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UK man left in 'extreme agony' following acid attack

Darren Pidgeon (pic twitter)
Darren Pidgeon (pic twitter)

A man suffered serious chemical burns to his face and body in an unprovoked acid attack by a "complete stranger", a court has heard.

Darren Pidgeon spent 24 days in hospital following the attack, requiring skin grafts to repair third degree burns caused by "extreme" acid.

Ashley Russell, 30, of Sunnedon, Basildon, and Christina Storey, 32, of Brook Court, Rayleigh, each deny throwing a corrosive fluid at Mr Pidgeon.

Storey, wearing a black cardigan over a striped top, also denies aiding and abetting an offender.

Opening the trial at Basildon Crown Court, prosecutor Greg Unwin said Mr Pidgeon was attacked at around 11.20pm on June 3 2014.

He had stopped at traffic lights while driving south towards Thundersley, Essex, when he noticed a red Rover, driven by Storey, pulling alongside him.

As he pulled off the Rover drove in front of him as the victim continued south, although it was not a "near miss", Mr Unwin said.

Mr Pidgeon, 29, then turned into Kingsmere, a cul-de-sac, to turn around and as he went to reverse saw a car pull in behind him.

"He was essentially trapped, blocked in by this other vehicle. The prosecution say this is the same car," Mr Unwin said.

"A passenger of the red car then got out of the passenger door and ran round to Mr Pidgeon's door, where he had the window wound down, and he said words to the effect of 'have you got a problem?'."

It is alleged Russell then sprayed the victim in the face and also punched him in the head.

Russell, wearing a black t-shirt under a grey jumper, denies being the passenger who threw the acid.

Residents heard the shouting and revs of a car and Mr Pidgeon knocked on a door, prompting two calls to police at around 11.22pm and 11.24pm.

"Darren Pidgeon was in excruciating agony, his eye was watering, some of the substance had gone into one ear. He was confused and disorientated," Mr Unwin added.

Mr Unwin continued: "Mr Pidgeon has no idea why he was attacked.

"As the liquid started to burn into his skin in his face, his arm and the side of his body, he screamed in agony.

"He was becoming agitated, saying he had been maced or pepper sprayed."

Residents gave him water to wash his eyes before ambulance crews and police arrived moments later.

Mr Pidgeon was taken to a specialist burns unit in Broomfield Hospital, where tests showed the acid had a pH level of one, indicating "extreme acid".

The jury was told the victim suffered third degree burns across 5% of his body.

The prosecution said Storey's Rover was caught on automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras on the nearby A127 shortly after 11.30pm, and the pair were also seen on CCTV at a BP service station a short time later.

Russell and Storey do not dispute being pictured in the CCTV at the petrol station, Mr Unwin told the jury.

After her arrest, Storey told police her passenger was Ian Sully, who had told her to follow Mr Pidgeon's grey Citroen C4 as they pulled away at the roundabout.

She said he had attacked the victim with acid, which he had in a yellow lemon-shaped bottle, and once they had driven away he then threatened to attack her if she told anyone.

She said she dropped him off in a lay by and then picked up Russell nearby.

The court heard detectives were unable to identify a man matching her description of Ian Sully and Mr Unwin said the prosecution believed he was an "invention".

Russell told police in interview he had met Storey later at the BP garage.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, a softly spoken Mr Pidgeon described the moment he was sprayed with the acid.

He said: "I could feel it straight away - it was hurting, really hurting.

"I could feel it on my skin, it was hurting and burning.

"I've never felt anything like it."

The court heard the victim wrongly identified two other men as the attacker and failed to pick out Russell in an identity parade.

Mr Pidgeon added he found it hard to remember the description of his attacker because the incident "happened so quickly".

"It's a long time ago, I'm trying not to think about that day. I don't sit there and think about what I remember," he said.

The trial continues.