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'I'm happy with my scars' - Adele Bellis five years on from acid attack which changed her life forever

Lowestoft acid attack victim Adele Bellis. 
Picture: James Bass

Lowestoft acid attack victim Adele Bellis. Picture: James Bass

Today is five years since of the acid attack in Lowestoft which changed Adele Bellis' life forever. Here, she tells ANDREW PAPWORTH how she looks back on the anniversary as a sign of how far she has come.

Adele Bellis at the bus stop in Pakefield where she was attacked. When she wrote a book about her struggle, she insisted on having an advert for it placed at the bus stop. Picture: NICK BUTCHERAdele Bellis at the bus stop in Pakefield where she was attacked. When she wrote a book about her struggle, she insisted on having an advert for it placed at the bus stop. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

In the days after the dreadful acid attack which left her scarred for life, Adele Bellis sometimes thought she would never get over what happened to her.

The brutal assault outside a bus stop five years ago today, in which her vengeful ex-partner arranged for sulphuric acid to be poured over her after a torrid campaign of domestic abuse, burned her so badly she lost an ear and was left heavily disfigured.

As well as the physical scars, Adele - a beautician who has always taken immense pride in her appearance - faced the emotional trauma that she would forever look different, her scars a constant reminder of the campaign of domestic abuse she had endured.

But despite suffering the most horrific and unimaginable pain, one thing has shone through more than anything - Adele's amazing strength.

Adele Bellis on Pakefield beach. Picture: NICK BUTCHERAdele Bellis on Pakefield beach. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

During weeks of intensive treatment, including at the specialist burns unit in Chelmsford and a specialist facility in France, she vowed never to let her attackers win by defeating her spirit.

And today, five years on from the assault as she waited for a bus outside The Carlton pub in London Road, Pakefield, Adele said: "He wasn't ever going to win. I've made sure I've had the motivation to keep going."

Now aged 27, Adele - who still lives in Lowestoft - looks on her injuries with pride rather than regret, saying: "I'm happy with my scars.

"I still struggle daily and I still have my down days. But I'm happy with how I am at the moment.

Anthony Edward Riley, formerly of Raglan Road, Lowestoft, was jailed for life after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid and false imprisonment. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYAnthony Edward Riley, formerly of Raglan Road, Lowestoft, was jailed for life after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid and false imprisonment. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

"I didn't think I'd ever get over it. I didn't think my life would be how it was. However the human body and way it can heal is amazing."

'Barbaric' attack

At about 8.10am on August 14 2014, Adele saw a man dressed in a black tracksuit shaking a glass bottle.

She felt a liquid hit the side of her face while she was talking to a friend on her mobile phone, feeling a burning sensation in a "matter of seconds".

Leon Thompson, formerly of Alma Road, Lowestoft, was found guilty in connection with a knife attack. Jason Harrison, 27, formerly of Princes Road, Lowestoft and Daniel Marshall, 38, of Rose Court, Haverhill pleaded guilty to offences. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARYLeon Thompson, formerly of Alma Road, Lowestoft, was found guilty in connection with a knife attack. Jason Harrison, 27, formerly of Princes Road, Lowestoft and Daniel Marshall, 38, of Rose Court, Haverhill pleaded guilty to offences. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

She spent much of the next year in and out of hospitals undergoing intensive treatment after what she described as a "barbaric" attack. She still visits the Broomfield Hospital in Essex every five months.

Her treatment largely included skin grafts to repair the injuries on her face and arms.

Pictures from the time show the extent of her burns down much of one side of her body, which also caused her to lose a large chunk of her hair.

But even in the hardest of times, there was hope.

Adele Bellis took her message over speaking out against domestic abuse to national television screens. She is pictured here on ITV's Lorraine in 2016. Picture: ITV NEWSAdele Bellis took her message over speaking out against domestic abuse to national television screens. She is pictured here on ITV's Lorraine in 2016. Picture: ITV NEWS

Shocked by the incident, the Lowestoft community rallied round to raise thousands of pounds towards her treatment in a campaign led by her closest family and friends.

Katie Piper, the famous model who herself was the victim of an acid attack several years before, personally helped Miss Bellis to cope with what had happened - with the two forming a strong friendship.

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The immediate focus for Adele was getting through the trial of her attackers, which saw her jealous and controlling ex-boyfriend Anthony Edward Riley, formerly of Raglan Road, Lowestoft, jailed for life after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid and false imprisonment.

Adele Bellis wrote the book Brave about her experiences. 
Picture: JAMES BASSAdele Bellis wrote the book Brave about her experiences. Picture: JAMES BASS

Jason Harrison, then of Princes Road, Lowestoft, was jailed for four years and four months after admitting to his guilt in carrying out the attack, while Leon Thompson, then of Alma Road, Lowestoft and Daniel Marshall, then of Rose Court, Haverhill, also faced punishment for their roles in the attack.

Adele later powerfully spoke out about the domestic abuse she had suffered at Riley's hands, where she was physically and psychologically abused.

The torrent of abuse included being stabbed, being given a black eye, having revenge porn posted on social media and even being imprisoned.

In 2015 she wrote a book entitled Brave about her struggle, also talking on national television and in schools to encourage victims of domestic abuse to have the courage to speak out.

Adele Bellis pictured before her attack. Picture: BELLIS FAMILYAdele Bellis pictured before her attack. Picture: BELLIS FAMILY

She won the 2015 Stars of Lowestoft and Waveney Award in recognition of her fightback and the way she defied her attackers, for example by insisting on an advertisement for her new book being placed at the bus stop where she was attacked.

Yet despite being a best-selling author and an inspiration to many, Adele today prefers to live the more normal life she had always aimed for.

'I just want to get on with my life'

Adele has gone back to working as a beauty therapist and has gradually increased her hours after working part-time.

She said she has been "slowly getting back to reality", adding: "I don't want to be known for being the 'acid girl'. I just want to get on with my life.

"It's been slow but I'm taking the right steps."

Seeing one of her attackers on the streets of Lowestoft following his release on licence might have been a shock which set her recovery back.

The short length of his sentence angered her, with Adele saying: "He's got his life and can be normal again. He's done his time but he's changed my life forever."

However in a way that is typical of her strong and resilient character, she has not let the sight of him walking free get her down.

"I've got to get on with my life," she said.

"Nothing will ever be justice for me. If I spend my life worrying about whether I'm going to see any of them, I wouldn't be able to be myself. Why would I want to spend any more time on them?"

MORE: 'It never ends' - acid attack victim speaks out after attacker asks to move nearby

Although for many people the anniversary of such a life-changing moment would weigh heavily on their minds, Adele says it is not a day that troubles her,

"Although I got attacked on that day and my life has never been the same since that day, for me the anniversary is not really about the attack - it's more about how far I've come," she said.

"I don't think as a person I've changed. I've got scars and if I could turn back time I would have my own skin again.

"It's given me more determination but I'm still the same person."

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