Your face is the window to your soul. Your unique selling point. A little dimple, or a slightly crooked nose, maybe a beauty spot – these things help make you, you.
Imagine if your face was changed beyond recognition by a random act of violence. Imagine not quite recognising the person looking back at you in the mirror, every day, for the rest of your life.
That is what it’s like to survive an acid attack. This is the reality for victims like Andreas Christopheros, who paid the price for another violent criminal’s actions, in a case of mistaken identity that can never be reversed.
In December 2014, Andreas was attacked when he opened his front door to a stranger who threw sulphuric acid all over the young father and local business-owner.
The attack – which occurred on the doorstep of his Truro home which he shares with his wife, Pia, and their son – nearly killed Andreas. It left him with no eyelids, a near-fatal infection and facial scarring that would last a lifetime.
You can listen to Andreas recall his ordeal in the exclusive interview below:
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Andreas told UNILAD:
I opened my front door and instantly received a beaker of sulphuric acid to the face. My son could’ve been stood next to me, by my feet, and that would’ve killed him. It almost killed me.
In a horrible twist of fate, the unprovoked attack on Andreas was a case of mistaken identity.
The assailant, David Phillips, 49, was searching for violent and ultimately futile revenge against a man who he believed had sexually assaulted a companion.
In attacking Andreas, he attacked a 27-year-old totally unconnected to the crime. He changed the life of an innocent and law-abiding father.
After the attack, Andreas was put on ‘death watch’ due to the severity of his injuries.
Doctors feared he could die any second in the weeks after the incident, and there was a high risk of a life-threatening infection spreading from the open wounds on his face.
Andreas recalled the weeks and months in hospital, saying:
I couldn’t talk. I had a lot of tubes coming out of me. You lie in a hospital bed thinking, will my son recognise me? Will he be scared of me? When he looked at me and just grabbed my wife, my heart sank.
Andreas found his ‘biggest nightmare’ was happening to him right before his eyes. But the devoted father described how his son gave him the ‘superpower’ to overcome the consequences of the attack and return to his happy, normal family life.
Andreas told UNILAD about the extent of his injuries:
My whole face has been rebuilt with various bits of my body. All my forehead has been skin grafted. All my cheeks. There has been so much contraction that I’m on my third set of eyelids now.
Not having eyelids is a pretty horrible form of torture. You can’t close your eyes. You can’t get away from the lights. it’s a horrific place to be in.
Despite wearing his scars with pride, Andreas added:
It’s affected every aspect of my life. From the moment I wake up in the morning, I have to start dealing with the challenges I face daily.
It generally takes me half an hour to get out of bed and gain sight enough to, you know, make a cup of tea. You are reliant on everybody else to do everything for you – even to take you to the toilet. You wouldn’t be human, you’d have to be pretty emotionless to go what I go through without having bad days.
Andreas’s attacker will be out of jail in five years because he was made eligible for parole after serving just eight years of a life sentence by the Court of Appeal.
Andreas will still be having surgeries on his face when he walks free.
I’ll be wearing my scars all my life. I’ll be blind in my left eye all my life. I’ll still be classed as visually impaired in my right. There’s no miracle cure for me. There’s nothing to give me back what I lost. And yet my attacker’s going to be out on the streets in five years? It just seems ludicrous.
Acid attacks are troublingly prevalent in the news nowadays. Andreas, for obvious reasons, believes the sentencing for acid attackers should be more severe than gun crime.
This comes after a former gang member, Jermaine Lawlor, revealed why acid attacks are favoured by violent criminals – because they ’cause a person to be a victim for life’ and yet ‘you’re not going to get that harsh a sentence compared to if you were carrying a knife’.
You can watch Jermaine, who is now a youth activist dedicated to stopping gang crime, explain below:
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This comes after a group of thugs committed five acid attacks on Londoners in the space of 90 minutes.
Attacks involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012 with London having the most dramatic rise in recent years. According to The Metropolitan Police, there were 261 attacks in 2015, rising to 458 last year.
Andreas said: “I don’t think they’re gonna stop. I’m not saying that in a fear-mongering way but, until legislation changes, I think they’re going to carry on.”
If any of the issues above have affected you, contact Acid Survivors Trust International for support and advice.