Kate..The socialite and model
Her glossy modelling portfolio was the proof that Katie Piper was beautiful. She was a typical pretty and popular young woman with blonde hair and sparkling sea blue eyes. Ever since her early teens boys would tell her ‘you should be a model’ but at only 5″3 Katie felt too tiny. In her third year at beauty college Katie moved into a flat in Basingstoke with friends. Qualifying as a beauty therapist she flourished from empowering others to feel their best about themselves. Her modelling career soon picked up and she proudly posed in beauty pagents. When she was announced second runner up in “Miss Winchester” it was an amazing feeling. She didn’t realise it at the time but she was beginning to get sucked into the world of showbiz. In mid 2006 she auditioned and was given her first job presenting on a satellite television shopping channel.
Back in 2009 the 24 year old from Essex was a budding tv presenter on shopping channles and model who had moved to London to pursue her dreams. She had an amazing social life hitting the clubs 4-5 times a week. Her friends would often tell her “Kate, your stunning” and she would think “yeah atchually I am. ” Katie stated on her television programme ‘My Beautiful face’ that “I was quite wild, carefree, 24 years old, I thought I was invincible, lived for the moment and loved life,” she said. “If I went somewhere, people I met for the first time would say, ‘Oh, you’re really pretty.’ Her dreams were shattered in a heartbeat on the 31st March 2008 when a evil, twisted stranger threw a cup of acid at her face.Her life was built around her looks, after the attack she was forced to start again, dealing with the social scars and fought to bring her attacker to justice.
Katie curses the day that she met 33 year old Danny Lynch who was a martial arts enthusiast. She texted her mum saying I’ve met Danny I’m very happy..her mum was pleased. The initial contact was through Facebook when he spotted her stunning profile picture. They messaged and eventually swapped mobile numbers, he seemed decent, some people are very clever at concealing their real characters . They semed to have a lot in common Katie honestly stated “To be honest looking at his profile picture I really fancied him.” Early alarm bells were ringing, Danny was overprotective and would become agitated and furious if another man was to look Katie’s way or pay her too much attention. The relationship seemed to blossom and grow very quickly. Danny was insistant that he must see Katie every day..rather odd considering that they had been dating for just two weeks. Katie agreed to book a hotel with Danny after the date a naive mistake that many girls would have made. Danny became angry telling Katie “You’re not all that in the flesh” the insult hurt but she chose to brush it off. After the long day Katie wanted to sleep, Danny had other ideas damanding that he wanted sex after she refused he verbally abused her and worst of all sexually violated her, at this point Katie though Danny would kill her. After 8 hours of enduring torturous abuse, Katie in a frightened panic still fearful for her life, told Danny that they could still be a couple and they left the hotel. She was not to know that the situation would become worse than she could possibly imagine.
The day Danny destroyed Katie’s beautiful face
Living in fear Katie did not leave her London flat for two days and didn’t call the police as she thought that they wouldn’t believe her, Danny was to good a liar. He continued to ring and stalk her insisting that she left the house to read her Facebook messages. She gave in to his manipulative demands as Katie thought they may stop if she obeyed him and left her London flat. He rang her whilst she was outside asking “What are you wearing?” Katie answered thinking nothing of this as it was a usual stalkerish question of his. Meanwhile a 19 year old Stephen Sylvester in a hoody was pacing up and down the street praying on her like a predator, waiting for her to emerge. As Katie came closer she noticed him but belived him to be a beggar as he was clutching a paper cup and routed around in her bag to find her purse. In a matter of seconds he threw liquid in her face, Katie let out a blood curdling scream as the acid ate across her face like a contagious disease. She knew in an instant Danny… it was something to to with him. As quick as a flash her looks were changed forever. She ran into a local shop where the members of staff rang an ambulance, she was taken rapidly to hospital. Her injuries were horrific so much so that her whole facial skin was removed and she was put into an induced coma spending an initial 7 weeks in hospital with her head mummified in bandages. She was frightened and confused, unable to talk and Psychologically damaged. Her family were devastated and found it distressing when she wrote messages such as ” am I dead?” and worst of all ” Kill me” in a note book as she was unable to talk. After that time she still hadn’t seen her face. Katie was encouraged by hospital staff and Psychiatrists to look at her face in small sections however she looked at her whole face an not surprisingly could not come to terms with the fact that it was atchually her. The damage was severe but worst of all two predators were on the loose potentially looking for their next online victim. The man who threw the acid was found to be Stephen Sylvester…Danny had initiated the acid attack. I have often thought that although he was sentanced, he will never know or feel Katie’s true pain and suffering. Eventually Danny was arrested pleading not guilty however he was found to be so, the jury could not come to a verdict on the rape charge. Katie felt embarrased, ashamed that the hospital staff had been looking at her “In this state” for a couple of months.
