The Bristol Crown Court heard this week how Berlinah Madikeledi Wallace allegedly woke up Mark van Dongen at 3am on September 23, 2015 and told him: “If I can’t have you, no one can.”
She allegedly then laughed and threw acid on him. The acid attack left Van Dongen with his left leg amputated below the knee, blindness in his left eye, and permanent paralysis from the neck down. His injuries were so severe that his father would later move him to Belgium, where he decided to end his life at a suicide clinic.
Even though Van Dongen committed suicide, prosecutors decided to take the unusual step of charging Wallace with murder, arguing that the acid attack directly resulted in her ex-boyfriend’s death.
The jury was told that the couple’s relationship had run into trouble when Van Dongen began seeing another woman a month before the incident. Wallace, according to the prosecutor, bought a bottle of sulphuric acid on Amazon and spent weeks searching the internet for news stories and graphics related to acid-attack victims. On the morning of the attack, Van Dongen, witnesses said, ran into the street screaming: “Help me, I am going to f****** die.”
Neighbours said he looked like he had been dipped in clay, before someone, realising what had happened, placed him in a shower and dialled 999.
Later, when police asked him who had done this to him, he pointed to a tattoo of his ex-girlfriend.
The court also heard that when police visited the flat, Wallace appeared calm and directed the officers to the acid. She told the policemen that she had been using the acid to “distress fabric”. Wallace had travelled to the Britain in 1994 from Sebokeng, with her partner Ray Wallace, a UK national. She later met Van Dongen when he moved to England in 2011 to study at the University of Bristol.
Van Dongen’s father, Cornelius, testified that it took four months before his son could communicate about the incident.
When asked who had attacked him, Cornelius said his son used his tongue to spell out Berlinah’s name on an alphabet sheet.
After Van Dongen was moved to Belgium, he was told by doctors that his paralysis would be permanent. It was then that he filled out his application for euthanasia and doctors agreed for Van Dongen to undergo this on January 2.
“He didn’t want any more pain and didn’t want any more surgery and wanted to be able to talk to me until the last seconds. He didn’t want to go on any further and he just wanted to die,” media reported his father telling the court.
Wallace pleaded not guilty and the trial continues.