Acid attack victim Mark van Dongen's dad slams 'lenient' sentence for ex-girlfriend Berlinah Wallace's 'evil' assault that led him to suicide

Berlinah Wallace was jailed for a minimum of 12 years after she left Mark van Dongen with such horrific injuries he took his own life at a euthanasia clinic.

Sentencing Wallace, 48, at Bristol Crown Court today, Judge Nicola Davies told Wallace: "Your intention was to burn, disfigure and disable Mark van Dongen so that he would not be attractive to any other woman.

"It was an act of pure evil."

Speaking outside the court this afternoon, Mr van Dongen's dad, Cornelius, said hoped Wallace "never comes out".

He said: "I am pleased the judge saw the facts for what they were – but there are only losers in this case.

"I am very pleased she is going to be locked up for twelve years, but really this is too little, as we as a family have been sentenced for life.

"This has completely ruined our lives – financially and as a family. Our home has fallen apart.

"I hope we can start to pick up the pieces and rebuild when I go back to Belgium."

Mr van Dongen added: "I never knew she [Wallace] was like that. She really pulled the wool over our eyes from day one.

"I hope she messes up in prison and never qualifies for parole, and never comes out."

He also said that he had made a promise to his son to be at every day of the trail from the start, and added that, had Mark been there, he would have behaved with the same dignity.

"He was my mirror image in life," said Mr van Dongen.

Wallace had been cleared of Mr van Dongen's murder but was found guilty of throwing a corrosive substance with intent.

She left her ex with "hellish injuries" after attacking him as he slept.

Mr van Dongen, 29, lost a leg, his left eye and most of the sight in his right eye. He spent 14 months in hospital before moving to a care home.

The next month he travelled to the Belgian euthanasia clinic and took his life after consultants agreed his was a case of "unbearable suffering".

Addressing Wallace in a clip taken a day before he died Mr van Dongen told Wallace: "I hope you can see the way I look now."

The civil engineer added: "This is because of you. It will be a thing upon your conscience for now and forever.

"You stood at the end of my bed and you said: 'If I can't have you no one can'.

"And then you laughed, you evil woman, you laughed. And you threw sulphuric acid over me."

Mr van Dongen had by then given police a video interview from his hospital bed about his ordeal. It was to be among his final acts.

His testimony – presented from beyond the grave during her trial for murder – was crucial in securing her conviction at Bristol Crown Court.

Judge Davies told Wallace: "Nothing better demonstrates your malicious and callous intention than your refusal to provide any help, even when Mark was screaming in pain.

"Your contact can properly be described as sadistic."

She added: "I do not sentence you for fact that as a result of his injuries Mark van Dongen chose to take his own life.

"I do sentence you for the harm you inflicted, and for the 15 months of acute physical and psychological suffering of Mark van Dongen.

"You then told lie upon lie, seeking to put them blame on Mark van Dongen.

"You alleged he had subjected you to physical abuse and had poured the acid into a glass on your bedside table for you to drink it.

"Mark van Dongen is no longer alive. He is unable to defend himself against your accusations.

"You have admitted that, when angry, you are capable of using violence. Anger is a part of your character, and you know that."


The court heard that Wallace's purchasing of the bottle of 98% concentrated sulphuric acid was "not a random purchase", following 82 searches on her computer demonstrating her intent to apply acid.

"This was a deliberately premeditated offence. In throwing acid, you knew exactly what you were doing.

"You had thought about it and planned it, without a thought for anyone but yourself.

"I accept that Mark van Dongen had told his father and his colleagues that he was scared of you – and he was right to be so. He had some idea of what you were capable of," said Judge Davies.

She added: "Even allowing for a difficult childhood, which you spoke of in your evidence, there is nothing that can come close to excusing your actions."

Addressing Mark's van Dongen's father, Cornelius, Judge Davies said: "You have attended every day of this trial – a difficult and distressing experience for you.
"No words of mine will ease your pain. But may I thank you for the dignity you have brought to these proceedings, and offer condolences to yourself and your family upon the loss of your son."

Mr van Dongen told police that obsessive Wallace would injure herself during their relationship and threaten to claim he had done it to stop him leaving, the court heard.

He explained how he went to Wallace's flat in Bristol on the night of the attack in September 2015 because he felt sorry for her.

At around 3am he woke to find Wallace in the room where he was asleep.

He said: "It was a square box of acid with about an inch of acid in it."

The Dutch-born graduate said the acid hit him on "my arm and my face, then my chest".

He went on: "It was burning like fire.

"I was running in the street in my boxer shorts. They fell apart because the acid had eaten them away.

"I met my upstairs neighbour and she took me in her house and she got the police."

Asked why Wallace had attacked him he simply replied: "Because she was jealous. Because I left her."

Mr van Dongen was rushed to hospital in agony and told cops in the back of the ambulance: "She needs to go to prison for this."

His injuries were so horrific he was unable to communicate again for a number of months.

Even then he could only do so by sticking his tongue out when his dad, Cornelius van Dongen, went through the alphabet.

Wallace would later insist Mr van Dongen was trying to win her back at the time – but her claims were exposed as self-serving lies by a series of emails.

In one of them, sent just days before the attack, she begged him not to leave her and said her ex, Ray Wallace, had suffered a heart attack.

She wrote: "Please call me. Don't abandon me like this. You are all I have.

"Ray has had heart attack. In critical shape."

But in reality all she wanted was revenge.

She was fascinated by acid attacks and viewed more than 40 websites about the substance in the lead-up to the assault, the court was told.

She then bought the acid online before luring her ex to the flat.

Mr van Dongen snr branded Wallace "the devil personified".

Outside court earlier in the trial, he said: "Mark was so brave when confronted with the hellish pain and disabilities inflicted upon him but eventually it became too much for him to bear.

"He died in dignity and will live on in the hearts of his family and friends."

He said he was disappointed Wallace had been cleared of murder but added: "There are only losers in this case. I hope that Mark can now rest in peace."

Detective Inspector Paul Catton defended the decision to charge Wallace with murder – adding: "We felt it was the right thing to do to ask them to consider the charge based on the evidence."

New legislation being introduced later this year will prevent anyone buying acid online without a valid licence.

Those caught in possession without one will face at least six months in jail.

It comes after a rise in the number of acid attacks.

Police figures show there were 408 attacks using corrosive substances between November 2016 and April last year.

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