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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK


Guilty plea in burned nurse case

Gabriella Mazzalli will have to undergo years of treatment

A Scottish man has pleaded guilty in an Australian court to dousing a British nurse in petrol and setting her on fire.

Stephen Rae, originally from Crieff in Perthshire, had denied the charge but he has now pleaded guilty to causing his former girlfriend, Gabriella Mazzalli, grievous bodily harm with intent to murder.

He will be sentenced next month and faces a possible maximum 25 year sentence.

Ms Mazzalli, who had travelled to Australia for the trial, phoned her father Aldo in London on Monday to tell him that Rae had changed his plea to guilty.

'Fresh future'

He said: "She was overjoyed that she would not have to relive the terrible events of that night.

"Gabriella was extremely nervous that she would have to make an exhibition of herself in the witness box.

"She told me that now she could put the past behind her and start to rebuild her life."

Ms Mazzalli suffered 90% burns in the attack in her flat in Sydney in February.

She spent months in the city's Concord Hospital and initially doctors did not expect her to survive.

Special body suit

Her mother Sandra Cooling and stepfather Terry flew to Australia from their home in Lincoln to be at their daughter's bedside.

Ms Mazzalli returned to Britain in July accompanied by specialist medical staff. She is now receiving treatment at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

She has been told that for at least two years she will need to wear a special body suit 23 hours a day in order to restore her scarred skin.

Ms Mazzalli's face and scalp are the only parts of her body which were unscathed in the attack. She has already undergone 11 skin grafts to coax her skin to grow again.

On her return, the 29-year-old said she felt "comforted and reassured" to be back in the UK and thanked those who had written to her.

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