ACID ATTACK: Woman cleared of murder of ex-boyfriend who died by euthanasia after she threw acid in his face

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Berlinah Wallace.

A woman was cleared of murder in a landmark trial after her ex-boyfriend died by euthanasia after she doused him in acid.

Berlinah Wallace, 49, tipped sulphuric acid over her ex-lover Mark Van Dongen, 29, after the couple split up and he started seeing someone else.

Court sketch of Berlinah Wallace at Bristol Crown Court. (Julia Quenzler / SWNS)

She was charged with murder after Mark died by euthanasia, choosing to end his life in a clinic in Belgium due to the extent of his injuries, 15 months after the attack.

But a jury acquitted her of murder and convicted her of applying a corrosive fluid with intent.

Dutch-born Mark was left paralysed and only able to move his tongue, had to have his left leg amputated, and suffered 25 per cent burns.

He lost his left eye and most of the sight in his right eye.

Mark died on January 3, 2017 after the application was approved by three consultants who decided he met the criteria of “unbearable physical and psychological suffering”.

The scene where Mark Van Dongen was found after an acid attack.

The couple had been together for five years but split up the month before the attack and although Mark was still supporting Wallace financially, he began seeing another woman.

In the hours before they had attempted to rekindle their romance, but at 3am on September 23 2015, Wallace poured the acid over him as he lay in bed, shouting: “If I can’t have you, no-one else will.”

The fashion student claimed she had bought the acid to deal with a bad smell coming from drains in the flat in Westbury Park, Bristol.

But Wallace told police that Mark had poured it into the glass himself – to get her to drink it.

She said in an interview: “You know like ‘come and take your medication and go to bed,’ he wanted me to, to burn my insides.”

Investigations showed she had searched for images of acid attack victims on Google the same day she ordered the acid from Amazon.

Wallace was charged with murder and throwing a corrosive fluid but denied both charges, claiming she believed the acid was water.

The scene where Mark Van Dongen was found after an acid attack.

She was asked by police why she had not called an ambulance after Mark began to scream in pain, and said she was “confused.”

In the days before the attack, Mark’s new girlfriend, Violet Farquharson, had received a series of silent phone calls in the middle of the night.

Mark met a police officer the following day, September 3, but the messages were not deemed threatening and Wallace was issued with a warning.

His work colleagues recalled how Mark, who worked as an engineer, was “scared” of his South African girlfriend, and had said she was violent.

Photo released by police of a bottle of acid purchased by police.

Emergency services staff told how Mark begged them to check that his girlfriend was OK – and that he feared Wallace might be on the way to Violet’s address.

Mark was treated in Southmead Hospital before being moved to a care home in Gloucester, but called his father Cornelius and begged him to take him to a euthanasia clinic.

Cornelius Van Dongen cried when the jury returned their verdicts at Bristol Crown Court.

 


 

In her first police interview, Berlinah Wallace calmly accused Mark Van Dongen of trying to get her to drink acid – and claimed he had “betrayed” her.

Speaking to Detective Constable Patrick Prescott, she told him that Mark had put the acid in the glass before she threw it.

Wallace said: “Yeah he did you know because he said to me it was water, here I’ve got water for you.”

DC Prescott said: “Right.”

Wallace added: “You know like ‘come and take your medication and go to bed,’ he
wanted me to, to burn my insides.

“Can you imagine? Can you imagine?”

The police officer said: “Well yeah it would have been awful.”

Wallace said: “No it’s not you know, it’s just like this man had betrayed me.”

Graphic to show where Mark Van Dongen was injured in an acid attack

In the second interview, Detective Constable Simon Wallis said: “When he said, when he told you it was acid, what else did he say if anything?

“Did he, you know, obviously I wasn’t there but I can imagine his reaction would have been somewhat alarming perhaps.”

Wallace said: “Yeah he said ‘you threw acid at me.’

She went on to say: “You know like, you know that’s when you know and then um and I just, you know, I just realised it was…”

The police officer interrupted her and Wallace continued: “You know like and like a smelly and you know like in the house and then and he was saying ‘oh it hurts, it hurts’ you know and then you know like that’s when I wanted to help him.”

In the third clip, DC Wallis said: “And I appreciate I probably know the answer to this but I will ask you anyway why didn’t you call the ambulance?”

Wallace said: “You know I was just like um confused and about loads of, loads of things like…I was confused.”

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