Market Rasen teenager Sophie Russell who was attacked by bullies makes modelling final
An autistic teenage girl who suffered horrific injuries in an attack has "thanked" bullies for making her strong enough to fulfil a long-held dream of becoming a model.
Pretty 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 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, in February last year.
Shockingly, the mob of four girls and five boys were let off after police only handed one of them a caution.
But Sophie, from Market Rasen, this week 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'.
"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."
She was set upon last February as she walked to her boyfriend's home after school.
In the moments after the attack, Sophie managed to hide behind a wall. She called her dad who rushed to her aid before taking her to hospital.
She was discharged that evening but found out four weeks later that her nose was broken, which meant she 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."
Sophie will be up against more than 200 other hopefuls when she takes part in a photo-shoot next month in the competition run by Watford-based firm Fresh Academy.
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.