Suffolk

Acid attack victim Adele Bellis 'felt face melting'

Adele Bellis Image copyright Adele Bellis
Image caption Adele Bellis said she felt burning and "knew I'd lost my ear" in the attack on 14 August 2014

A beautician has told how she felt her face "melting" during an acid attack arranged by her "evil" ex-boyfriend.

Anthony Riley, 26, of Raglan Road, Lowestoft, has been jailed for life for planning the attack on Adele Bellis as she waited for a bus in August 2014.

Ms Bellis, 23, who lost an ear, said: "He wanted to mess my face up so no-one would have me."

Three other men involved in the conspiracy have also been jailed at Ipswich Crown Court.

Judge John Devaux told Riley "you have shown no sign of remorse" and said he should serve at least 13 years in jail before being considered for release.

Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Anthony Riley orchestrated a knife and acid attack, but got others to commit the "barbaric" crimes for him

Leon Thompson, 39 of Alma Road in the town, who carried out a separate knife attack on Ms Bellis on Riley's orders in April last year, has been jailed for 15 years and must serve at least 10.

He stood trial with Riley and they were also both found guilty of conspiracy to carry out the attacks.

'Black balaclava'

The attack using sulphuric acid, carried out by Jason Harrison, happened while Ms Bellis was on London Road South in Lowestoft on 14 August 2014.

Harrison, 28 of Princes Road in Lowestoft, was paid £500 by Riley. He admitted his guilt and he has been jailed for four years.

A fourth man, David Marshall, 39 of Rose Court in the town, was jailed for seven years after he admitted conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm.

He also lied to police in an earlier interview and pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

"I was on the phone and saw this man in a black tracksuit and black balaclava," said Ms Bellis.

"Something told me to move my face and as I did that the liquid got chucked over me.

"At first I thought it was water, but then I could feel burning and I was just running around screaming for water. My face was melting and I knew I'd lost my ear."

Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Jason Harrison (left) threw the acid, Leon Thompson (centre) carried out the knife attack and both were involved in conspiracy as was Daniel Marshall (right)

Ms Bellis has since undergone surgery and continues to have treatment but has been left scarred for life.

She said she started seeing Riley when she was 16 and the relationship was "good" in the early days, but changed.

"His controlling got worse. He banned me from seeing my best friend and got more evil and started hitting me, threatening my mum and dad, threatening me," she said.

"There were a few times he punched me and told me not to tell the police or he'd kill me and that's why I kept quiet."

'Years to recover'

In April 2014, Riley arranged for Thompson to stab Ms Bellis, which left her with scars on her face.

She did not report the attack to police at the time.

"He was my first proper boyfriend and I knew it was wrong, but I was like, 'is it meant to be like this? I just don't know'," she said

"Loads of people told me to leave him, but he threatened me and I knew he was capable of those threats."

Jaf Shah, of the Acid Survivors Trust International charity, said victims of attacks tend to have very low esteem and confidence and it takes them years to recover.

Image copyright Adele Bellis
Image caption The sulphuric acid attack means Ms Bellis is likely to need treatment throughout her life

"The attacks on women are very much about destroying or eradicating an identity so that survivors find it very difficult to make public appearances because they're ashamed of their appearance," he said.

"For many men, it's clear they think they own the victim/survivor and they go to these severe measures to prevent other men or prospective partners being attracted to the survivor."

'So-called hard man'

But Ms Bellis said she just wanted to "get on with my life".

"I just refuse to cry. It's so bad what's happened to me, but it could have been a thousand times worse and with all the treatment, I've accepted what's happened and I want to move on," she said.

"It's been tiring and draining, but I've got the result I wanted and I feel relieved.

"I'm feeling positive and I just want to be a normal person."

Det Con Matt Rogers said: "Adele Bellis's life was profoundly changed on 14 August last year.

"Anthony Riley has proven himself to be a manipulative, evil and possessive individual who sought to coerce and intimidate a number of people around him in order for these offences to have been committed against Adele, relying on his so-called hard man image to cowardly distance himself from the acts themselves.

"I am grateful to all the members of the public who eventually came forward to cooperate with the investigation."

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