Acid attack: Mark van Dongen’s ex-partner cleared of murder

Media captionAcid victim’s agony heard in 999 call

A woman has been cleared of murdering her former partner in an acid attack which led him to end his life.

Berlinah Wallace, 48, hurled the corrosive fluid at Dutch engineer Mark van Dongen in Bristol in 2015.

Fifteen months later he ended his life by euthanasia in a Belgian hospital. He was paralysed from the neck down and had lost a leg, ear and eye.

At Bristol Crown Court, Wallace was found guilty of throwing a corrosive substance with intent.

The fashion student, originally from South Africa, was cleared by the jury of both murder and manslaughter.

Media captionAudio clips of Berlinah Wallace’s police interview

During the three-week trial Wallace told the jury Mr van Dongen, 29, had put the acid in a glass for her to drink.

The pair had met five years earlier on a dating website for people with HIV, as both had the condition.

Image copyright
Avon and Somerset Police

Image caption

The bed where Mark van Dongen was lying when Wallace threw the acid at him

Mr van Dongen had returned to her flat in Ladysmith Road, Westbury Park, on the night of 22 September 2015 to reiterate that their turbulent relationship was over but decided to stay the night.

The trial heard Wallace threw a glass of acid over him as he lay in his boxer shorts on their bed, and shouted: “If I can’t have you no-one will.”

Screaming in agony, he staggered out on to the street where he was found by alarmed neighbours who dialled 999.

Harrowing recordings of his suffering as they attempted to help him were played to the court during the trial.

‘Inconceivable pain’

Meanwhile, instead of calling an ambulance, Wallace sat on the sofa in her flat and called another ex-boyfriend.

She will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Image copyright
van Dongen family

Image caption

Mark van Dongen and Berlinah Wallace met five years before the attack

Image copyright
Avon & Somerset Police

Image caption

Wallace said she thought the substance she threw was water

Det Insp Paul Catton, who led the investigation for Avon and Somerset Police, said the attack was borne out of jealousy, resulting in Mr van Dongen suffering “the most inconceivable pain imaginable”.

“He went from being a healthy young man with his whole life ahead of him to having extensive and repeated surgery on the most hideous injuries just to keep him alive.

“In the end, his pain was so devastating, so catastrophic, he sought the assistance of doctors to help him die.”

The force has announced a Domestic Homicide Review will take place to examine the circumstances which led up to Mr van Dongen’s death.

‘Less of a man’

Prosecutor Adam Vaitilingam acknowledged this was not a typical murder case but said it needed to be tried because Mr van Dongen’s suffering had led him to end his own life.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, where his family live.

Mr Vaitilingam said: “It was exactly why she did it, to scar him for life, to make him less of a man and unable to have a relationship with another woman.

“It’s the first time a jury has had to decide if an attacker is guilty of the murder where the victim has chosen to end his own life by euthanasia because of the terrible condition he was left in by the attack.

“Murder is made out if the attacker intended to kill them or cause them really serious harm.

“The doctors in Belgium granted euthanasia because of his unbearable physical and psychological suffering.”

Acid attack: Mark van Dongen’s ex-partner cleared of murder

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *