Katie Piper was a model and a TV presenter. She was beautiful, fearless, and had a social media account that suggested a perfect life.
Then in 2008, she was contacted by someone named Danny Lynch on Facebook. She met lots of people through her promotional work, and they had many mutual friends. They struck up a conversation, clicked, and decided to meet.
They saw a comedy club show together, then went out for lunch. Then he started messaging and calling her nonstop.
It was overwhelming, and she tried to dial it back. Then he brought up a tragic story about his difficult childhood, and added that his best friend recently died in an accident.
“You poor thing,” Piper said, giving him a hug. “I wanted to look after him, and take away his hurt,” she remembered.
“He’s getting a bit stalkerish,” a roommate said.
A few days later, he picked her up with an armful of gifts, and told her he loved her. Piper thanked him, and tried to defuse an awkward situation. As they went to his home, she noticed that he didn’t have any trace of the sporting tournaments he had told her so much about, nor the computer books he said he was studying. Over the next week, her doubts increasingly grew. Lynch was getting more erratic, more possessive, and erupting in anger over other people treating her kindly.
When she got home from work one day, she saw he had called 37 times in just a few hours.
The next few times they met, Lynch was more volatile and become abusive. When Piper refused to get intimate at his place, he started yelling at her and looming over her. She tried to get away but fell against the door and her head hit the fire exit sign and blacked out. Her head was pounding as she woke up, she started crying hysterically, and Lynch ordered her to stop. Then he raped her, and threatened to kill her family if she ever told anyone what happened. He then held out a razorblade and threatened to cut her face.
“If he mutilated my face, I would see his evil handiwork every time I looked in the mirror.”
When Piper made it home, she blurted out to her roommates: “Danny attacked me.”
“Can you take me to the hospital?”
Then the phone rang. She looked outside to see Danny still in the driveway, pacing furiously and on the phone. He was calling her with more threats, asking whether she’d already cracked and told her roommates.
“No, Danny, of course I haven’t. Please go home.”
Her roommates urged her to tell the police, but Piper was afraid he would go after her family, or even kill her.
She went to the ER, got patched up, and then had to return to Lynch calling every 10 minutes, resorting to lies that staved off further threats.
A few days later, he ordered her to come out to meet him. Mentally and emotionally exhausted, she agreed.
Then she spotted a young man in a hoodie with a coffee cup clasped in hand. He looked strung out, like a drug addict or a beggar, and Piper moved to open her purse so she could give him some money.
“Splash.” The man threw the contents of the cup on her face.
“And then the pain hit me—an explosion of agony, unlike anything I had ever experienced before.”
It felt like she was being burned alive.
“I heard a horrible screaming sound, like an animal being slaughtered. Then I realized it was coming from me,” Katie said. Danny was still on the phone listening to her screams.
She practically crawled to the cafe across the street. “Please help me,” Piper screamed, trying to get to a sink, before everything turned to a blur. The acid ate at her face, her neck; it ate away at her clothes and the skin underneath. Someone sat her in a chair and sprayed her face with water. She somehow found the strength to redial her roommate and ask for help.
Piper remembers being zipped into something and carried away. “I must be dead,” she thought, before she blacked out. She was in an ambulance, on her way to the hospital where she would be pumped full or morphine, surrounded by family.
She was in a coma for 12 days. Then she heard the voices of her mother and father, crying. Her head was swollen to the size of a basketball and she was heavily sedated.
A few days later, her consciousness returned. A man with a kind voice introduced himself as her surgeon, Mr. Jawad.
“‘I’m going to help you, Katie,’ he said. “I nodded. I knew I could trust him,” she remembered.
It took 60 operations to rebuild her face and fix the internal damage to her esophagus. In all, she would undergo over 250 operations.
She had suffered third degree burns, lost most of her nose, eyelids, and half her left ear. Her eyes, mouth, and tongue were damaged. Her skin of her neck and chest was damaged, too.
Piper remembers dark moments during her recovery. Even looking at herself in the mirror again took tremendous strength.
Her skin was red and raw, her eyes were cartoonish and couldn’t even cry when she wanted to.
“‘What have you done to me?’ I wailed inside. ‘Where’s my face? Get it out of the bin and give it to me right now. I’ll fix it myself.'”
Her parents stuck closely with her throughout her recovery. She remembered she had an idyllic childhood and was independent and fearless, never suspecting any bad in the world. But it would take incredible strength of will to regain that.
Lynch and the man he hired to throw acid at Piper were both arrested and are now serving life sentences.
Now, nearly a decade later, Piper is an inspiring figure who has built a beautiful life for herself
She made an award-winning documentary about her traumatic ordeal, and then continued to pursue her presenting career.
“TV changed my life,” she said. “The first documentary gave me confidence and a voice when I felt like a repressed person.”
Today, she is a TV personality and philanthropist and has released multiple books. She set up The Katie Piper Foundation to help people with scars overcome their struggles, and has pushed for stronger laws to prevent acid attacks and spent years regaining her confidence.
“It took a long time for me to accept my appearance, but I’m so much more than just my appearance… I’m a mum, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a businesswoman and a philanthropist,” Piper said.
Last year, she married her partner Richard Sutton and the two have a young daughter.
“I feel so lucky to have met my husband—he’s a gift from God.”
“He’s an amazing person who changed my life for the better,” she said. “He has given me our daughter and it’s one of the best things that has happened to me.
The two of them are about to have a second child.
Piper’s life story is about to be turned into a movie, where she will be played by Lydia Hearst.
In the meantime, she is pushing for stronger laws and working to inspire victims of attacks.
“Being different is a wonderful thing, I wish more people embraced that,” she told HuffPost UK.