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  1. ITV Report

Young mother target of 'acid attack'

The alleyway between Stephenson Way and Wright Close Credit: ITV News

A young mother has suffered facial burns after becoming a target of a suspected 'acid attack' carried out by a gang of youths.

She was treatedfor a first degree burn close to her right eye after she had a white foam-like substance thrown in her face.

The mum-of-one, who said the substance smelt like bleach, had gone to investigate a baby's cries in an alleyway when the attack took place on Monday 31 July.

Police later conducted house to house enquires following the attack between Stephenson Way and Wright Close in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, and described it as a "concerning incident".

A family member, speaking at the home of the shocked victim, said:

They will do it again if they don't get caught and when they realise how serious it is they won't be laughing anymore."

– A family member of the victim

The apparent random and motiveless assault in Newton Aycliffe comes after a rising number of so-called acid attacks across the UK.

It has been reported such incidents more than doubled since 2012 - soaring by 74 per cent in the last year alone.

The victim said she heard a baby crying in the area of the alleyway at about 8.40pm and went to see if anything was wrong.

She recalled:

A group of teenagers were talking between themselves at the end of the cut.

I saw the woman who was with the child and then she crossed (Stephenson Way).

I turned around and was on my phone, they were at the side of me and I felt something hit the side of my face and heard the teenagers run off towards the town centre.

I didn't look back properly."

– The victim

She said she felt a "burning sensation" but does not know what substance was thrown at her.

It was like a white liquid and smelt like bleach.

It was quite sore and as soon as I got in I washed it straight off and went upstairs to wash it out my hair."

– The victim

Police officers took her to Darlington Memorial Hospital, who returned later that night, and carried out investigations in the area.

It is understood there were about seven to eight youths present during the attack.

The victim, who suffered a first degree burn, believes there were more females in the group than males.

Inspector Sarah Honeyman, of Durham Constabulary, said:

This is a concerning incident that we are currently investigating and we would appeal for anyone with information, or who witnessed anything or has heard something about this to get in touch."

– Inspector Sarah Honeyman

In 2012 there were 183 reports of acid attacks in the UK, compared to the 504 reports last year.

The majority were in London where in July five attacks took place within 90 minutes - prompting calls for the Government to tighten regulations on the sale and possession of acid and other corrosive substances.

And while the majority of incidents have happened in the capital, similar incidents are cropping up elsewhere.

According to Freedom of Information Act (FOI) figures, Cleveland Police dealt with 18 reports of violent attacks involving acid or other noxious substances between 2011-2016.

And since the beginning of 2015, Northumbria Police has recorded 63 offences involving acid or other corrosive substances, according to FOI figures.

Until this week it is understood Durham Constabulary, in the same time frame, had no reports of incidents involving toxic chemicals.