Acid Attack Mystery: why Did A Boy Do This To Me?
Burned in my own home Endless agony and lifelong scars I’ll never understand why
Before I could say anything, liquid splashed my face
Tara Quigley, 33, East London
As my nieces played upstairs one evening in April 2013, I pottered about, clearing up. My sister Tina, 30, was in the bath. I lived with her and her daughters, then aged 12 and 9.
But, as I went to wash up, there was a knock at the door. Bit late for visitors, I thought. It was 9.15pm.
When I answered the door, a young lad was standing there.
He was wearing a dark jacket, and looked fidgety. ‘Are you Michelle?’ he asked. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I’m Tara.’ With that, he frowned and scurried off, and I didn’t think anything of it.
Minutes later, I was on the phone when there was another knock at the door. Opening up,
I saw the same boy.
Before I could say anything, liquid splashed my face.
My skin burning, I instinctively stepped back, slamming the door.
‘ Tina!’ I screamed, in terrible pain.
I dropped the phone, ran into the kitchen and started splashing water all over myself.
My face, neck and arms felt like they were on fire, my flesh was burning before my very eyes.
I knew it was acid. What else could cause such pain?
I ran upstairs as Tina came out of the bathroom. When she saw me, she almost choked. My flesh was bubbling, burning and melting away.
Tina ran into the bathroom and started wetting towels. In a panic, we put them on my skin, but they just pulled my flesh off.
My eldest niece flew out of her bedroom, terrified, and called an ambulance.
The burning pain was absolutely excruciating.
When paramedics arrived, I was rushed to The Royal London Hospital, delirious.
Doctors pumped me full of painkillers, then I was transferred to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for specialist care.
I was smothered in gels and bandages. And it was confirmed I’d been burnt by acid.
My face, neck, chest, breasts and right arm had all been hit, and my skin had literally melted away. My neck was so raw, I couldn’t move my head.
My hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes had been singed.
The following day, police came to speak to me. I tried my best to give them a description of my attacker, but it was a blur. ‘Please, just find him,’ I cried. And, 12 days later, they did. The police told me my attacker had been caught at a local hospital. Turned out, when he’d thrown the acid at me, it’d splashed
back and splattered his chest.
But, knowing the police would be hunting for him, he’d waited days before getting help.
Hospital staff had put two and two together.
‘He must’ve been in so much pain,’ I told Tina.
But his fear of getting caught must’ve been even stronger.
When police told me his name – Liam Sibbons – it meant nothing to me. Turned out he was 15 – just a kid. I tortured myself over why he’d want to hurt me. Had someone put him up to it? But I’d not fallen out with anyone. It just didn’t make sense. ‘Must’ve been a case of mistaken identity,’ a police officer said. Over the next few weeks, I underwent skin grafts from my legs to repair skin on my chest and neck. And, when I finally saw my reflection…
‘I look like something from a horror movie,’ I cried. My skin was blistered, patchy, scarred. And my nieces were too scared to come anywhere near me, frightened it would fall away. Heartbreaking.
Finally, after 20 days in hospital, I was discharged.
I was a wreck, though. The slightest noise made me jump out of my skin.
Months passed, and I needed even more skin grafts and operations to loosen skin that had become too tight.
The agony was never-ending, the scars would be lifelong.
In October 2013, Liam Robert Sibbons, then 16, appeared at court, and pleaded guilty to throwing corrosive fluid on a person, with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
He gave no explanation for the attack, so I’ll never know the truth.
Judge David Radford told Sibbons, ‘It was, in my judgment, a truly wicked offence, which clearly was premeditated. Whether this was because you were being paid to commit this offence and there was some kind of mistake about the identity of the victim is a matter for speculation, in the absence of candour and honesty on your part.’ Sibbons was sentenced to just eight years and three months in prison.
I was gutted, but what could I do?
Since the attack, I’ve had more than 15 skin grafts and surgeries to repair my burnt skin.
My scars are a harsh reminder of the terrible pain I suffered.
It makes me sick that such savage attacks are becoming more common. Acid is such a destructive substance.
But I’m a survivor, and I won’t let what’s happened destroy me.
Such savage attacks are becoming more common
The damage was extensive I’ve needed over 15 skin grafts so far
Five months on from the attack
I WON’T LET THIS DESTROY ME
The pain terrible
How I used to look...