This week, Arthur Collins, the ex-boyfriend of Ferne McCann was convicted of using acid in a nightclub in London. There have been 450 attacks this year alone with 40 serious injuries and one death.

The police know they need to deal with the problem and DCI Mike West says they are dealing with it on “the same level as knife and gun crime.”

Tonight spoke to an ex-gang member, Gavin McKenna, who now runs a charity helping youths to lead a life away from crime. Gavin believes that acid is now a weapon of choice for gang members.

“If you’re carrying a knife. I am going to carry a knife to protect myself and I think the same thing with acid. If I know you are carrying acid or there is a chance you are then I am going to carry acid. So you bring the levels up every time.”

Gavin McKenna, Reach Every Generation

Dr Alex Shortt of UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation is an eye surgeon who has years of experience dealing with people injured by acid.

“When we get acid on our skin it literally eats away the skin and….it will continue through the skin into the deeper layers through the fat below the skin unless it is neutralised.”

Dr Alex Shortt, UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation
Dr Alex Shortt has been conducting ground breaking research into corneal stem cell transplants which help victims of acid attacks Credit: ITV/Tonight

Dr Alex Shortt was the surgeon who treated acid attack survivor, Andreas Christopheros. Andreas was attacked around Christmas time in 2014 when he had a knock at the door, expecting it to be a delivery. Instead he received a beaker of acid thrown into his face.

“I knew it was acid straight away. I didn’t really know what to do but my initial reaction was to run through the house to the kitchen and start dousing myself in water.”

Andreas Christopheros, acid attack survivor

Andreas’ attacker, David Phillips, had driven over 300 miles to commit a revenge attack, except he got the wrong address and the wrong man. Andreas was left with 90% burns to the face and blind in one eye.

Phillips was given a life sentence, but his sentence was reduced on appeal as he was considered to not be a danger to the public.

“It’s frustrating knowing that he will be out in five years from now... it’s frustrating that the penalty he received doesn’t fit the crime. In five years from now, I am still going to be having surgery I am still going to be without sight - and the change my life, although I have embraced my new life.”

Andreas Christopheros, acid attack survivor
Andreas Christopheros, acid attack survivor Credit: ITV/Tonight

With the number of acid attacks on the increase, would you know what to do in an acid attack?

Tonight spoke to St. John Ambulance trainer, Lisa Pascoulis, to find out what to do in an attack.

  • Clear the area around the victim and make sure it’s safe. Wear gloves if you have them.

  • Flood the burn with water for at least 20 minutes, try to get others to help you find as much water as possible. Flush away from the eyes, to avoid eyes being contaminated.

  • Gently remove any contaminated clothing.

  • Phone 999 and arrange to send the victim to hospital.

Useful links:

St John Ambulance - advice on what to do in the event of an acid attack

NHS - advice on what to do in the event of an acid attack

  • Acid Attacks: How Scared Should We Be? will be broadcast on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday 16th November

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