Bristol

Mark van Dongen murder trial: Acid attack 'calculated'

Mark van Dongen Image copyright Van Dongen family
Image caption Mark van Dongen died 15 months after being attacked in Bristol

An acid attack victim has told jurors, in testimony recorded before his death, how the "jealous" ex accused of his murder laughed as she doused him in a corrosive liquid.

In video evidence, Mark van Dongen, 29, said Berlinah Wallace, 48, shouted "if I can't have you, no-one else can" as she threw sulphuric acid at him.

Bristol Crown Court heard he ended his life in a euthanasia clinic due to unbearable pain from his injuries.

Ms Wallace denies murder.

The court heard Dutch national Mr van Dongen was left paralysed from the neck down and lost his left leg, the sight in his left eye and most of the sight in his right eye, after the September 2015 attack in Bristol.

He was later told he would require a "lifetime of constant and dedicated care".

In January this year, he travelled to Belgium where he ended his life in a euthanasia clinic.

Victim's video interview

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption A picture of Mark van Dongen taken before the attack

Jurors were shown the video interview with Mr van Dongen, filmed in hospital in July 2016, where he gave his account of the attack,

Trial judge Mrs Justice May warned them they may find the footage, which showed the extent of the scarring to the victim's body, "shocking and disturbing".

In the video, Mr van Dongen struggles to speak as he describes Ms Wallace waking him up and laughing as she threw acid over him, saying "if I can't have you, no one else can".

When the interviewer asks if he knew why she had attacked him, he says it was because she was jealous.

In a second video shown to the court, Mr van Dongen tells police Ms Wallace threw boiling water over him after an argument in 2014.

He also says Ms Wallace hit herself in the face, and told him she would tell police he had caused her injuries if he left her.

At the time of the attack, prosecutor Adam Vaitilingam QC told jurors, Mr van Dongen had begun seeing another woman and moved into a hotel.

The victim visited the defendant at her flat in Ladysmith Road, Bristol, because he was concerned that she was "in a bad way and self-harming", the court was told.

He fell asleep, jurors heard, and Ms Wallace laughed as she threw a glass of sulphuric acid over him.

'Couldn't bear living'

The court heard Mr van Dongen ran into the street "screaming for help", where neighbours tried to help him, and he was taken to a specialist burns unit at Southmead Hospital.

Mr Vaitilingam said: "The physical and mental suffering that he sustained from that calculated acid attack were what drove him to euthanasia.

"Put simply, he could not bear to live in that condition.

"If that is right, we say, then she is guilty of murder."

Ms Wallace wept in the dock as the jury were told Mr van Dongen was "genuinely frightened" of her, and the couple's relationship had become "volatile".

Image copyright BBC News
Image caption Berlinah Wallace denies murder and applying a corrosive substance

The jury heard computer records showed Ms Wallace had bought the acid online on 2 September.

She also carried out internet searches, including "can I die drinking sulphuric acid?", and browsed news stories on acid attack victims.

Ms Wallace admits throwing a substance over Mr van Dongen but denies any intent to cause him harm.

She claims she believed that she was throwing a glass of water over him.

Richard Smith QC, defending, told the jury "to keep an open mind".

"Yes, she threw the glass over him, but defence claims Mr van Dongen put the acid in the cup without her knowledge, and encouraged her to drink it resulting in a mirror image of what we now have."

He said the couple had a "turbulent and complicated relationship" and Ms Wallace was going to blackmail Mr van Dongen with personal information, which was why he put the acid in the glass and encouraged her to drink it.

Ms Wallace denies murder and applying a corrosive substance.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Ms Wallace wiped away tears as jurors heard details of the couple's "volatile" relationship

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