Detectives investigating the acid attack on Victoria's Secret shop assistant Naomi Oni (who is a Nigerian) have arrested two of her friends, it emerged yesterday. The attack was carried out in the Westfield Shopping Centre, in Stratford, East London.
It came after the probe had started to focus on whether Miss Oni lied about the incident – triggering angry denials from the 21-year-old.
But yesterday police said they had arrested a separate 21-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man who are known to the victim.
Miss Oni was targeted by a woman wearing an Islamic veil as she returned home from her job at the lingerie store.
She spent almost a month in a specialist burns unit while doctors fought to save her sight and carried out skin grafts to repair the scarring to her face inflicted in the early hours of December 30 last year.
The acid had burned her face, arm, hand and leg and left her temporarily blinded. Reports over the weekend suggested detectives investigating the crime believed Miss Oni may have been somehow responsible for her own injuries.
Police also seized her laptop and claims emerged that she had looked at websites detailing acid attacks before the incident.
Sheila Maclean, who is a friend of Miss Oni, said her family was considering making an official complaint to police.
Miss Oni said: ‘I’ve only just come out of hospital after having surgery to my eye. To see this story saying that I’d done it made me so angry and really hurts.
“There’s no way I would have done this to myself. I want the person who did this to be caught.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman stressed Miss Oni had not been arrested.
He added: “On Friday, 22 February, a 21-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of being involved in causing grievous bodily harm.
“On Sunday, 24 February, a 28-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of being involved in causing grievous bodily. Both have been bailed to return, pending further inquiries.”
Miss Oni has told of how she became aware of someone behind her as she walked home after getting off a bus in Dagenham, Essex, shortly after midnight.
She was sprayed in the face with burning liquid while she was speaking on her mobile phone to her boyfriend Ato Owede, who is a 24-year-old law student.
She said: “I felt a presence behind me a few minutes away from home so I turned around, not really expecting to see anybody.
“But I saw a person wearing a niqab, a little taller than me. They were just staring coldly at me. I was startled so I turned away. Suddenly, from nowhere, I felt a splash on my right side and I just ran.
“Before I even realised, it was burning, I somehow knew it was acid.”
Miss Oni was too afraid to return to her home after she was released from hospital and is staying with relatives.
The attack has left Miss Oni, who works at the Westfield Shopping Centre, in Stratford, East London, with psychological as well as physical scars, a friend said. ‘I had seen a picture of her face but when I saw her in the flesh she looked a lot worse,’ he added.
“She didn’t speak to me about the attack. I’ve noticed a bit of a change in her, she is more aware now, she is cautious about who she talks to.
“She is a bit more cautious around strangers.”
Scotland Yard yesterday repeated its appeal for witnesses to the acid attack.
Officers are asking anyone else who may have seen the victim in Lodge Avenue or seen anything suspicious around the time of the attack to call Barking & Dagenham CID.