Acid vic­tim stuck out tongue to ID attacker

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - SI­MON DE BRUXELLES BRIS­TOL

A man who chose to die af­ter an acid at­tack left him dis­fig­ured, vir­tu­ally blind and paral­ysed from the neck down named his al­leged attacker by stick­ing out his tongue to sig­nal let­ters of the al­pha­bet.

Mark van Don­gen’s fa­ther Cor­nelius de­scribed how his son named Ber­li­nah Wal­lace, his South African-born for­mer part­ner. She is on trial ac­cused of mur­der­ing van Don­gen af­ter his de­ci­sion to choose eu­thana­sia be­cause he could no longer live with the pain of his in­juries. He died at a clinic in Bel­gium, his home coun­try, in Jan­uary af­ter an ex­am­i­na­tion by three doc­tors.

His fa­ther told Bris­tol Crown Court in Eng­land that nurses at the clinic had to get used to look­ing at van Don­gen’s in­juries. He was un­able to speak but would stick out his tongue when some­one pointed at let­ters on the chart.

He said that his son, 29, used the chart to spell “Ber­li­nah” when asked who had at­tacked him. He told the jury: “(Mark said) he was ly­ing in his bed and she was stand­ing be­hind his bed and she shouted, ‘She will not get my life. If I can­not have it, no one else will get it.’ Those are the words that I can re­mem­ber.”

His fa­ther said it took about four months to com­mu­ni­cate with van Don­gen us­ing a sheet of pa­per on which the al­pha­bet was writ­ten. He said: “I had pre­pared an A4 sheet of pa­per with the al­pha­bet on it. I called out all the let­ters and once he reached the right let­ter he stuck out his tongue.”

Van Don­gen’s in­juries be­came pro­gres­sively worse be­cause of the burns caused by the sul­phuric acid. He lost the use of his arm and fin­gers, mak­ing him feel “in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed”.

When he learnt that his paral­y­sis was per­ma­nent it was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, his fa­ther said. “He com­pleted his ap­pli­ca­tion for eu­thana­sia. He said, ‘My life has come to noth­ing, there’s noth­ing left of it, if I come with you there’s just a dif­fer­ent ceil­ing to look at, that’s all’.”

His fa­ther said van Don­gen had been HIV-pos­i­tive as a re­sult of a re­la­tion­ship with a woman in The Nether­lands. He had also been briefly engaged to a man be­fore meet­ing Miss Wal­lace.

The pros­e­cu­tion claims Miss Wal­lace bought the acid on­line af­ter dis­cov­er­ing van Don­gen, a civil engi­neer, was see­ing an­other woman. She is al­leged to have poured it over his head as he slept.

The court has heard van Don­gen had called po­lice “sev­eral times” af­ter pre­vi­ous al­leged as­saults by Miss Wal­lace.

One of the first of­fi­cers on the scene af­ter the at­tack in Septem­ber 2015 said van Don­gen had pointed to a tat­too on his stom­ach when asked who had at­tacked him. The tat­too said: “Ber­li­nah”.

PC Thomas Green said that the flat in Bris­tol had reeked of “po­tent chem­i­cals”.

He had ac­com­pa­nied van Don­gen to hospi­tal and said: “I asked him who the of­fender was, to which he replied Ber­li­nah. He was point­ing to a tat­too just be­low his belly­but­ton which said Ber­li­nah. He said, ‘She needs to go to prison for this’.”

Miss Wal­lace, 48, de­nies a charge of mur­der. She claims that she thought she was throw­ing wa­ter at van Don­gen.

The trial con­tin­ues.

Mark van Don­gen as a teenager with his fa­ther Cor­nelius in Bel­gium

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