An autistic teenage girl who suffered horrific facial injuries after she was battered by a gang of nine bullies has had the last laugh – by becoming a model.
Sophie Russell, 16, had to have re-constructive surgery on her shattered face and was off school for 10 months following a brutal attack in February last year.
The attack left Sophie with serious internal bruising, a broken nose, shattered face, post traumatic stress disorder, a scar on her top lip and jaw and hip crack.
But remarkably, less than two years later, the teen, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has recovered to reach the finals of a national modelling competition.
If she wins she will scoop a modelling contract and will appear on the front cover of a glossy women’s magazine.
Sophie was attacked by thugs who waited for her outside her school in Louth, Lincs., in February last year.
Shockingly, the mob of four girls and five boys were let off after police only handed one of them with a caution.
But Sophie, from Market Rasen, Lincs., “thanked” her tormentors saying the attack gave her the strength to pursue her dream of becoming a model.
She said: “All of my surgery and counselling is now complete and my life is going extremely well.
“I am now working towards a modelling career and becoming myself again.
“This has been my career of choice since I was about four. I thought that because of my face I wouldn’t be able to do it. I thought ‘I’m going to have to pick a different career’.
“My confidence was at rock bottom. I thought ‘you have to be strong’.
“Since I carried the torch I have become a better person.
“I thank the people who beat me up because I wouldn’t be the person I am today, I’ve become a much better person – I’m much more ambitious, it’s thanks to them.”
Sophie will be up against over 200 other hopefuls when she takes part in a photo-shoot next month in the competition which is being run by Watford-based firm Fresh Academy.
She was set upon last February as she walked to her boyfriend’s home after school last February.
In the moments after the attack, Sophie managed to hide behind a wall and use her phone to call her dad who rushed to her aid before rushing her to hospital.
She was discharged that evening but found out four weeks later her nose was in fact broken and had to have surgery.
Speaking out after the attack in 2011, Sophie said: “What I went through was really traumatic and ripped the family to bits.
“I was just walking to my boyfriend’s house and wasn’t expecting to be attacked.
“I had to jump over a wall to get away from them, then I called my dad and he came and took me straight to hospital.”
As well as reaching the final of the modelling competition, brave Sophie also impressed London 2012 officials enough to be chosen as an Olympic torch bearer.