Tuesday 16 January 2018

Zanzibar acid attack victim tells of battle to overcome injuries after losing ear

Katie Gee, a British teenager who was badly injured in an acid attack in Zanzibar, says life-changing burns to her face will not stop her pursuing her dream of returning to voluntary work in the developing world

Katie Gee after the acid attack in Zanzibar
Katie Gee after the acid attack in Zanzibar

Bill Gardner

A British teenager has told of the life-changing moment that she was doused with acid in Zanzibar as it emerged she lost an ear in the brutal attack.

Katie Gee, 19, will have to endure another 15 operations including having a new ear crafted from rib cartilage after suffering burns over 30% of her body.

Speaking for the first time since the attack last August, Gee said she was finally able to look in the mirror again after surgeons used skin grafts to repair her damaged face.

But she admitted missing the “most basic joys, like being out in the sunshine, wearing make-up, going clubbing with friends or travelling overseas”.

Gee and Kirstie Trup, her best friend, were attacked as they walked along a street during a trip to teach English to underprivileged children. Gee took the full force of the acid thrown from a jerry can by a man on a scooter.

Writing in the Sunday Times, she said: “By the time I opened my eyes the scooter was speeding away.

“The clear liquid smelt awful, like stale coffee, and I was immediately overcome by a pain that intensified by the second.”

Gee told how, as the acid began to eat away at her skin, she begged one onlooker to shoot her because the pain was so unbearable.

When she was rushed to London for treatment, surgeons at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital took burnt skin from 30% of her body including her face, back, neck, torso, legs and feet.

She now wears plastic mask 23 hours a day to help flatten the scarring and reduce the redness on her face.

She said she was mystified as to the motive behind the attack, as the girls were wearing full length clothes and no jewellery.

She said: “I find it astounding that anyone would have wanted to disfigure two harmless 18-year-olds they had never met.”

She said she was determined to overcome her injuries “if only to prevent the cowards who attempted to destroy my life from winning”.

Gee paid tribute to Andy Williams, her surgeon: “He told me from the beginning that my recovery will be ‘a marathon not a sprint’. Andy made me realise that life was worth living and my dreams could still be achieved.”

She added: “The nagging thoughts I once had that my life had somehow come to an end have started to dissipate because I know that with the help of my family and friends there is nothing I cannot achieve.”

But she remained frustrated by the failure of the authorities to bring her attackers to justice.

“For all the promises by Scotland Yard who are liaising with Interpol to move the Tanzanian investigation forward, little has been achieved,” she said.


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