A young woman has been left severely scarred and partially blind after acid was thrown in her face in a seeming random late-night attack.
Naomi Oni, 20, was on her way home from work to her home in Dagenham, East London, on 30 December when an anonymous attacker, wearing a niqab, threw the corrosive liquid at her, leaving her with serious burns on her head, neck, arms, legs and body.
She has now released the shocking images above to the Evening Standard in a hope that they may help track her attacker, whose face was obscured by the traditional Muslim women's dress, which completely covers the face apart from the eyes.
Ms Oni had been five minutes from her home in Dagenham after finishing work for the day at lingerie store Victoria's Secret at Westfield Stratford.
She has since undergone a month's treatment, undergoing skin grafts in Chelmsford's Broomsfield Hospital, where doctors initially warned her that she may not be able to see again. She can now see out of her left eye but still only has partial vision in her right.
Ms Oni, who is the sole carer for her 52-year-old disabled mother Marian Yalekhue, made the decision to speak out in the Standard after police failed to establish a motive for the attack.
Speaking exclusively to the newspaper she said the attack had “destroyed” her life and left her too afraid to venture out or even show her face in public.
“I look in the mirror and it just isn’t me. I’ll never look the same again. I’ve always been outgoing and confident in my job and in my personal life, used to getting attention for the way I dress or my hair, but now I don’t want anyone looking at me.
“I don’t want people to see me in public. I don’t want to get the Tube or the bus. If I have to go to the hospital I take a taxi. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to my job. I was planning to go to college in September to study media and fashion, but I don’t even know if I’ll be able to do that,” said Ms Oni.
The store assistant had just got off the bus and was talking to her boyfriend Ato Owede, 23, on her phone when she felt someone walking behind her in Lodge Avenue in Dagenham at around 12.40am.
She said:“I’d been working a late shift and was talking to my boyfriend about what we were going to do for New Year when I saw this Muslim woman wearing a niqab covering her face. I thought it was a bit strange at that time of night, but she didn’t say anything and I kept on walking.
“Then I felt a splash on my face. It burned and I screamed out. I started running and screaming, holding my face, all the way home. I didn’t look back.
“I got home and I was screaming and banging on the door. I was hysterical. Luckily my godmother, who is a pharmacist, was at home with my mum and she helped me and kept dipping my face in water and trying to calm me down until the police and ambulance got there. I was in shock. Saying: ‘Who would do that? Who would do that?’ How could anyone do this?”
Ms Oni faces months if not years of skin grafts and further plastic surgery and even then is likely to be left with severe facial scarring, according to doctors.
The retail assistant and her mother are too afraid to return to their flat and are currently sleeping on a friend’s sofa-bed after turning down the offer to be rehoused in Tottenham on safety grounds.
Ms Oni said she had been inspired by the story of Katie Piper, the model who launched a charity and spoke out publicly after falling victim to an acid attack orchestrated by her boyfriend, but that she would never feel safe with her attacker still at large.
“Even with the support of my family and friends and boyfriend I feel very alone. Nothing is going to be same anymore,” said Ms Oni.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said acid attacks were “extremely rare” and that detectives were keeping an “open mind as to the motive.”
Officers from Barking and Dagenham are investigating. No arrests have been made and inquiries are ongoing.
Anyone with information should contact police on 0203 276 1058 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.