A former Miss Italy contestant has revealed the terrible suffering she has faced since her ex-boyfriend allegedly doused her with acid, leaving her scarred from forehead to chin.
Gessica Notaro spent two months 'imprisoned' in her hospital room in Cesena, Rimini, being treated for her horrific injuries, after she was allegedly ambushed by bodyguard Jorge Edson Tavares, the Daily Mail reports.
The aspiring singer, who met Tavares three years ago when they both worked at a dolphin aquarium in her home city Rimini, could only speak to visitors through a glass window.
Her mother had to be sterilised before entering the room.
Now, she faces a year-long wait until she is well enough for plastic surgery, spending £600 a month on medication, eye drops and lotions, to subdue her pain. Meanwhile Tavares, who denies the attack, is in prison awaiting trial.
Speaking for the first time since she returned from hospital, Gessica, 28, told MailOnline:
"I did my own two months of prison. I can't live life as I used to. I can't go out in the sun, am constantly trapped in this mask and my face hurts all the time.
"I have to spend all my money on medication - every half hour I need eye drops and I have to moisturise my skin constantly. I cannot do my job because I can't go in the water.
"Even when I'm better, I will have scars on the inside for the rest of my life. I will always be scared to get out of my car and walk home because I will relive that scene again and again."
But, despite her life-changing injuries, the courageous model and TV presenter, who has just finished an album, remains optimistic because she can still sing. "Underneath this mask there's severe damage," she said.
"My face is ruined but my facial features are still there. My mouth is intact. So is my nose. I still recognise myself in the mirror. This eye should have been blind but it isn't.
"And the most important thing I found out that night is that my voice is still there. I risked losing it as the acid ended up in my mouth, but I was alert enough to spit it out."
Despite being accused of the horrific attack, Gessica, a finalist in the 2007 Miss Italy contest, insists that Tavares, who comes from Cape Verde, was a model boyfriend.
It was only after they broke up last August, she claims, that he became jealous and started stalking her. "As soon as I broke up with him he freaked," she said. "He immediately got jealous. He knew my work schedule and tracked my movements. If I was two minutes late from work, he would message me: 'What are you going? Why are you still in there? Who are you with?'"
Despite moving in with another lover, she claims he continued to threaten her. She therefore remained resolutely single, fearing for her safety - and that of any future boyfriend. "I wanted to meet someone and get on with my life," she explained, "but I couldn't go out with anyone out of fear.
"He followed me everywhere I went, threatened me and never left me alone. He even staged a fake suicide, trying to appeal to my sensitivity. He came to my house with a rope and pretended to hang himself from the gate in my front yard."
More frighteningly, he allegedly threatened to throw acid over her. "I worked at a dolfinarium where they use acids to clean filters," she recalls. "So I asked the man who cleans the filters what should I do if he attacked me with acid. "Should I wash my face or not?' He said: 'If I were you I wouldn't rinse it - there's a kind of acid which makes holes in your skin, if you pour water on it.' I even told my colleagues I was thinking of putting a helmet in my car for I was afraid to walk from the parking lot to my home."
Eventually Gessica went to the police, giving them evidence, including WhatsApp messages from Tavares, threatening to 'ruin' her life but they merely ordered him to stay away from her.
Travares was given a harassment order, confirmed Rimini police spokesmen Marcello Pedrotti.
But on January 10, after a rare night out with friends, she believes, Tavares struck. "I was already a bit tense because my mother had called to tell me he had rung and needed to speak to me urgently," said Gessica, who had blocked Tavares from contacting her. I expected to confront him but I didn't expect him to do what he did.
"I think he was hidden behind other cars - he must have crawled on the floor and crept behind mine. As soon as I put my head out of the window I saw him come towards me from the back of the car and throwing the acid at me.
"I actually felt the plastic of the bottle on my face. He lifted his arm to make sure he emptied the bottle completely and didn't leave one drop. My face was burning and I instantly started losing my sight.
"I felt desperate because I knew that the more time passed, the more the acid would corrode my face. I had to find the fastest way to get to hospital for help.'
Even then, Gessica was realistic about losing her looks. 'The night the attack happened, I prayed and said: "Take away my beauty or whatever needs to be taken away, but please let me keep my eyes," she recalled.
Unlike other victims of horrific burns, Gessica did not shy away from her injuries. 'I was very quick wanting to look in the mirror," she recalls. "At first they showed me photographs but they I decided I want to look in the mirror.
"In the beginning my face was dark and burned - one side was dark brown, the other side green. I was a bit shocked but then I decided to focus on my eyes - they say the eyes are the mirror of the soul. I looked myself in the eye and recognised myself. I said: 'OK. It's still me.'"
However, despite the impact of the attack, Gessica insists that she does not want revenge.
"The only thing I would really like is for him to see me and see what he has done," she added.