Arthur Collins trial: Acid attack on the dance floor
In the early hours of Easter Monday, Arthur Collins threw acid over a group of men in the middle of a packed dance floor at an east London nightclub. In a matter of seconds, dozens of partygoers were in agony, burnt by splashes of the toxic substance.
Among them was Lauren Trent who was celebrating turning 22 – a birthday she will now “never forget”.
The club night at Mangle E8 in Dalston – a former industrial launderette – was put on by LoveJuice, which hosts dance music parties all over the world, from Ibiza to Dubai .
“We got there at 8 or 9pm. It was absolutely rammed,” said Lauren.
Security was lax and no-one checked her bag or her identity on the way in, she said.
After a few hours of dancing, Lauren decided she wanted to go home.
“I was ready to go get my McDonald’s. I was tired. I bent down to get my bag and that’s when it went off.
“It sounded like a fizzing noise. And then there was smoke. It smelled like petrol.
“People fell to the floor like dominoes. It was pandemonium.”
Lauren raced to the bathroom with her friend to get water.
“I literally touched my neck and my skin was coming off. I just ripped the blisters off – anything to stop the stinging.”
Lauren was taken to a separate room above the club where she found her friend, Sophie Hall, who had acid splashed over her face.
“I was so shocked. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. But I couldn’t cry because there was my friend with it on her face.”
Lauren had third degree burns to her neck, stomach, hands, chest, legs and foot. She spent a day in hospital and was off work for two weeks.
“If I hadn’t bent down, it would have been on my face,” she said.
Both Lauren and Sophie gave evidence during the trial.
Most victims gave their evidence from behind a screen in court, but Lauren said she wanted to look at the accused.
“Collins didn’t look at me. He had his head down the whole time.”
Six months on, Lauren says she’s more anxious and cautious than she used to be and doesn’t like busy places.
“What he’s done is give people life injuries,” she added. “I didn’t walk in there with those scars. You notice them – they’re not going to go.”
What happened that night?
Collins, the then-boyfriend of TV presenter Ferne McCann, never disputed throwing the liquid.
What he did dispute was that he brought it into the club and that he knew it was acid.
The substance had a pH level of 1, similar to that found in toilet cleaners.
Giving evidence, Collins, 25, from Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, said his attention was drawn by a group of men talking loudly as he made his way to the bar.
“I overheard someone saying ‘no, you spike her, you do it’,” he told jurors.
He said he swore at them, angry at the thought of them spiking a woman’s drink.
He had been “brought up to respect women”, he added.
As one of the men approached him, Collins snatched a little bottle from him, assuming it was a date rape drug, the court heard.
“I wanted to show them the drug was gone; show them there was nothing left in the bottle.”
CCTV from inside the club shows Collins throwing acid at the men.
Seemingly unaware of the mayhem caused, Collins returned to the dancefloor “drinking, dancing, Snapchatting and having a good time”, the court heard.
The men – Kwami Licorish, Makai Brown and Ruam Mota – refuted Collins’s version of events.
Mr Brown and Mr Mota denied any knowledge of a bottle being snatched and told the court no argument had taken place – but did not provide an alternative version of events.
All three suffered burns to their faces and elsewhere.
Dressed in a suit, Collins appeared calm and measured throughout his trial.
Owing to weight loss, he looked quite different to the man pictured holidaying with McCann in Dubai weeks before the attack on 17 April.
On his second day giving evidence, there was a collective raise of eyebrows when George Carter-Stephenson QC, defending, asked his client if he had ever suffered from hair loss.
The answer was yes. In fact, Collins revealed he had undergone two hair transplants.
This line of questioning was to explain a text message which, the prosecution had argued, proved that Collins had started carrying acid.
A week before the attack, Collins sent his sister a text message, saying: “Tell mum to mind that little hand wash in my car acid”.
The jury heard this referred to an amino-acid shampoo that Collins used to thicken his hair and he was worried his young nieces would find it and bite into it.
His sister, Chinade Rowe, told the court she would massage his special shampoo into his scalp.
Asked if she had come to court to lie for her brother, she replied: “Absolutely not.”
Collins’s family was a constant presence at the trial, both in his evidence and in court.
His parents and siblings – four sisters and two brothers – took up much of the public gallery, travelling to Wood Green Crown Court, in north London, every day.
On some days, victims’ families struggled to find a seat.
But it was his ex-partner and the mother of his newborn baby – seen in court at least once – who has been the focus of much of the press attention.
Just hours before the attack, McCann, who first found fame on reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, was with Collins at a barbecue, breaking the news of her pregnancy to her family.
That same day, OK magazine published a front page feature with the couple which revealed their plans to move in together and have a beach wedding.
“It was the happiest I’ve ever felt. We were both really happy,” Collins told the court.
But two days after his arrest, the star confirmed she was pregnant with his child and had ended their relationship.
McCann, who was not at the nightclub when the attack happened, had urged him to hand himself in; it was five days before police found him in Northamptonshire.
A video shown in court showed Collins jumping from a bathroom window in his underpants – fracturing both his heels – before being Tasered and arrested.
As a result of going on the run, plain-clothed police officers were in the courtroom throughout the trial – unbeknownst to the jury.
Collins told the court he hadn’t gone to police due to fears his girlfriend and unborn child would be targeted by gang members.
Weeks after the attack, McCann gave a tearful television interview on ITV’s This Morning.
“This isn’t how I imagined my first pregnancy to be, but this isn’t about me, or the situation, my main priority is the baby,” she said.
She gave birth earlier this month, as the trial was coming to an end.
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