A scorned woman murdered her ex-boyfriend by pouring sulphuric acid over him and laughed: “if I can’t have you no-one can”, a court heard on Wednesday.
Jealous Berlinah Wallace, 48, threw the corrosive substance in the face of Mark van Dongen that covered most of his body.
He suffered 25 percent burns and suffered such serious injuries he was left paralysed – only able to move his tongue, Mark, 29, lost a leg, his left eye, and most of the sight in his right eye following the sulphuric acid attack, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Civil engineer Mark was left wanting to end his life and eventually successfully applied for euthanasia and died 15 months after the attack.
Wallace 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.
Fashion student Wallace denies murder and applying a corrosive fluid after pouring acid over Mark van Dongen at 3am on 23 September 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 22 September, the day before the attack.
Mark sent her 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.”
“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.”
The couple planned to cook dinner together when Mark returned to work, but that evening he went out to see his new girlfriend Violet Farquharson, the court heard.
The pair argued when he returned to Wallace’s flat in Bristol, at 10pm and she told him she would stay in a hotel that night, the court heard.
But at 3am, Wallace returned to the flat and tossed a glass of acid over Mark, who was lying in bed wearing just his boxer shorts, it is alleged.
He ran out into the street screaming where horrified neighbours took him into a flat and got him to stand under a shower at the advice of paramedics.
Mark was rushed to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and asked paramedics to ‘please check that my girlfriend is OK’ – fearing Wallace would target Violet 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.
Mark fell into a depression and, Mr Vaitlingam said: “Sometimes he said he wanted to live, at other times that he wanted to die.”
On November 22 2016 a care home in Gloucester was found and it was understood Mark would require a “lifetime of constant and dedicated care.”
He told his father he wanted to return to Belgium and his father hired an ambulance to take him to the Maria Hospital in Overpelt.
Doctors there confirmed he was paralysed for life and taking maximum doses of pain relief. He applied for euthanasia, which was approved after three consultants examined him.
It was decided this was a case of “unbearable physical and psychological suffering” and Mark’s life was taken on 2 January 2017.