An angel in disguise
Katie’s life seemed to be in the hands of a medical genius Dr Mohammed Jawad a specialist and plastic surgeon in London. He lead the burns reconstruction surgery and performed a series of ground breaking operations where artificial skin substitutes were used. Out of these skin grafts were formed to rebuild the foundations of Katie’s face. One can only imagine the pain she went through as she woke up from yet another anesthetic which wouldn’t have benefited her now frail body. In the first year alone Katie endured 30 operations on her face and neck each time waking fearful and in excruciating pain once the anesthetic had worn off. A mould of her face was taken to construct a plastic pressure mask to smooth her scars keeping her new skin as moisturized as possible. Her parents had to moisturize her skin daily for her Katie stated at the time “No 24 year old wants their parents massaging their chest…its embarrassing!”
When at home from hospital she lived in fear..that the attacker would return. She became paranoid about locking windows and doors and refused to answer if the door bell rang nearly having a panic attack when a woman wearing a headscarf came to the door as Katie thought it was a hoody. Her lonely days at home were spent with just her mum and dog Barclay for company. Meanwhile she began the long struggle to bring her attackers to justice waiting for the court to come up with a verdict and issue sentences. Katie feared the worst…What would happen if they didn’t plead guilty? Would they be freed and be able to prey on another victim. Her blood ran cold. Katie’s mum Diane was her rock, her younger sister Suzy had to become the older sister. There were lots of little things that she wouldn’t do anymore. She refused to make hot drinks for anyone and would not drink them herself. Katie stopped people from lighting candles and she soon had more medical supplies than shoes and handbags!! Her family had to get used to her return. Her younger sister Suzy stated “Its like having a baby in the house”
Katie’s fight for Justice
Katie had been anonomous since the attack but had finally given up her anonymity for ” My Beautiful Face” During the television documentary for the BBC Katie and her family waited 3 weeks for the trial, Katie unsurprisingly refused to be in the same court room as her attackers but waited nervously for news. Her Dad watched on her behalf, regularly informing her what was going on…she felt sick.
Katie went to Switzerland to complete a course of intense treatment including Hydrotherapy to benefit her skin keeping in regular contact with her parents for news about the court case. As the results from the trial came through Katie sobbed with happiness and relief “It feels like I’ve been in a nightmare for so long have just woken up, I know I don’t look happy but I’m so happy”
Athough she had to no longer be afraid this did not stop her from suffering from nightmares, the faces of her attackers would often come to haunt her, sometimes she would see her old face which she longed for, it was gone forever.
Katie has grown even stronger, it has been two years since the attack. Katie decided that she wanted to help others like herself. A courageous decision and set up “The Katie Piper Foundation” http://www.katiepiperfoundation.org.uk/ which ultimatley aims to :
• Provide funding for the extended rehabilitation and scar management of burns survivors to access residential intensive block treatments.
• Support the need for consistent clinical care for burns survivors.
• Offer one-to-one and group hair, make-up and self- image related workshops.
• Provide hand held massagers and small financial grants to assist in medical tattooing and other beneficial treatments.
• Develop a support network for burns survivors.
• Work to normalise disfigurement within society.
Trustees include “Her Angel” DR Mohammad Ali Jawad. Katie continues to help others as she made a follow up TV documentary called “My Beautiful Friends” where each week she worked alongside four young adults with facial disfigurements caused by injury or physical illness. The brave people chosen were Chantelle, Will, Amit , Kayleigh and George It began its 4 part run on the 22nd March 2011. She did an incredible job, giving them valuble advice, listening to their woes and offering moral suuport. They are now are involved with their charity. Simon Cowell offered to be her celebrity patron, she accepted with pride.
Katie is an inspiration for others, many of whom are insecure about their physical appearance. I know myself that I would like to be prettier .Every time I complain I think of Katie and her pure courage and quickly feel ashamed. Too much pressure is put on young people these days with skinny models and airbrushed celebrities in magazines. It frustrates me, one of the reasons why I only buy them once in a blue moon. I feel it is only right to finish this piece with some wise words from the heroic woman herself :
“I did have these terrible attacks. Yeah I do look totally different physically, but I want to be the woman who got through that and is now living. Not the woman that “Oh, she was attacked. It’s terrible. Don’t mention this. She can’t do that any more. She doesn’t go there. But you know, shh.” You know, like, I just want to be rid of that, I just want to be Katie.”
-Katie Piper 2009