Acid attack a hoax
VANCOUVER, Washington – The scars on her face were real, but her story about being splashed with acid was a horrific hoax.
A day after Bethany Storro’s revelation turned the victim who drew worldwide sympathy into a curiosity and the object of much derision, few who banded together here to collect money for her medical bills were angry with her on Friday.
They were just puzzled: What could bring the 28-year-old grocery store worker to disfigure herself in such a public way, and invent a tale about a black woman assaulting her with a cup of acid?
Friend John Pax, whose gym hosted a fund-raiser that netted nearly US$1 000, said no one had asked for their money back yet. “No one’s angry,” he said. “We just worry about her.”
Storro’s parents, Joe and Nancy Neuwelt, apologised on Friday outside their Vancouver home, saying they were “deeply sorry” and adding that all money donated to their daughter would be returned.
Joe Neuwelt said they believed their daughter’s account until she admitted to police on Thursday that her injuries were self-inflicted. “There was no reason to doubt her at all,” he said as he and his wife took turns reading from a statement.
Nancy Neuwelt said she did not know why her daughter fabricated the story but acknowledged Storro was “obviously dealing with some deep internal emotional and psychological problems”.
“Now she can begin to heal because the truth has been revealed,” her mother said.
The Neuwelts said they planned to get their daughter “the medical attention that she needs and the counselling that she deserves”.
Some in the black community in this leafy city on the banks of the Columbia River were saddened that someone claiming to be a crime victim had again placed an African-American in the role of villain.
“I’m not angry at all, and the reason is that this has happened many times before, unfortunately,” said Margo Bryant, president of the Vancouver branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
Bryant praised the police, and said she didn’t hear of any Blacks in the area being questioned.
“At least (police) were willing to accept that this individual was not telling the truth, or not automatically accept she was telling the truth because she is white,” Bryant said.
Police on Friday were planning to turn the case over to prosecutors. Storro could face charges of filing a false police report.
Storro told police a stranger in a ponytail accosted her near a small park on August 30, uttering the now-infamous words – “Hey, pretty girl, want something to drink?” – before scorching her face.
Instantly, her tale grabbed the headlines. And only grew when she appeared before reporters, her head bandaged and alongside her parents, to ask a nameless, faceless attacker: Why?
Storro said it was only chance and, perhaps, divine providence that led her to purchase a pair of sunglasses just minutes earlier.
Umpqua Bank took up a collection to help her pay medical bills, raising “a few thousand” dollars, said bank spokeswoman Lani Hayward. By Friday, no one asked for their donation back, she said.
Police grew more suspicious, as inconsistencies in her story began to add up. They searched her home and her car. They wanted to know why no witnesses had seen an assailant. Why didn’t the splash pattern of the acid jibe with Storro’s account. And, finally, why would Storro be wearing sunglasses just after 7 p.m.?
Under questioning, she folded.
But the question of her motive remains unanswered. (AP)