‘I have been part of a game’ – Dagenham acid attack victim Naomi Oni’s victim impact statement in full

Naomi Oni 10 months after the acid attack

Naomi Oni 10 months after the acid attack - Credit: Archant

Following the sentencing of acid attacker Mary Konye to 12 years behind bars, Naomi Oni has spoken of her struggle to get her life back on track.

Mary Konye was sentenced to 12 years behind bars

Mary Konye was sentenced to 12 years behind bars - Credit: Archant

Here, in full for the first time, is the victim impact statement she provided to the court as Mary Konye was sent to prison.

Naomi Oni before the attack and after surgery following the incident

Naomi Oni before the attack and after surgery following the incident - Credit: Archant

“Prior to the attack in December 2012, I was what I considered to be a normal 20-year-old girl and did most things girls of my age did. I was in a steady relationship with my boyfriend, I had a job that I liked and I had a loving family and a home. I didn’t really have any cares or worries and looked forward to the future and what I could do with my life. I was confident and content. I was into beauty and make-up and I dreamt of doing something in the future involving this.

Naomi Oni's mother Marian Yalekhue (left) with Naomi's uncle, Paddy Yalekhue

Naomi Oni's mother Marian Yalekhue (left) with Naomi's uncle, Paddy Yalekhue - Credit: Archant

“This all changed the day I was attacked with acid and my life was completely turned upside down. From that day forward everything has been a challenge and a battle just to get by each day.

“I think the main thing that has affected me is my physical appearance. Due to the attack I have been permanently disfigured – I suffered permanent scarring to my face, legs, chest, stomach and arms. I was almost blinded in one eye. I suffered severe pain, due to my nerve endings and skin fusing back together.

“I have had to undergo numerous operations and will continue to do so for many years in an attempt to reduce the scarring and give me the best appearance that can be achieved. I have had several skin grafts to cover the scarring.

“My hair was burned in the attack and I am told it will never grow again. I will have to wear a wig for the rest of my life. My eyebrows were also burnt off and I now have semi-permanent eyebrows.

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“I have lost my right eyelid and the vision in my right eye has been impaired. I will have to have further reconstructive surgery and laser treatment at different stages over several years. I have been told that it will take at least two years for any sort of improvement in my scarring.

“To achieve this I now have to wear a silicon face mask, to assist in the recovery of my skin healing. I am supposed to wear this face mask 24 hours a day for the next two years. It is very unpleasant to wear as it constricts my face, causing me pain and irritation. It is also very difficult to breathe through. I do not like wearing it in public either, due to the attention it gets.

“When I left hospital I was on crutches for several weeks, due to skin being removed from my legs for skin grafts. It was extremely painful to walk. It is still painful and uncomfortable and I get tired when I have to walk for a long time. I will never have the same mobility as I did before.

“It is very difficult to live with my physical appearance. I am very conscious of it and am reminded of what I look like every day, when I see my reflection or the reaction on people’s faces.

“The whole thing is very exhausting and draining. From the moment I get up in the morning the first thing I think about is what happened to me. I have lost a lot of weight. I also do not eat properly any more and have difficulty sleeping. I lie awake at night for hours on end, reliving the incident in my head.

“Apart from the physical side, I have also suffered and continue to suffer emotionally and psychologically.

“Following the attack I found it very difficult to accept what had happened to me; the whole traumatic experience has changed my life completely.

“Knowing I will never look the same again is difficult to deal with and difficult to adjust to. Not being able to do my hair or make-up, simple things that I used to take for granted – I miss all of that.

“I initially felt anger and hurt. I kept saying to myself: ‘Why me?’, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’ and ‘What have I done to deserve this?’. Knowing I would never be able to get back to a normal life. All sorts of things keep going through my mind, such as getting a job, meeting people, starting a relationship and who would look after my mum. I had to take all of these things on board – it was very overwhelming.

“I feel sad, I sometimes cry when alone, I feel anxious and negative thoughts run through my mind. At times I have felt suicidal and thought about ending it all. I didn’t want to go on and didn’t see the point in living if this was how it was going to be.

“The only thing that has kept me going is the support from my mum, and also my friends and family with their positive words and encouragement, but mainly my mum who has lived through this ordeal with me day-by-day.

“I also now visit a psychotherapist, whom I was referred to by the hospital. This has helped me, but it is just something I never imagined I would have to do.

“I feel paranoid, I am scared of going out alone and I feel uncomfortable when people enter my personal space such as on the train or in confined spaces. People often stare at me. Some ask what happened to my face. I am still scared that I could be attacked again.

“I have also had to deal with my face and name being plastered over the tabloids and TV. It has taken a lot of courage to do this. It was very difficult for me to let the public know what had happened to me.

“This incident has made me lose all my self-confidence, I feel very frustrated about this, as though I have lost my innocence and changed my outlook on life. I have so many fears and worries about what the future holds for me now.

“When I am alone I often think about how I used to look and how my life was. I constantly think about things Mary and I used to do as friends, and what made her do this to me.

“I have also felt confusion and betrayal – not in a million years did I think that my so-called friend Mary Konye would have done this to me. I regret ever being her friend. It was and still is very difficult to accept; it was bad enough believing that it was just some random attacker but knowing that Mary had planned this was just beyond belief.

“I was shocked when I realised she had done this to me. We had been friends for more than 10 years. Even after the attack she pretended to be my friend and was part of my life, all along knowing what she had done to me. Due to this I am not as trusting as before; I don’t trust people the same way any more, and see them differently now.

“This incident has affected me financially, and my quality of life. I haven’t worked for over a year now and I have found it very hard finding the means to pay bills and buy food. I currently receive employment support allowance, but this is about a quarter of what I used to earn. I also initially received some money from an acid burns charity that paid for my travel expenses to and from hospital, but this has since stopped.

“I no longer have money to buy clothes or spend on nights out, like normal 21-year-olds. All my money goes on food and bills. My life is no longer normal, which depresses me even further. I feel trapped and alone sometimes. I just simply can’t do the things I used to be able to and no longer have a care-free attitude.

“Following my discharge from hospital, my mum and I were sleeping on a sofa at a family friend’s house for several weeks. We now share a room in a hostel and having been living in temporary accommodation for almost a year, with no sign of finding a permanent address in the near future.

“Although my mum has been a constant source of support, I have never been able to have any privacy. We have both been living out of suitcases since leaving Dagenham. It is very difficult and strained sometimes as my mum has her own health issues, without mine.

“I often think about how unusual and strange this attack is and why I was the target. There was just no way I could have predicted it and tried to protect myself from it.

“I find it embarrassing telling people what has happened to me because of my disfigurement. I am never going to heal properly – it is not something I will all of a sudden just get over. It is something I just cannot ignore. I am going to have these scars as a reminder forever.

“Mainly I feel violated that the person who did this has left their mark on me. It wasn’t something that just happened to me – it wasn’t through my own fault or the result of an accident.

“My injuries are due to the carefully planned acts of a wicked person. I just never thought my life would end up like this.

“Whatever happens to Mary, she and her family can continue with their lives. Her family will still have a home and she will never get asked questions about her appearance as I will for the rest of my life.

“The fact she has never admitted what she has done to me just adds insult to injury. I have had to attend court and give evidence to try to get justice. I have been asked personal questions, been humiliated, embarrassed and attacked in the witness box. Nasty things have been said about me and I have been called a liar and yet she still has not shown one shred of remorse.

“It has been so painful sitting there and listening to her tell lie after lie. I just feel I have been part of a game to her. It is very difficult to accept the planning and preparation she took to ruin my life and that there was nothing that I could have done to stop her.”