A WOMAN who threw acid in the face of her friend while disguised in a Muslim veil has been jailed.
Business student Mary Konye, 22, attacked Naomi Oni, a Victoria’s Secret shop assistant, over a ‘’trivial, insignificant’’ argument after following her home from work.
Ms Oni was left scarred for life after suffering serious burns on her face and chest following the incident in Dagenham, east London, on December 30 2012.
Judge David Radford, who sentenced Konye to 12 years at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court today, said the consequences of her “deliberate” and “wicked act have been devastating to Miss Oni”.
He added that it was a “premeditated and callous” plan to “burn and disfigure” the victim.
Konye, who was convicted in January, looked straight ahead from the dock and showed no reaction as she was sentenced.
Ms Oni, 22, who did not attend the sentencing, said in a statement to the court that she considered killing herself after being “violated” by her “evil” attacker.
Delivering his sentence, Judge Radford said: “This careful, premeditated criminality was planned against a person who reasonably believed you were a true friend.”
The judge said Konye had been “deliberately untruthful” during the trial after she admitted throwing the acid following her conviction.
A letter of remorse she had since written was “utterly belated”, he added.
Mr Radford said Ms Oni’s life had been “ruined” along with her trust in friends.
“Her friendship had been so wilfully betrayed by you,” he said.
In a statement read to the court by prosecutor Gareth Patterson, Ms Oni said she was now “paranoid and scared” about being outdoors alone.
The victim told the court that, before the attack, she was a “confident” young woman with a job she enjoyed.
“All this changed that day I was struck with acid and my life was turned upside down,” she said.
It was now a “battle to get by each day” after being permanently disfigured, she added.
Ms Oni said she had suffered permanent scars to her leg, chest, stomach and arms and was almost blinded in one eye.
She faces further reconstructive surgery and must wear a silicon face mask which makes it difficult to breathe, the court heard.
Ms Oni said: “I’m reminded what I look like every day I look in the mirror or see the reaction on people’s faces.
“The whole traumatic experience has changed my life.
“I initially felt angry and hurt. All sorts of things kept going through my mind. I sometimes cry when I’m alone. At times I felt suicidal and thought about ending it all.”
Ms Oni said her mother, who was in court for the hearing, had kept her going but their relationship was sometimes “strained” after they had been forced to move into a hostel.
She added: “I feel paranoid and scared going out alone.
“People often star at me. Some ask what happened to my face. I’m still scared of being attacked again.”
Ms Oni said she regretted ever being friends with Konye.
She added: “It was bad enough believing it was a random attack. Knowing Mary planned this is beyond belief.
“I don’t trust people in the same way any more.”
Ms Oni said she had been affected financially and had not worked for a year.
She said found it “embarrassing” telling people about the “unusual and strange” incident.
“I’m going to have these scars as a reminder forever,” she said. “Maybe I feel violated. The person who did this has left their mark on me.”
Ms Oni said the attack was carried out by “an evil, wicked person”.
She added: “The fact she never admitted what she did to me adds insult to injury.
“I feel I have been part of a game to her.”
During her trial, the jury heard that Konye pretended to give Ms Oni a shoulder to cry on following the attack.
Konye used the ‘’implausible’’ excuse that it had been Ms Oni who planned the incident because she wanted ‘’fame and fortune and to sell her story to the paper’’, police said.
CCTV footage obtained by police after the attack showed Konye in a niqab following Ms Oni as she left work at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford at about 11.30pm.
The victim lost her hair and eyelashes, and required skin graft surgery to cover her burns.
The jury heard that, the day after the attack, Konye sent a mobile phone message to Ms Oni, who was in hospital receiving treatment, saying: ‘’OMG, I can’t believe it.’’
It is thought to have been a copycat attack mimicking the one suffered by model and TV presenter Katie Piper, who was badly scarred and left blind in one eye in an assault arranged by her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Lynch, in 2008.
Ms Oni previously told the court that Konye was aware of how much of an impact Ms Piper’s ordeal had had on her after watching a television documentary about it.
The pair, who had been friends since secondary school, fell out in April 2011 when Ms Oni allegedly accused Konye of texting her boyfriend and called her an ‘’ugly monster’’.
Konye, of Canning Town, east London, denied throwing or casting a corrosive fluid with intent to burn, maim, disfigure, disable or do grievous bodily harm.
Her lawyer Sally O’Neill QC told the court Konye has since admitted throwing the acid following her conviction but maintained she did not intend to cause injury to Ms Oni’s face.
“The reason for this incident will always be shrouded in some doubt and mystery,” Ms O’Neill said.
She added that Konye was an “immature 22-year-old” with a possible personality disorder and had been threatened by other inmates while in prison awaiting sentencing.
In a statement read by her solicitor Mitesh Patel outside court, Ms Oni said: “My attacker’s sentence will end but I will have to live with my injuries and disabilities for the rest of my life.
“Almost every aspect of my life has been adversely affected by this unprovoked attack.”
Ms Oni’s mother Marrian Yalekhue said she was “happy” with the sentence but her daughter still faced “problems emotionally and psychologically”.
“I believe Naomi will be a bit satisfied,” she said.
Following Konye’s conviction in January, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Whellams said it had been a ‘’serious, horrible offence which required a degree of planning and calculation’’.
He told reporters that witnesses had testified in court that Konye planned the attack over the course of two years.
‘’She has prepared for this over a number of months, even years, all resulting from a trivial, insignificant argument that everybody has in their everyday lives,’’ he said.