Ex-boyfriend of Lowestoft beautician Adele Bellis jailed for life over acid attack
18:04 16 October 2015
Miss Bellis, who lost an ear, was left partially bald and has permanent scarring, said “my life will never be the same” as he was jailed for life.
Miss Bellis, 23, was the victim of a sulphuric acid attack at a bus stop in her home town of Lowestoft on August 14 last year.
It was the culmination of a six-month campaign by her former partner of seven years, Anthony Riley, 26. Five months earlier she had been stabbed in the face by one of his friends.
A trial at Ipswich Crown Court heard that, fuelled by jealousy, Riley had become determined to control and disfigure Miss Bellis and recruited three men to help.
Last month, Miss Bellis urged fellow domestic-abuse victims to seek help when speaking bravely about her ordeal on ITV’s This Morning show in front of millions of viewers.
Riley, who appeared by video link from prison, was jailed for a minimum of 13 years of a life term for offences including conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid at a sentencing hearing on Friday.
Judge John Devaux said Riley decided that, if Miss Bellis did not want him, he would make sure no other man would want her.
Concluding that Riley presented an ongoing danger to the public, he added: “She suffered massive chemical burn injuries. Her injuries were appalling.
“There were echoes of a threat made by you on an earlier date that she would have a lifetime of suffering if she did not comply with your demands.
“You demonstrated the lengths to which you are prepared to go in dealing with a person who does not bend to your will.”
Leon Thompson carried out the knife attack, Daniel Marshall acted as his “enforcer” and Jason Harrison carried out the acid attack, saying he was forced into it.
Thompson, who was in court, will serve an extended sentence of 15 years, and Marshall, who appeared by video link, will serve seven years for their parts in the assault. Harrison will be sentenced later.
In a statement read to the court, Miss Bellis described how her life has been turned upside down.
She added: “I have suffered some dark times and do not socialise any more - I would not dream of going to nightclubs with my friends like I used to.”
She said she could no longer work and could not imagine forming a new relationship, adding: “Sadly my life will never be the same again.”
Her mother, Colleen Bellis, said that her daughter’s first words when she visited her in hospital were: “Don’t look at me and don’t cry.”
During the trial, Miss Bellis said her relationship with Riley had been abusive and controlling.
When they split up, he bombarded her with messages, posted a revenge porn video on Facebook and locked her in his flat.
In April last year, he led her down a dark alleyway where he had arranged for a masked Thompson to be waiting to stab her in the face.
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson said: “He then decided to go even further and exact revenge in the worst possible way.”
Riley recruited Harrison, who owed him a £10,000 drugs debt, to carry out the acid attack.
Before the assault, he demonstrated the strength of the acid by dropping a live mouse into the liquid, Mr Jackson said.
Harrison “got cold feet” on a number of occasions but both Riley and Marshall threatened him with violence, the court heard.
He eventually struck as Miss Bellis made her morning journey to work. Witnesses said they saw smoke coming from her.
She told police: “I was just crying and shouting ‘I’m burning, I’m burning’.”
Riley, of Raglan Street, Lowestoft, was found guilty of false imprisonment, conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.
Harrison, 27, from Lowestoft, admitted conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid with intent.
Thompson, 39, from Lowestoft, was found guilty of wounding, conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent. He was also sentenced for stealing £180 from his own mother in a separate case.
Marshall, 39, from Haverhill, admitted conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid with intent and perverting the course of justice.
Stephen Dyble, mitigating for Riley, said his client’s denial made it difficult to convince the court he had shown genuine remorse.
He said there was little in Riley’s history to suggest he was an ongoing danger but accepted the attack was “extremely violent”.
Jonathan Goodman, representing Thompson, said his client was addicted to class A drugs.
“He lived what can only be described as a pathetic and chaotic lifestyle,” he added.
Isobel Ascherson, for Marshall, said he had told the truth when interviewed by police. He was not a “trusted lieutenant and enforcer” but in fact a “lackey and driver”, she added.
Harrison, who wrote a letter of apology to Miss Bellis, was jailed for four years and four months.
Andrew Thompson, mitigating, said Harrison had played an “important and courageous” part in the prosecution case despite the risk of reprisals.
“He co-operated from the outset with police,” he added.
“He felt genuine and escalating fear not just for himself but for his family, his partner and his friends.”
Outside court after the sentencing Miss Bellis read out the following statement:
“No prison sentence can ever make up for what Anthony Riley did to me. I will continue to have to live with the physical and emotional scars and now face years of treatment ahead of me.
“I believe that anyone who plans or uses acid to attack someone should automatically get a life sentence because for us as survivors it is something we have to live with for the rest of our lives. I also feel a life sentence would help act as a deterrent to other potential attackers.
“Acid seems to have become another weapon for sick, unstable individuals. It needs proper restrictions placed on it at the point of sale, like any other potential weapon. At the moment it’s too easy for anyone to buy acid on the high street.
“The acid attack on me was the end result of being trapped in an increasingly controlling and abusive relationship with Riley for a total of seven years.
“When I met Riley I was only 16 and had no idea how a relationship was supposed to be. I strongly believe that if I had been taught about unhealthy relationships at school I would have escaped his control earlier on, before it was too late. For this reason I intend to campaign to have schools teach children about good and bad relationships.
“I am determined that something positive comes out of what has happened to me. I want anyone in controlling and abusive relationships to look at me today and realise what can happen. My message to them is, “Get out now, before it is too late.”. I intend to give talks in schools to help raise awareness of these issues.
“I would like to thank my police team who helped secure this conviction and have offered me great support throughout the trial and investigation.
“I would also like to thank family, friends and even strangers who have offered me there support. It has meant a lot to me.”