In 2009, the single mum-of-three was left hideously disfigured when her married lover, Richard Remes, attacked her with sulphuric acid in revenge for ending their affair.
Incredibly, Patricia’s breast implants saved her life as they stopped the acid burning through to her heart and lungs, but she was so badly burnt she spent three months in a coma. She has since had to endure 86 operations to rebuild her face and upper body.
Last week, Remes, 57, was jailed for 30 years for attempted murder, but distraught Patricia, 48, believes he got off lightly.
She says: “He turned me into a monster. I can only drink through a straw, I’m always tired and in chronic pain and I can’t work. Some days, I just cry. People stare at me and mock my appearance. It’s a life sentence for me, so why shouldn’t it be for him?”
Caretaker Patricia had been living in the same block of flats as Remes in Brussels when they met in December 2008.
The pair got chatting in the lift one day and he asked her out for a drink.
She says: “I thought, ‘Why not?’ He seemed really sweet, and he was tall and muscular.”
Remes took Patricia to a wine bar. She recalls: “There was chemistry between us so, when he asked me out again, I agreed. He kissed me softly on the cheek and was the perfect gentleman.”
But, after a few dates, Remes dropped a bombshell. She says: “He told me he was married with five children. I was shocked and said we should just be friends – we hadn’t yet slept together and I wasn’t about to break up a family.”
But Remes kept calling and texting Patricia, telling her she was beautiful, and won her over.
The pair soon began an affair and started meeting twice a week at Patricia’s flat. She says: “I felt guilty, but I couldn’t help it.”
Eventually, Remes’ wife found out and threw him out. Patricia let him stay with her for two weeks, but then he patched things up with his wife. Patricia says: “I never got emotionally involved – it was more about sex.”
Remes told Patricia he’d never leave his wife, but they continued their affair. He even took her on holiday to Egypt in May 2009. But, during the trip, his behaviour began to worry her.
She says: “He’d copy whatever food I chose, took loads of photos of me and he’d talk about violent films that involved torturing women. It really unnerved me.”
When they returned home, Patricia told Remes she didn’t want to see him again. But he refused to leave her alone.
She recalls: “He bombarded me with messages, saying he loved me. One day, I went to my local chemist and the pharmacist told me he’d been in wearing a T-shirt with a picture of my face on it and the words ‘I love her.’ I was horrified. I confided in my sister and friends and reported him to the police, but they just advised me to move. I felt helpless.”
Four days later, on 1 December 2009, Remes’ odd behaviour took a sickening twist. Patricia recalls: “A man buzzed my intercom and said he had a parcel. I went out to the hallway and saw a man in biker gear and a crash helmet holding a container. I recognised his build straight away and knew it was Richard.”
Moments later, he splashed the contents of the container all over her face and upper body. She says: “I fell to the ground as the pain seared through me – I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die, but I knew I had to stay alive for my children.
“He yanked my head back, then splashed me again. I could see my left arm melting, with bubbles forming on the surface. I ripped away my clothes and could see the bones of my arms.”
Patricia managed to crawl out into the street and, by chance, her boss was passing and saw her. She called an ambulance and Patricia was rushed to hospital and put into an induced coma, as her body couldn’t cope with the pain.
For three months, her children, Laetitia, now 28, Marie, 18, and Joey, 13, kept a vigil at her bedside. Tragically, Patricia’s nose, eyelids and the tissue around her mouth had melted away. She also lost a finger, sight in one eye and hearing in one ear.
When she finally woke up, doctors explained she’d been minutes away from death and that the breast implants she’d had in 2007 had saved her life.
She says: “The implants had stopped the acid from burning through to my heart and lungs.
“I was dependent on nurses for everything – from eating to going to the loo. I was looking for soap one day when I caught sight of myself in the mirror for the first time. I looked like a monster and broke down in tears.”
Remes was arrested soon after the attack after a witness saw him at the scene, but was released on bail. Incredibly, when he appeared in court this month, he said he hadn’t realised sulphuric acid would cause so much damage.
Patricia says: “The court case was a terrible ordeal. He was cold and arrogant, but I wasn’t scared to look him in the face. He said he’d never wanted to kill me, but I don’t believe that.”
Remes’ wife and children were also at the hearing. Patricia says: “She painted me as a manipulator who hooked her husband. That made me angry – he was the one who chased me.
“One of his stepsons came up to me and said he couldn’t believe what his father had done.”
Patricia now faces a further 30 skin-graft ops. The acid is still melting away her nose and she spends most of her days indoors.
She says: “Once, a woman screamed when she saw me and sometimes parents cover their kids’ eyes. Luckily, my loved ones don’t see me as any different – but I know it breaks their hearts.”
Patricia often has nightmares and flashbacks, but is determined to move on. She says: “All I want now is to see my children married and happy – and for the nightmares to stop one day.”
Psychotherapist Phillip Hodson says: “People who carry out such despicable attacks on their exes do it because they’re deeply insecure. It’s as though something that belongs to them is trying to escape and they want to destroy it and make sure nobody else would want it. They want to make that person feel ugly and destroyed – like they do.”
By Francine Anker & Nilufer Atik