Model Burned in Vicious Sulfuric Acid Attack

Katie Piper's dreams were destroyed when stranger splashed her with acid.

Jan. 5, 2010— -- Katie Piper was stunning. She had a look and a life in London that seemed to promise a bright future as a model.

"I was quite wild, carefree, 24 years old, I thought I was invincible, lived for the moment and loved life," she said. "If I went somewhere, people I met for the first time would say, 'Oh, you're really pretty.'"

Piper said her looks were the key to her aspiring career as a model and television presenter. But her dreams were destroyed when a complete stranger threw sulfuric acid in her face.

"This is when my life changed completely, forever…" she said, "This is when I lost my beautiful face."

Piper was raised in a small English village by a loving family. Her father, David Piper, said his daughter always had big dreams.

"I think always to make it in the media in some way or another. She always wanted to perform, I think. She always liked to have an audience. She was quite happy with that," he said.

At 22, Piper moved to bustling London -- two hours and a world away from her home town. Her parents let her move out on her own, but not without some reservations.

"Every father worries about their daughter when she leaves home, and going to a big city like that," David said. "One thing with Kate that I was always worried about: She was a bit too trusting."

Click here for full coverage of Katie Piper's story

Piper's looks and lively personality were a big hit in London. Within months she had freelance jobs as a model and as a host on a shopping channel -- all stepping stones to her ultimate dream.

"I was auditioning, trying to climb higher and higher," she said. "I hoped to become an established presenter on primetime television."

Piper also started making friends and enjoyed the London nightlife. "I was quite the party animal," she said.

One of Katie's constant companions was her best friend, Kay Little.

"Katie has got the best personality I think I've ever met. She was physically very beautiful and we would go out to a bar or to a club or just shopping and heads would turn at this girl," Little said.

Piper Wooed by Martial Arts Enthusiast

In March 2008, Piper's family got word that there was a new man in her life. Piper seemed smitten.

"She texted... 'I've met a new guy. His name is Danny and I'm really happy,'" Piper's younger sister Suzy said.

33-year-old Danny Lynch was a martial arts enthusiast who likely first saw Piper when she was working at martial arts matches as a ring girl. She said they initially met online.

"The first initial contact was on Facebook, where he messaged me...his profile picture was him in a martial arts outfit. And then, the next few days we carried on, talking online, and eventually swapped numbers," she said. "I really sort of quite fancied him, and the whole image he portrayed to me I really liked."

The two agreed to go out on a date. "The first date we went on, he was very attentive, maybe a little nervous and shy as well," Piper said.

A night out together led to another and the relationship moved very quickly. She now says there were some red flags. "Signs were becoming apparent that, you know, he had a short fuse," she said.

One night after a date, Piper learned just how terrifying her new boyfriend was. After a frightening incident, Lynch made Katie promise to keep what had happened between them a secret. Scared for her life, she agreed.

Watch "20/20" Friday to find out what secret Katie Piper was forced to keep

Lynch repeatedly contacted her until she finally agreed to go to a local internet cafe to read a message he had posted on her Facebook page.

Security Cameras Capture Incident

In the late afternoon of March 31, 2008, Piper headed out to pick up the message. At least three separate security cameras captured what happened next, but Piper remembers the fateful day all too well.

"This guy starts walking towards me, crosses the road, and he's coming right towards me, and his eye contact, he's so focused on my eyes," she said.

Model Recalls Haunting Day

Another security camera recorded the man's careful approach to Piper and the moment when her life would be forever changed.

"And he had a coffee cup, and he had it right out here, so I thought, 'Well, this guy really wants me to give him some change' and I took my hands to get money out, and as I did and turned he just threw everything into my face," she said. "At first, I thought he's thrown coffee on me, because, he's in the street with a coffee mug. And then the pain was so bad I thought this guy's thrown a match at visually I thought I must be a big orange fireball because, it's so painful bad."

Piper had been attacked with sulfuric acid by a complete stranger.

"I remember bits of my face were coming off and bits were coming away and, my clothes were all evaporating and I was panicking," she recalled. "I was banging on the windows of the shops and people were scared."

It's been almost two years since then. After the attack, someone called an ambulance and Piper was rushed to the hospital.

Her parents, David and Diane Piper, remember the terrible phone call telling them of the attack.

"They didn't really know too much, but they knew that she was facially injured," David recalled.

Parents Horrified by Disfigured Daughter

Her mother Diane said she was horrified: "I thought, 'Oh my God, no. Not her face.' Her looks were everything to her. It's what she made a living of, by the way she looked."

Her father said when they arrived at the hospital they could not believe what they saw.

"Her eyes were welded together. Her face was swollen like a football. Some of her skin was missing, some of her nose was missing, some of her ear was missing, and she just looked terrible," David said. "She was on a ventilator. She couldn't talk. I remember thinking, 'Do I really want her to survive.' She's so disfigured, she could be totally blind. You know, she swallowed some of it. What sort of life is she going to have?'"

As doctors were deciding on the next steps for Piper, police were on the trail of her assailant. Investigators discovered that a complete stranger had attacked Piper, but everyone would be horrified to learn who was truly behind this terrible attack.

Click here for full coverage of Katie Piper's story.

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