An Italian model risks losing her sight and will have to undergo intense plastic surgery after acid was thrown in her face, allegedly by her jilted boyfriend, in a revenge attack that has shocked the country.
Gessica Notaro, 28, a former Miss Italy contestant who worked as a dolphin and sea lion trainer in an aquarium on the Adriatic coast, was allegedly attacked by her ex-boyfriend, Jorge Edson Tavares, 29.
Tavares, a bodyguard who is originally from Cape Verde, was reportedly bitter after she broke up with him last summer following a two-year relationship, and had allegedly been stalking and threatening her for months.
She complained about the intimidation to police and in August a court ordered him not to approach her home.
Tavares was arrested and remanded in custody on suspicion of carrying out the assault.
He allegedly lay in wait outside his former girlfriend's apartment on the outskirts of Rimini. As she arrived at the property, he reportedly called out her name before flinging a bottle of acid in her face.
The liquid burnt her face, eyes and scalp and she was rushed to hospital in the nearby town of Cesena. "She's not in danger of losing her life, but the damage is extensive," said Davide Melandri, the hospital's director. "It will be a few days before we can assess how bad it is."
A friend of the model told La Repubblica newspaper: "She was always smiling, always optimistic. Her mother is destroyed by this."
In 2007 Miss Notaro was crowned Miss Romagna - the region where she lives - and then landed appearances on television as a showgirl.
She started working at the aquarium in Rimini in 2014.
Barely a month goes by in Italy without women being shot, stabbed or disfigured by jealous former husbands and lovers. The attacks have followed a depressingly familiar pattern - the woman breaks up with the man, who becomes enraged by jealousy and bitterness.
"Yet another act of violence against a woman, and in a particularly despicable manner," said Patrizia Mirigliani, a patron and organiser of the Miss Italy contest, who met Miss Notaro when she competed a decade ago. "There can be no greater crime than defacing a person's face in order to erase her identity, her beauty, her smile. These are outrageous attacks which keep being repeated."
Three years ago another beauty pageant contestant, a young model called Rosaria Aprea, had to have her spleen removed after being beaten up by her ex-boyfriend. "Now another beauty queen finds herself between life and death," said Ms Mirigliani.
Gloria Lisi, the deputy mayor of Rimini, condemned the attack as a "terrible episode".
"Unfortunately we have become accustomed to witnessing these sorts of attacks almost every day, throughout the entire country. This is a type of violence that is intended to render the woman humiliated and injured and to leave her with signs of submission." Such attacks were carried out by men who "believe they have the right to treat women as they want, negating their autonomy and free will," she said.
In a similar attack in 2013, a lawyer, Lucia Annibali, had acid thrown in her face by two men who had been paid by her ex-boyfriend to disfigure her. The boyfriend, Luca Varani, was sentenced to 20 years for attempted murder while the attackers were sentenced to 12 years each.
While horrific attacks against women in Italy occur on a regular basis, surveys suggest that the country is no worse than many others in Europe for domestic violence.
A survey about violence towards women, published in 2014, found that 27 per cent of Italian women above the age of 15 said they had suffered physical, sexual or psychological violence by men.
The figure was much higher in Britain (44 per cent), Finland (47 per cent) and Denmark (52 per cent). Italy was markedly below the average of 33 per cent for all EU countries.
The survey, Violence Against Women, was produced by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and was based on 42,000 interviews with women across the EU.