A woman who had acid thrown at her while on a volunteer trip to Zanzibar has spoken of her guilt at recovering enough to take up a place at university, while her more severely-injured friend was left “going through it at home, every second, of every day.”
Kirstie Trup, 23, from Hampstead Garden Suburb, needed skin grafts to her face, arm and shoulder, while her friend, Katie Gee, also 23, from East Finchley, was left with 30 per cent burns to her body and lost an ear, following the attack in 2013.
The two friends, then aged 18, were working as volunteer English teachers to local children when two men on a moped drove up and threw a jerry can full of a corrosive substance in their faces, before speeding off.
No-one has ever been arrested over the incident.
Now nearly five years later, the pair revealed how their lives have been irrevocably changed since.
Speaking to Jane Garvey on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Katie recalled how they were spending their final day on the island when the attack happened.
“At first, it was like boiling hot coffee, that’s what I thought it was, for five seconds. And then after that you clock on that it wasn’t that, but the smell as well. A very sour, acidic smell, like milk that had gone off, but very strong.”
Kirstie remembered there was “a lot of screaming, a lot of swearing” and chaos in the minutes following the attack.
While she ran over to two tourists holding bottles of water, before collapsing to the ground, Katie’s first instinct was to try and pursue her attackers.
“I was wearing a jumper over my t-shirt and wiped my eyes, as I tried to get the number plate of the motorbike. I didn’t see it because they were too far away. My mind went into overdrive. I ran off to a nearby restaurant, which had an outdoor shower and turned on all the taps.”
— BBC Woman's Hour (@BBCWomansHour) July 3, 2018
Katie was later helped by two tourists, Nadine and Sam, who heard her screams and ran over with bottles of water. They also later assisted in phoning the pair’s friends and family to tell them what had happened.
Garvey asked how their friendship was affected in the months following their experience, especially given that Katie’s injuries were life-changing.
Katie said: “There have been times it’s been very difficult. There were two completely different outcomes to what happened. We agreed to separate the situation from our friendship, because it wasn’t either of our faults, the outcome of what happened.”
When asked if she felt any sense of guilt, Kirstie said: “Yes, definitely. The first year was really hard, because my life continued. I went to university, which was tough at times, but Katie was going through it at home, every second, of every day.”
Katie spent two months in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she underwent skin graft surgery every other day and had her ear removed.
After returning home, she then endured five days a week in physiotherapy and had to wear pressure suits and face masks, as part of her skin rehabilitation.
She said her family and friends had been “absolutely amazing, very supportive” over the last five years and was now moving on with her life, having completed a degree and is now pursuing a career in commercial property.
Kirstie, who has also since graduated and wants to work in the legal profession, admitted the experience still affects her.
“I get moments, I feel anxious in certain situations. But you get through them, you calm down,” she said.
Katie meanwhile, revealed she was inspired by the words of pop legend Cher, during a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show.
“She said, ‘If if doesn’t matter in five years’ time, then it doesn’t matter now – that is what I now live by.”