Acid at­tacker ‘iden­ti­fied by tongue’

The Dominion Post - - World -

"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." Cor­nelius van Don­gen, vic­tim's fa­ther

BRI­TAIN: 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 that van Don­gen was un­able to speak but would stick out his tongue when some­one pointed at let­ters on a chart. He said 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.

‘‘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 an arm and fin­gers, mak­ing him feel ‘‘in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed’’, he fa­ther said. When he learned that his paral­y­sis was per­ma­nent, it was ‘‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’’.

Cor­nelius van Don­gen added: ‘‘He com­pleted his ap­pli­ca­tion for eu­thana­sia. He said that, ‘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’.’’

He said his son had been HIV­pos­i­tive as a re­sult of a brief re­la­tion­ship with a woman in the Netherlands. He had also been briefly en­gaged to a man be­fore meet­ing Wal­lace.

The pros­e­cu­tion claims that Wal­lace bought the acid on­line af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that 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 that van Don­gen called po­lice ‘‘sev­eral times’’ af­ter pre­vi­ous al­leged as­saults by Wal­lace.

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

PC Thomas Green said the flat in Bris­tol reeked of ‘‘po­tent chem­i­cals’’.

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

Wal­lace, 48, de­nies a charge of mur­der and one of throw­ing a cor­ro­sive fluid in­tend­ing to burn, maim, dis­fig­ure, dis­able or do griev­ous bod­ily harm. She claims she thought she was throw­ing wa­ter at van Don­gen. - The Times

Left paral­ysed and un­able to speak, Mark van Don­gen used an al­pha­bet chart to ac­cuse his for­mer part­ner Ber­li­nah Wal­lace of at­tack­ing him with sul­phuric acid.

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