Acid attacker ‘identified by tongue’
"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.