Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Woman ‘killed ex by pouring acid over him in his sleep’ after he met someone else

Victim gives evidence from beyond the grave after being murdered in acid attack

A man gave evidence from beyond the grave today during the trial of his ex-girlfriend, who is accused of his murder. Berlinah Wallace was charged with murder after she allegedly threw sulphuric acid in the face of Mark van Dongen, while screaming: ‘If I can’t have you no-one can’.

He suffered 25 percent burns and had such serious injuries he was left paralysed – only able to move his tongue. Mark also lost a leg, his left eye, and most of the sight in his right eye following the sulphuric acid attack, Bristol Crown Court heard. The 29-year-old civil engineer was left wanting to end his life and eventually successfully applied for euthanasia. He died 15 months after the incident.

Today, he gave evidence from beyond the grave in a video that was played to the jury of him giving a statement to police. The film shows Mark describing the attack and saying it happened because she was jealous he had left her.

Victim gives evidence from beyond the grave after being murdered in acid attack

In the film Mark is seen lying in a hospital bed with his face and chest severely burnt and disfigured. He was interviewed by Detective constable Sue Pesticcio, part of the Major Crime Team in Bristol, on July 6 2016. Speaking in the 26-minute interview, Mark said: ‘She woke me up and said that “if I can’t have you no one can”, and she laughed and just threw the acid, it was square box of acid with about an inch of acid in it. ‘I was running on the street in my boxer shorts. They fell off because the acid eating away. And then I met my upstairs neighbour and she took me in her house and got the police.’ When asked if he knew where Wallace had got the acid from, Mark said: ‘No. She bought it online that’s what I heard.’

He described the container as a Tupperware box, filled with an inch of liquid. Asked if he knew why Wallace did it, Mark said: ‘Yes. Because she was jealous. Because I left her a month before this happened. ‘I promised to pay money into her account until she finished university. I made first payment of £750 into her account and I was still paying £250 a week after that. ‘And I didn’t even need to because we weren’t married that was pure goodwill and now she chooses to do this.’ Wallace, 48, carried out the attack out of jealousy after the couple split up and Mark began seeing another woman, the court was told. In the weeks before the attack Wallace carried out internet searches including ‘can I die from drinking sulphuric acid?’ and searched for graphic images of acid attack victims.

She denies murder and applying a corrosive fluid after pouring acid over Mark van Dongen at 3am on September 23, 2015. Adam Vaitlingam QC, prosecuting, said: ‘The defendant had bought a bottle of sulphuric acid, which she bought online from Amazon.

‘At around 3am, as Mark was sleeping in bed, she poured the acid into a glass. ‘She then went into the bedroom, and woke him up. She laughed and said “if I can’t have you no-one will” and she threw the glass of sulphuric acid into his face. ‘It covered his face and parts of his upper body and dripped onto his lower body as he moved. ‘Covered in burning acid, Mark ran out into the street in his boxer shorts, screaming for help.’ The court heard couple had a five-year-relationship and lived together but it hit the rocks when Mark began seeing another woman in August 2015.

Shortly before his death, Mark, a Dutch national, told colleagues that Wallace had been violent towards him, and ‘seemed genuinely scared’. The couple appeared to rekindle their romance, exchanging loving messages promising to try to make the relationship work again on September 22, the day before the attack. Mark sent Wallace a message saying: ‘I love you, I always have. I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done, we need to work on our relationship. ‘You and me are meant to be. I’ve always known that. I will treat you as you deserve to be treated. You are my princess.’

Wallace replied: ‘It means a lot hearing these words. You are the love of my life. God does not make a mistake in this. I love you with all my heart.’ After the attack, Mark was rushed to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and asked paramedics to ‘please check that my girlfriend is OK’ – fearing Wallace would target his new partner Violet Farquharson next. Mr Vaitlingam said: ‘They could see Mark had severe burns – they said it looked as though he had had grey coloured paint poured over him and that the acid had burned through the top layer of skin. ‘He kept saying he couldn’t see and asked if he still had eyelids.’

Police arrived to find Wallace sitting on the sofa in the living room and noted there was a glass beer mug on the floor next to a piece of cloth and what appeared to be an artist’s paintbrush. Mr Vaitlingam added: ‘The defendant was asked what the substance was that had injured Mark and she said “Acid. I was using to to distress some fabric” and indicated to the glass, cloth and paintbrush on the floor.’

A police officer who accompanied Mark in the ambulance recalled how he screamed in pain for the entire journey, and radioed ahead to ask for officers to visit Violet. Emergency consultant Dr Rachel Oaten said Mark screamed ‘kill me now, if my face is left looking like this. I don’t want to live’ when he caught sight of himself in a mirror. Mark was kept in an isolated ward in ICU for six months before being moved to a burns ward, spending a total of 14 months at Southmead. The burns covered 25 per cent of his body and skin had to be surgically removed. Mark’s left leg was amputated below the knee and he lost the vision in his left eye and was partially sighted in his right eye. He eventually regained speech but was permanently paralysed from the neck down.’

On November 22 last year, it was said Mark would require a ‘lifetime of constant and dedicated care’. He then told his father he wanted to return to Belgium, and there it was confirmed he was paralysed for life and would have to take maximum doses of pain relief for the rest of his life. He applied for euthanasia, which was approved after three consultants examined him. In a police interview Wallace claimed Mark assaulted her and she poured the liquid over him as a response to his aggression.

Mr Vaitlingam said: ‘She said it was he who had poured the acid into the glass, encouraging her to drink it with her tablets, but that she had not realised it was acid. ‘When she threw the contents of the glass over him, she believed it was water she was throwing.’ 

The trial continues.

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