‘DEVIL PERSONIFIED’

Acid vic­tim left hor­rif­i­cally scarred by his jeal­ous ex-lover records chill­ing last video be­fore sui­cide at clinic, telling her: I’m killing my­self be­cause of you

Daily Mail - - One Day To Go ... - By Tom Payne and Tom Witherow

A MAN who was hor­ri­bly in­jured when his jeal­ous ex­girl­friend threw acid over him told her, ‘This is be­cause of you,’ in a haunt­ing fi­nal mes­sage recorded on his deathbed at a sui­cide clinic.

Ber­li­nah Wal­lace, 48, was yes­ter­day ac­quit­ted of mur­der but found guilty of throw­ing sul­phuric acid over Mark van Don­gen, 29, af­ter he ended their re­la­tion­ship and started dat­ing an­other woman.

Jurors at Bris­tol Crown Court were told how the South African fash­ion stu­dent had burst into the bed­room of their shared flat in Bris­tol at 3am and told him: ‘If I can’t have you, no one can.’

Laugh­ing, she hurled a glass of acid over his face and body.

The cor­ro­sive chem­i­cal – which was 98 per cent pure – caused the Dutch en­gi­neer’s skin and boxer shorts to melt away as he ran into the street scream­ing in agony.

Catch­ing sight of his heav­ily dis­fig­ured face in a hos­pi­tal mir­ror as he was ad­mit­ted, he begged med­i­cal staff: ‘Kill me now. If my face is go­ing to be left look­ing like this, I don’t want to live.’

Mr van Don­gen was left un­able to speak for months, paral­ysed from the neck down and all but blinded fol­low­ing the at­tack in Bris­tol in Sep- tem­ber 2015. His fam­ily asked the me­dia not to pub­lish pictures of his in­juries as they were too up­set­ting.

They were so graphic that even de­tec­tives in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case were shielded from them. De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Paul Cat­ton said: ‘Mark’s in­juries were cat­a­strophic and were so se­ri­ous that I kept the ex­tent of them from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team. I kept the pho­to­graphs un­der lock and key be­cause they were that bad.’

Mr van Don­gen, who met Wal­lace on a dat­ing web­site for peo­ple with HIV in 2010, iden­ti­fied his at­tacker by us­ing his tongue to point to let­ters on a sheet of pa­per.

Doc­tors agreed he faced a life­time ‘at the lim­its of tol­er­a­ble pain’, with scarcely a chance of re­cov­ery. He died in a Bel­gian sui­cide clinic in Jan­uary last year. Incredibly, it emerged yes­ter­day that Mr van Don­gen had been able to pre­pare a fi­nal video mes­sage to Wal­lace, which his fa­ther recorded a day be­fore doc­tors ended his life.

In a slurred voice, he told Wal­lace: ‘I hope you can see the way I look now. This is be­cause of you. I will be a thing on your con­science for now and for ever.

‘You stood at the end of my bed and you said, “If I can’t have you, no one can.” And then you laughed, you evil woman. You laughed. And you threw sul­phuric acid over me.’ The mes­sage emerged yes­ter­day as Wal­lace was found guilty of throw­ing a cor­ro­sive sub­stance with in­tent to in­flict griev­ous bod­ily harm.

Wal­lace faces a max­i­mum term of life in prison when she is sen­tenced next Wed­nes­day. Judge Mrs Jus­tice Davies said the sen­tence would be ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ given the hor­rific na­ture of the case.

Wear­ing a blue jumper over a plain shirt, Wal­lace sobbed loudly in the dock as jurors re­turned unan­i­mous ver­dicts fol­low­ing two and a half days of de­lib­er­a­tions.

Mr van Don­gen’s fa­ther Kees, 56, who lives in Bel­gium, also broke down in tears. He at­tended ev­ery day of the three-week re­trial, fol­low­ing the pro­ceed­ings with the help of a Dutch trans­la­tor.

Re­fer­ring to Wal­lace as ‘the devil personified’, he said out­side court: ‘Mark was taken from most of us in the most dif­fi­cult of cir­cum­stances. He was my son and best friend, and also a lov­ing brother.

‘We were very proud of his stud­ies and the re­sults he achieved as a civil en­gi­neer in the UK.

‘He was so brave when con­fronted with the hellish pain and dis­abil­i­ties in­flicted on him, but even­tu­ally it all be­came too much for him to bear. He died in dig­nity and will live on in the hearts of his fam­ily and friends.

‘The court process has been a dif­fi­cult and emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. I am very dis­ap­pointed in the out­come of the case. There are only los-

‘If I can’t have you, no one can’ ‘At the lim­its of tol­er­a­ble pain’

‘I hope Mark can rest in peace’

ers in this case. I hope that Mark can now rest in peace.’ Mark’s brother Bart, from Arn­hem in Holland, added: ‘If she gets a life sen­tence I will be happy, but if she got five years it doesn’t mat­ter... Mark will never be back.’ Af­ter the at­tack, Wal­lace claimed she thought the cor­ro­sive fluid was wa­ter, and that Mr van Don­gen had pre­pared it for her in a cup in a bid to kill her af­ter their five-year re­la­tion­ship fell apart and he started see­ing care worker Vi­o­let Far­quhar­son.

She said she bought the sul­phuric acid for £17 from Ama­zon to un­block drains in her flat.

How­ever, jurors were told Wal­lace later looked at pictures and videos of acid at­tack vic­tims on­line, and used Google to search: ‘Can I die from drink sul­phuric acid?’ She also searched: ‘How to talk to an ex-boyfriend about get­ting back to­gether’, ‘what to talk about with ex-boyfriend’ and ‘get your ex back per­ma­nently’.

In court, Wal­lace claimed she sim­ply looked at images of vic­tims of acid at­tacks as she found it ‘in­spi­ra­tional’.

Jurors were also told Wal­lace had been handed a for­mal warn­ing by po­lice af­ter she was re­ported for ha­rass­ing Mr van Don­gen’s new girl­friend with 14 silent phone calls.

Mr van Don­gen was kept in in­ten- sive care for six months be­fore be­ing moved to a burns ward, spend­ing a to­tal of 14 months in hos­pi­tal. In Novem­ber 2016, he was trans­ferred to a spe­cial­ist care home in Glouces­ter.

But his fa­ther con­sid­ered the care to be poor, and he ar­ranged for his son to be taken by ambu- lance to Bel­gium. Mr van Don­gen died in a sui­cide clinic on Jan­uary 2 last year. At the time, he was tak­ing the max­i­mum amount of painkillers pos­si­ble.

The case would have made his­tory had Wal­lace been con­victed of mur­der, as a per­son has never been con­victed of mur­der as a re­sult of an acid at­tack or euthana­sia death.

The first case col­lapsed be­cause the defence ap­plied for the mur­der charge to be dropped.

How­ever, the Court of Ap­peal ruled that the charge should re­main in place.

‘Best friends’: Acid vic­tim Mark van Don­gen and his fa­ther Kees

‘Evil woman’: Ber­li­nah Wal­lace

Hor­ror scene: Mark van Don­gen’s bed af­ter the acid at­tack

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