A young woman was facially disfigured and almost lost her eyesight in a horrific unprovoked acid attack on the streets of London.
Naomi Oni, 20, was on her way home from work when an unknown attacker dressed in a niqab threw a chemical substance at her leaving the retail assistant with severe burns on her head, neck, arms, legs and body.
These shocking images have now been released by Ms Oni in an appeal for help to catch the attacker whose identity was concealed behind the Muslim women’s dress which completely covers the face apart from the eyes.
Ms Oni, who is employed by Victoria’s Secret at the Westfield Stratford shopping centre, was five minutes from home in Dagenham, east London when she was attacked on December 30.
The 20-year-old was only released from Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford last weekend after spending almost a month receiving skin grafts and specialist treatment in the hospital’s burns unit.
Doctors initially warned Ms Oni that she may not be able to see again and although she can now see out of her left eye she still only has partial vision in her right eye.
Ms Oni, who is sole carer for her disabled mother Marian Yalekhue, 52, has decided to speak out after police failed to establish any motive behind the attack or identify a suspect.
She told the Standard 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 has been told she faces months if not years of skin grafts and further plastic surgery and even then is likely to be left with severe facial scarring.
The retail assistant and her mother say they are too afraid to go back to their council flat in Dagenham. They 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.