Mother of Terri Calvesbert, the ‘Girl With 90% Burns’ reveals her guilt over her daughter

On Channel 5 tomorrow night at 9pm, there’s a harrowing but equally inspirational film about the life of burns victim Terri Calvesbert, which will reveal that she defied all odds to survive a fire that left her horrendously disfigured.

In, The Girl With 90% Burns: Extraordinary People, we’ll hear how Terri was just 22 months old when a fire broke out at her home, which was caused by her mother Julie accidentally leaving a lit cigarette in Terri’s bedroom.

In the fire, Terri’s nose, hair, hands and ears were consumed by the flames at the Ipswich flat, and in fact, her injuries were so horrific, when firefighters first encountered her in her cot, they thought she was a melted plastic doll.

Now, at 15 years old, Terri has undergone countless operations and more than 40 skin grafts in an attempt to rebuild her face and body…

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Terri’s mother Julie has spoken publicly for the first time about her guilt over the incident, which has of course left her daughter with a lifelong legacy that no parent would wish upon their worst enemy, let alone their own child.

She said, “No one can make me feel worse than I already do.

“I regret it and relive it every second of my life. She suffered all this, all because of me.”

Julie has apparently been “estranged” from Terri for ten years, but remarkably, though the majority of Julie’s own family and now estranged friends blame her for what happened, Terri herself harbours no such animosity.

Julie said, “She could so easily hate me and never want to see me again.

“She texted me the other night saying that I have got nothing to feel sorry about, that it wasn’t my fault and I’ll always be her mum.

“I don’t feel like I deserve her. She’s amazing and I take my strength from her.”

When the fire happened in 1998, Julie had been separated from Terri’s dad Paul, however, she explained, “I’d moved out of the flat but had missed Terri so much I’d moved back in and Paul and I were living as friends.

“The plan was for me to get my own place and have Terri with me.”

Of how the fire started, Julie said, “I never smoked in the flat, but this one night I did. I don’t know why to this day I did such a stupid thing.

“I put the cigarette down in Terri’s bedroom while talking to her and walked out.

“She was still crying and I remember thinking, ‘I will leave her and she will tire herself out and go to sleep.’ I did not intentionally leave the cigarette there.”

Of the moment she realized there was a fire, Julie said, “I just panicked. I couldn’t see anything but smoke and flames.

“I dialled 999, I was screaming but I couldn’t even think what the word was for fire. I said: ‘My girl’s in the bedroom… there’s a… fire.’

“I remember running into the kitchen and getting a bowl and filling it with water and throwing it into the bedroom but it made no difference.

“So many people have said to me since that I should have gone in there and got her. But I panicked.”

In the Channel 5 documentary, we’ll hear firefighter Simon Bevan recalling finding Terri.

He says, “I have never seen anybody with extreme burns to that degree.

“She was so badly burnt I could not extend her neck to resuscitate her and her body was totally rock hard. No one was expecting Terri to survive.”

But happily, survive she did, however Julie revealed that she’s often thought of committing suicide over the incident.

She said, “It would be so selfish to kill myself, as I’m a mother. But the thoughts are there.

“I regret losing contact with Terri more than anything. When she was at junior school I tried to have contact, but Social Services said I shouldn’t.

“People were thinking of Terri and thought it was best I stayed away. I understand that.”

In the film, we’ll hear Terri say that she can forgive her mum for the fire, but she adds that she finds it hard to forget that she saw so little of her when she was a little girl
Terri says, “Sometimes I do look back and think that she shouldn’t have been smoking in the house anyway.

“It’s not really her fault though. It’s no one’s fault.”

“I’m proud to say I’m her mum. I love her to bits and always will.”

Don’t miss, The Girl With 90% Burns: Extraordinary People on Channel 5 tomorrow at 9pm.


Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.


  1. Helen Pattenden on June 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Terri ~ what an absolutely inspirational young lass you are. With all the trauma and challenges you have had to face you never point the finger or blame anyone. The world could learn from you.

    My 12 year old daughter said you were absolute amazing and beautiful from your heart out and if you were her friend she would be the one that was so honoured to be part of your life.

    You are truly amazing and beautiful inside and out. Wishing you all the very best for your future…

  2. Laura on June 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    You are soo amazing the way you have lived your life the way you do

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