Australian police are mystified as to how a woman who was critically burned in an apparent chemical attack survived for days on the streets of western Sydney with little more than basic first aid.
Monika Chetty, 39, was found with burns so terrible she couldn’t be physically identified just metres from houses in West Hoxton on Friday evening.
As news of the horrific incident spread through the neighbourhood, residents reported seeing her limping up and down the street with bandages covering her head for weeks.
One resident, Gavin O'Brien, said he came home on Boxing Day to find her using his garden hose to wash her wounds.
When he tried to help her she covered her face and refused to talk to him.
"It looked like all the hair was burnt off ... she was quiet, very badly disfigured, very distressed," he said.
Police discovered Chetty lying face down with burns to more than 80 per cent of her body.
The resident who called police said he was on his balcony when he thought he saw a drunk man stumble up the street and into the bush.
Her burns were so bad that at the time he thought the person had heavily tattooed arms.
"She was walking and crying, like moaning," the resident, who asked not to be named said.
"She was wearing a beanie, singlet and tracksuit pants."
Chetty was still able to speak when police found her.
She told them a man she did not know threw chemicals at her in Bigge Park in Liverpool about a week ago.
But residents on the street said they had seen her walking early in the morning and late at night with bandages covering her face for several months.
Natalie Lorizzo said she often carried full rubbish bags and hung her clothing out on a fence separating the street and bush.
"She never spoke. She was just roaming up and down slowly with bandages all over face. Some of the people in the street were scared of her," Lorizzo said.
"She looked traumatised. Like she had been back from a war or something."
Chetty was believed to have slept on the porch and received food from at least one resident and stashed bags of clothing in the gardens of others.
Police were also searching for a car she was thought to have lived in for some time.
Green Valley commander Detective Superintendent James Johnson said Chetty hadn't sought help for her burns and didn't want to be taken to hospital for treatment when was found.
He said what had happened to her was one of the "biggest mysteries" he had dealt with in his 41-year career.
"I'm perplexed. You have serious injuries and you're not wanting to get attention. I can't understand it," he said.
Police searched Bigge Park yesterday and discovered a section of dead grass which may have been contaminated.
They cordoned the area and a grass sample was sent for analysis.
Chetty was taken to hospital in a critical condition and was placed in an induced coma.
Superintendent Johnson said her kidneys had failed as she lost a large amount of fluid due to blistering.
Chetty was believed to have family, and police working to locate them.
- Sydney Morning Herald