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
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 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, 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 September 2015. His family asked the media not to publish pictures of his injuries because 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 was 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 Nicola 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, from 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’
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-
‘I hope Mark can rest in peace’
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.
For confidential help, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or log on to www.samaritans.org
‘Best friends’: Acid victim Mark van Dongen and his father Kees
Horror scene: Mark van Dongen’s bed after the acid attack ‘Evil woman’: Berlinah Wallace