Acid attack victim Adele Bellis says her life has been ‘changed forever’ as two men found guilty
PUBLISHED: 16:55 02 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:21 02 September 2015
A beautician who lost an ear, was left partially bald and has permanent scarring after being attacked at a Lowestoft bus stop has spoken out.
Sulphuric acid was sprayed at Adele Bellis’ face, causing her “unimaginable pain and suffering”, during the attack on August 14 last year.
Today, at Ipswich Crown Court, Anthony Riley, 26, of Raglan Street in Lowestoft and Leon Thompson, 39, of Alma Road, who have been on trial since August 17, were found guilty by a jury of a number of offences including conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and conspiracy to throw a corrosive substance.
Riley was described as “manipulative, evil and possessive” by a policeman involved in the case.
Two other men – Jason Harrison, 28, formerly of Princes Road in Lowestoft, and Daniel Marshall, 39, of Rose Court in the town – had previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the incident.
In a statement issued by police after the case, Ms Bellis said: “In August last year my life was changed forever and I find it difficult to put into words the pain I have suffered and continue to suffer. I have very few tears left.
“I have had to endure significant medical treatment as a result of being attacked with the acid and this treatment will have to be on-going for many years to come.
“The effects of the attacks on me have not only been physical and emotional but have greatly hurt my family and friends, all of whom have been by my side since these incidents.
“I am also grateful to the Katie Piper Foundation for their continued and close support which has proven invaluable in guiding me to rebuild my life.
“I will never forget what happened to me and it will always be in my mind but I am determined to live my life and I will survive this ordeal.
“I am grateful to the jury for listening to the prosecution evidence and reaching what I consider to be the right decision. I am also relieved and glad that Anthony Riley, a person who has subjected me to unimaginable pain and suffering, will be serving a sentence which will keep myself and others safe from any further acts of violence.”
On the morning of the acid attack, Ms Bellis left her home and walked in to London Road South at around 8.10am.
She sat on a seat in a bus shelter, opposite the Carlton public house, and was talking to a friend on her mobile phone while waiting for a bus that was due at 8.20am. As she spoke to her friend she became aware of a man at the junction with The Avenue, who was approaching the bus stop. He wore dark track-suit style clothing and something dark covering his mouth, and was carrying a soft drink bottle.
Moments later she felt a liquid being thrown over her and the man ran away. A couple who had also been waiting at the bus stop at the time of the incident later described how she started screaming and running around on the pavement and in the road.
Police were alerted by the ambulance service to reports that a woman had been sprayed with a corrosive substance and some of her clothing appeared to be melting. Officers and ambulance personnel attended with the woman being taken to hospital and an investigation immediately getting underway.
On arrival at the James Paget Hospital she was place under a cold shower to wash the substance away and it became apparent she had sustained serious injuries, mainly to her right side. Her ear had burns through the full thickness of the ear, and she had burns to her neck, face, chest, arm and both hands. She also sustained splash burns to other areas and her hair was falling out in places.
She was transferred to Broomfield hospital near Chelmsford for treatment.
Detective Inspector Darrell Skuse, who oversaw the enquiry as head of CID in Lowestoft, said: “This was a pre-planned attack that will have long-lasting effects on the young woman who was targeted. The attack itself only lasted a matter of seconds but she will have to live with the consequences for the rest of her life.
“It was also a complex case to investigate with a total of eight arrests made during the course of the enquiry. What emerged was a picture of violence that has seen four men prosecuted for offences.
“The victim has shown immense courage and strength throughout and it is thanks to her, and the dedicated work of the officers in the case, that this has seen these men convicted.
“In addition to thanking her for her bravery in seeing this through, we’d also like to thank those witnesses who had the courage to come forward to give accounts.”
Officer in the case DC Matt Rogers added: “Adele Bellis’ life was profoundly changed on August 14 last year. She has shown incredible dignity in her recovery, supported by close and loyal family and friends, and has also demonstrated patience with the investigating team who have painstakingly uncovered piece by piece all the conspirators involved in this barbaric demonstration of unthinkable violence.
“I am glad and extremely grateful that the jury have considered carefully all of the evidence in this case and have not been fooled by attempts to undermine and discredit the prosecution witnesses in this case.
“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 and go some way to bringing justice to Adele who can now start to rebuild her life with the assistance of her loving and supportive family, all of whom have been visibly devastated by the series of violent acts perpetrated against Adele.”
After the acid attack, police began enquiries, with the investigation being led by Lowestoft CID, and it was quickly realised that the young victim had previously been involved in an incident in April 2014 that Leon Thompson had already been charged in connection with.
CCTV was viewed and background work completed, with Thompson being arrested later the same morning. He was interviewed, where he gave a vague account, denying any knowledge of the attack and denying he had been in the area at the time, however was confronted with CCTV showing him after the incident and was informed officers had found an acid substance at his home address.
Following further work by detectives while he was in custody, Thompson was charged and remanded.
Anthony Riley, a former partner of the victim, was arrested the next day, Friday 15 August 2014, and taken into custody where he was interviewed. He denied that he had arranged for the victim to be assaulted. He was later charged with conspiracy to throw a corrosive substance. Police also re-visited the incident in April. Riley had initially been thought to have been a victim of the attack by Thompson, as he had been with the 22-year-old at the time, however it was now suspected he may have been behind the incident.
After initial magistrates court appearances, a plea and case management hearing was held at Ipswich Crown Court on December 12 last year, where Thompson and Riley pleaded not guilty. As a result of enquiries by police both also faced a number of other charges. Riley faced a false imprisonment charge and a conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm charge following the incident in April in addition to conspiracy over the acid-throwing incident, while Thompson had been charged with wounding following the April stabbing, possession of a bladed article and two counts of conspiracy in relation to the incidents in April and August.
As the investigation continued police made further arrests. Jason Harrison was arrested on 13 March this year, and he admitted that he had been the one who had thrown the acid. He gave a detailed account claiming that Anthony Riley had orchestrated the whole attack and that he had been threatened by Riley to participate. Harrison was charged with conspiracy to throw a corrosive fluid and with throwing a corrosive substance ‘a dangerous or noxious thing – namely sulphuric acid - with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable, or to do some grievous bodily harm’.
He was remanded in custody for a plea and case management hearing on May 1, where he entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to cause GBH/ disfigurement.
Daniel Marshall was arrested on March 25 and he made admissions that he had been present on occasions when Riley had threatened Harrison and instructed him to carry out the attack. He also admitted that part of an earlier statement he had provided to police in February was false and was charged with conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was also remanded in custody for a plea and case management hearing on May 1. He later pleaded guilty to both offences.