A mum was attacked with boiling water by her enraged brother-in-law, causing her freckles to ‘melt off’, all because of a row over a pet rat.
Charlotte Foster was left with first and second degree burns at the hands of her fiancée’s brother, Ben Queen, 28, after a row about how to care for the poorly rodent. On August 4, 2021, Charlotte confided in Ben – a fellow rat owner – over a text about a trip to the vets she’d taken with her pet rat, Ruby, one.
But instead of sympathising, Ben became angry she’d been given allergy medication for breathing problems. A text message argument ensued, and upset by the rude exchange, Charlotte, 29, went to his house later that day to ask for an apology.
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But their face-to-face chat turned violent when Ben shouted ”take this you b*tch” before pouring freshly boiled water from a kettle over her. Mum-of-one, Charlotte, managed to flee the scene and was rushed to Cumberland Infirmary Hospital, Carlisle, for treatment to severe burns to her head, neck and shoulders.
The horrific attack also left her unable to see from her left eye for 38 hours, as well as leaving ”painful” blistering on her chest, ear and left side of her face. Ben was arrested later that day and released on bail.
After pleading guilty to causing grievous bodily harm on January 10, 2023, at Carlisle Crown Court, he was handed a 21-month jail sentence as well as a five-year restraining order on February 9 this year.
Charlotte, a full-time carer, from Carlisle, said: “We’d been a tight knit family before all this happened – none of it makes sense even now. ‘It all happened so fast. I could see that Ben was getting wound up after his coffee cup has been spilt, so I move out of the way and that’s when he snapped.
“All of a sudden, I felt this scorching sensation on my head, ears and neck with Ben towering the kettle over me. He continue to pour the water for a minute as I screamed for him to stop – I’ve never felt pain like that. The physical damage was horrendous and the pain left me wanting to end it all.
“I watched as my freckles died and literally fell off my face as my skin melted away. My skin around my face, neck, chest, shoulder and ears are still damaged now and it’s a constant reminder of this sick individual.”
Charlotte – who cares for her fiancé, Ben’s brother, Sam Queen, 30 – described her relationship with the family as ”close knit” before the attack. She and Ben even worked at the same B&M store in 2020 – a year before the attack.
But on the morning of the incident, Charlotte messaged Ben about her pet rat, Ruby, after she’d returned from a trip to the vets with her.
“I’d texted Ben to give him an update about Ruby, as she’d had some breathing problems for a couple of weeks,” Charlotte said.
“He had a pet rat too, so we’d often chat about them. I mentioned that the vet had given me medicine for Ruby and then he called me stupid for giving a rat medicine. I was taken back so when I went to my local shop later that day, I decided to call into Ben’s to tell him he’d hurt my feelings. To this day, I wish I had never visited him.”
After less than minute of talking, Ben and Charlotte’s exchange became heated, resulting in Ben spilling his freshly made coffee.
Charlotte said: “I tried to move the mug out of the way as I could tell Ben was getting wound up and that’s when he snapped. ‘He screamed at me and before I knew it, I felt this warm sensation on the top of my head which quickly turned hot and then scalding. I turned around and saw Ben towering behind me with a kettle.
”The metal tip of the kettle was literally poking into my scalp as he poured it. I tried to move away but he then put the kettle on my chest and then the back of my neck. The water was so hot, I was just screaming out in pain.”
Running to the bathroom, Charlotte jumped in the shower fully clothed and tried to cool her body down with cold water. Hearing her screams, Ben’s mum – who he lived with at the time – called an ambulance.
Charlotte ran to her see her mum, Nicola Foster, 58, an employment advisor, who lived a 10 minute walk away, where she was treated by paramedics. Nicola then drove her daughter home, where her fiancé, Queen’s brother, was waiting with the police.
Charlotte was taken to hospital where she was initially treated for her first and second degree burns and remained for four hours before going home. Three days later, she was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, Northumberland, to their burn unit for specialist treatment.
Over the course of the week, she made the trip from Carlisle to the burn unit in Newcastle and required weekly check-ups thereafter as well as strong pain medication for her burns. Charlotte said: “The after pain was unbearable. I’d just cry because it hurt so much.
“My hair would stick to my ear that had blistered all over and my face had puffed up completely. My son would say I still looked beautiful but I could see that he was scared of my injuries. I was horrified when I looked in the mirror as my freckles had started changing colour.
“Within the first month, they turned from brown to black and fall off. My partner, Sam would be there – having to clean them up as I just cried. Growing up with freckles isn’t always fun as you get teased, but as an adult I’d learnt to embrace them. Now they’re gone – my face looks so different which is a constant reminder of the attack.”
Despite Ben’s jail sentence, Charlotte says that it will ”never be enough for the mental and physical turmoil” she’s been left with. She said: “I still have nightmares about it all and little things such as a kettle switch can make me flinch.
“There have been really dark times when I’ve wanted to just give up completely but I’ve been thankful for Sam. ‘Ben has torn this family apart and for that I feel for Sam too – he was his brother after all. Sam and my son have been my rock throughout it all. It’s been strange Sam looking after me as I’m his career but he’s been amazing as well as the incredible NHS staff at Newcastle Royal Infirmary.”
Charlotte added: “I hope that other burn victims read this and see that there’s hope and it will get better with time. We sadly lost Ruby in November 2021, she was so special but I was glad that she wasn’t suffering anymore. I’m still not 100 per cent, but Ben being jailed is a start.”
For anyone affected by this story, contact Changing Faces on 0300 012 0275
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