter hate. A total disregard for another human being. Because she wanted to leave a relationship and he wanted to make sure she paid the price.

RAHNI: Dr Aisha Gill is an English criminologist.

AISHA: "If I can't have you, no-one will," you know. "I'm gonna teach you a lesson and this is the way I'm going to do it" and the consequences for women who are subjected to this violence is life-changing and you can imagine, you know, your face is your identity and you throw acid at somebody and the harm that you cause is life-changing.

KATIE PIPER: This is me as a TV presenter on a shopping channel. I loved this job because you got to talk non-stop.

RAHNI: Katie Piper was 25 and embarking on a TV career when she begin dating a man she met on Facebook.

KATIE: I really sort of quite fancied him, you know, and the whole, like, image he portrayed I really liked.

RAHNI: But two weeks later on a weekend date, Daniel Lynch beat and raped her. She escaped but fearing he'd kill her, didn't tell the police. Two days later, Lynch hired an accomplice to approach Katie in the street and throw sulphuric acid in her face.This is CCTV footage of the attack. Watching nearby was Lynch.

KATIE: In life, it's not what happens to us that defines us, it's how we deal with it thereon after, you know?

RAHNI: And deal with it, Katie did. Four years and 120 operations later, she's reclaiming her life.

KATIE: You get to a point where it's like sink or swim and you can either give up or you can just decide you're going to keep going and going and going and never get knocked back and I suppose if you've been through a big physical medical journey, you can think "Well, I've got this far so nothing's going to stop me now."

RAHNI: This is where the acid was? - Today, with the support of best friend Eric Tappeniers, Patricia is back at her old apartment block for the first time since the attack. - You were here?

PATRICIA: Yes.

RAHNI: To add insult to disfiguring injury, when she collapsed on the pavement outside, at least two passers-by saw and ignored her.

ERIC TAPPENIERS: There were two people who passed.

RAHNI: Did they stop to help?

PATRICIA & ERIC: No. No.

RAHNI: Nobody stopped? No. No. Nix.

RAHNI: Seeing her now, you must think she is so strong.

NADIA: Yes. She is very strong. She was so nervous. And she told me "I'm gonna look at him. I'm not gonna be afraid. I'm scared but I'm gonna look at him."

RAHNI: And she did. On March 22 this year, Remes was convicted of attempted murder. The trial made Patricia the most recognisable face in Belgium. Which is why coming to England is a relief.

PATRICIA: People here, they don't stare at me. It is like I'm normal.

RAHNI: They look at you in Belgium?

PATRICIA: Yes, they look at me. Parents cover their children's eyes, insult as well.

RAHNI: Eating and drinking remain a challenge for Patricia. Ah, yeah. I see, yeah, it spills. You alright?

PATRICIA: Oui.

RAHNI: That side doesn't close?

PATRICIA: Oui. Voila.

RAHNI: Everything through a straw.

PATRICIA: Un champagne.

RAHNI: Deux?

INTERPRETER:

Not more than two glasses!

RAHNI: And every night, Patricia must sleep in a pressure mask which she says scares her children. In Belgium, she was told that this is as good as she will look. But in London, we arranged an appointment for her with the same doctor who transformed Katie Piper.

DOCTOR: I think we can definitely do something for your nose. Close your eyes. We'll also try and improve your eyelid so it closes.

PATRICIA: Wow!

DOCTOR: Yeah.

PATRICIA: Yes?

DOCTOR: Yes. Why not? Do you like whisky?

(INTERPRETER TRANSLATES INTO FRENCH)

PATRICIA: Champagne.

DOCTOR: Champagne? Oh, I can't afford champagne. You can. You can have it. Champagne with a straw - with a strawberry, it is very good. Give me five.

PATRICIA: No, no - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 1, 2, 3, 4. Give me four.

DOCTOR: Alright, give me four! Lovely to see you. I thought Katie was bad, I thought my another patients I'd been involved with in the last few years were bad but this is, this is the worst scenario. I'd not come across as such an aggressive acid burn.

(SPEAKS FRENCH)

RAHNI: How did you find the strength to go on?

PATRICIA: My children. They are everything. I love them more than myself. I want to see them growing up, I want to be a grandmother.

RAHNI: Her daughter Marie is 18 and her son Joey, 13.

KATIE: My mum was like "You always had awful boyfriends before."

RAHNI: And family is also at the forefront for Katie.

KATIE: I would love to have children one day. I'm going to be 30 next year so I'm getting old.

RAHNI: That's not old. What advice do you have for Patricia in her recovery now?

KATIE: The only way is up. Really, like, the average woman, as she looks in the mirror every day, gets older and older but the women with burns looks in the mirror and it's healing all of the time and it's really positive, you know.

RAHNI: Patricia, we have a surprise for you. (TRANSLATES INTO FRENCH). Dr Jawad has sent your photographs to Washington to a forensic artist who has drawn a sketch of how you might look.

PATRICIA: (GASPS) Incredible! Wow!

RAHNI: So, with a new nose....

PATRICIA: Yes.

RAHNI ..and a new ear. The skin is much smoother. What you think?

PATRICIA: Wow.

RAHNI: It's good?

PATRICIA: It's good.

KATIE: Yes, scars and burns are permanent and we can see that, ooking at me today, but they only continue to fade, to get more softer, supple, and as the surgeries move forward, things only improve, they don't deteriorate and that's a really nice thing to hold on to.

RAHNI: So this is the start, this is the beginning.

PATRICIA: A miracle.

RAHNI: A miracle!

PATRICIA: I'm happy. Thank you.

RAHNI: D'accord.

PATRICIA: Oh!

END

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