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Former model recalls horrific acid attack

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Recovering from acid attack
  • A cup of acid was thrown onto Katie Piper's face in March 2008
  • She received severe burns to her face, chest, neck and hands
  • Highly corrosive sulfuric acid was used in the attack
  • Piper is slowly getting her life back on track after nearly two years of recovery

London, England (CNN) -- Katie Piper had everything going for her -- a blossoming career, a wonderful life and a beautiful face. But that all changed after a horrific acid attack in March 2008 destroyed everything as she knew it.

The young model and television presenter, who was 24 years old at the time, was leaving her apartment in a London suburb when she was attacked by a stranger waiting for her with a cup of sulfuric acid.

Stefan Sylvestre threw the cup of corrosive liquid on Piper, burning the skin on her face, neck, chest and hands. She was also left blinded in one eye.

Sylvestre was asked by Piper's former boyfriend, Danny Lynch, to throw the acid on her face because she ended their short relationship.

To make matters worse, two days before the attack, Piper was raped by Lynch in a London hotel room after ending the partnership.

"It wasn't a random attack and there was a motive if you like," Piper told CNN's Becky Anderson on Connect the World.

Meanwhile Piper's parents were called by the police to tell them what had happened. "I can remember going 'not her face, please not her face'," Piper's mother Diane wrote on The Katie Piper Foundation web site.

"I knew if anything happened to her face as far as she was concerned it would be the end of everything."

Piper spent nearly two months in hospital and was placed in an induced coma for 10 days.

The attack also severely damaged Piper's throat and she was forced to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

Today, Piper now wears a special plastic pressure mask for 23 hours a day, in an effort to flatten her scars.

"You can see looking at me that it physically changed my appearance, but it goes a lot deeper than that."

"It changed my life as I know it -- it changed my career, it changed my relationships with people.

Lynch was found guilty of inciting the acid attack in October 2008 and subsequently convicted on the rape charge in April 2009. He was given two life sentences, and will serve at least 16 years in jail.

Sylvestre received a 12-year sentence for throwing the acid.

With her attackers behind bars, Piper is determined to get her life back on track and rebuild what she can.

"Time was a great healer and I've managed to not get my old life back, but I can rebuild. And I think I've stayed focused and determined."

"It was an attack with the intent to destroy me, and I decided that it wouldn't destroy me and that I would still have a life. I try to stay positive."

Piper has told her story around the world and has started the Katie Piper Foundation to help raise money for burns victims across the UK.

Since the attack Piper has made remarkable progress.

Surgeons took the drastic measure to remove the skin from Piper's entire face and use a skin substitute called Matriderm to re-build the foundations before grafting skin from her back and buttock onto her face -- it's the first operation of its kind to be done in one operation, according to Piper's Web site.

Piper plans to continue her work raising money for burn victims and to help spread the message that there is life after difficult challenges.

"I think it's important to try and set yourself many goals -- try to take each day as it comes," Piper said.

"I think there's a lot of strength that can be gathered from support."